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Published on August 12, 2019

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. But goals don’t simply achieve themselves — you need an action plan to help you reach your goals.

With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without a plan to stick to, it’s too easy to waver and get distracted. It’s why many people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions or launch a much-wanted side hustle. Without a plan to work, things have a way of not working out.

With that in mind, here’s how you can create an action plan that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

1. Determine Your “Why”

Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here. The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

“Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices. Sinek says:

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“You’ll be able to make more intentional choices for your business, your career and your life. You’ll be able to inspire others to buy from you, work with you and join your cause.”

I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father — I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids. Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

2. Write down Your Goal

Now that you have a goal in mind, it’s time to get it out of your head and on a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down. This is especially true for business owners, if they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[1]

The reason for this is: It’s how the brain works. When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do. It will even encourage you to open up your subconscious so you can develop ideas for making the goal come to fruition.

3. Set a SMART Goal

A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan. By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

  • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
  • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
  • Achievable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them. Can you take an online class? Shadow a friend? Watch YouTube videos while you practice?
  • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
  • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

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4. Take One Step at a Time

Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map — whether it was an old-school paper map or an app on your phone — to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are smaller goals that help you get where you need to go.

For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss, and you may even be inspired to look at other facets, like stress — because cortisol, the stress hormone, helps our body keep weight on, decreasing your stress levels can result in weight loss.

This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take — or what behaviors you’ll want to change — at each stage.

5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact.

For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan. The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating or replacing soda with sparkling water.

Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

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6. Schedule Your Tasks

Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’d keep it off.

What’s more, you should also set a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you. For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

Beware the temptation to double-book yourself — some activities truly can be combined, like a run with talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

7. Stay on Track with Healthy Habits

Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work. You’d want to replace that fast food with a more nutritious meal to meet your weight loss goal.

Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed — like networking gatherings or community meetings — you’re not helping yourself. You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

8. Check off Items as You Go

You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create a sense of urgency, and give you the opportunity to track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety — you know exactly what to do and when it needs to be done.

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There’s something else special about lists. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine.[2]
This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling. If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means you’d keep going to the gym.

9. Review and Reset as Necessary

Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews — daily, weekly, or monthly — to see how you’re progressing.

If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

The Bottom Line

No matter what you want to achieve in life — whether it’s losing weight, learning a new skill, or making more money — you need to create an action plan. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble — and we all do.

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

How to Kill Endless Meetings and Stay Productive How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

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Last Updated on September 17, 2019

Need Morning Motivation? 30 Routines to Help You Start Afresh

Need Morning Motivation? 30 Routines to Help You Start Afresh

You forgot to set your wake-up alarm. As you slowly come to consciousness, you begin to panic as you realize that you’re going to be extremely late for work. You have a quick shower, brush your teeth, and then hurriedly put your clothes on. There’s no time for any food or drink – so you head out the door stressed, thirsty and downright miserable.

Does this sound familiar to you? I’m sure you’ve had mornings like this. And as you know, they’re the best way to lose morning motivation and the worst possible way to start the day.

Your morning routine determines whether you can win the day. In 2016, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Ohio State University studied call center staff working for an insurance company.[1]

They specifically looked at the mood of the call center staff throughout their working day. The three-week study discovered something interesting. Namely, staff who started the day in a bad mood, usually ended the day in a bad mood too. This was despite them receiving calls from positive customers throughout the day.

Staff who started their day calm or happy – finished their working day in the same upbeat emotional state. Furthermore, the study found that staff with low moods had low productivity. Staff with elevated moods demonstrated high productivity.

As you can see from the above revelations, it’s vital that you start your day well.

But you may ask, what exactly is motivation? Then you can’t miss this concept about Motivation Engine.

Once you’ve understood what a Motivation Engine is, you should start building habits that keep you motivated.

If you’re prone to starting off your day in a gloomy and stressed state, then you’ll be sure to benefit from the suggestions below:

1. Wake up on time.

Waking up on time (or even early) is critical to starting your day positively. It will give you space and time to complete your morning routines. And you won’t need to worry about rushing around your home.

2. Open your curtains.

One of the first things you should do upon rising is to open your bedroom curtains.

I do this every morning, and I’ve found it to be a fantastic way to gradually wake up from my slumber.

Personally, I open the curtains, and then sit on the end of the bed for a few minutes. This allows me to enjoy the morning light streaming through my window.

3. Make your bed.

Remember your student days? Making your bed was probably the last thing you thought about when you were stumbling out of it in the morning.

This habit may be okay for students, but if you want to accelerate your motivation and productivity – you should definitely make your bed.

It takes less than a minute, and you’ll be rewarded by a tidy room, and a feeling of self-satisfaction.

4. Enjoy a refreshing shower.

I’m always amazed when people tell me that they didn’t have time to shower in the morning.

Not only does that sound unhygienic, but it also suggests that these people haven’t learned to set a daily morning routine.

A shower only takes 10 minutes or so, and it’s a great way to clean your body, and the perfect way to wake up.

5. Drink a freshly-blended smoothie.

Every morning, I enjoy a freshly-blended, fruit-based smoothie. This consists of organic milk and a small portion of fruit such as bananas, mangoes and strawberries.

It’s a superb way to kick-start your day. Not only does it taste great, but it’s also full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

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I used to drink tea first thing in a morning, but now, I find that smoothies are far more satisfying.

6. Take a 10-minute walk in the morning sunshine.

If you have a dog, then this will be an easy task for you.

However, even if you don’t own a dog, why not try walking for 10 minutes outside every morning?

If you’re lucky enough to live close to a park, then you could walk around the park before going to work. Fresh air and exercise are an invigorating combination.

7. Check your to-do list.

Organized people tend to have to-do lists. It helps them keep track of what needs doing at home, work and beyond.

To-do lists can be paper-based, or you can use one of the many free apps that are available. The morning time is perfect for checking your to-do list, and prioritizing items for the day.

You may also find that you can tick off some items that you completed the previous day.

8. Listen to some upbeat music.

Music is a powerful mood changer. If you’re not a typical morning person, then you can help to boost your physical and emotional state by listening to upbeat music.

I won’t suggest specific artists, but simply try to choose music that makes you feel happy and lively. You could listen to this music while you shower, when you’re in your kitchen, or perhaps when you’re commuting to work.

9. Complete a mini workout.

If you have a home gym, then spend a few minutes each morning working out. This will rapidly wake you up, and increase your mental well-being.

If you don’t have a home gym, you can still do a mini workout. For example, try doing sets of push-ups and sit-ups.

10. Review your goals.

Early morning can be an excellent time for contemplation.

While you may want to think about trivial things, successful people often use this time to review their personal goals. You can do the same.

For instance, if one of your goals is to start your own business, then use the morning time to come up with ideas to help move you towards this goal.

11. Pack some healthy snacks to take to work.

You may have started the day with a healthy breakfast, but have you noticed how easy it is for our diets to go downhill from there!

As soon as we arrive at college or work, we begin looking for the coffee. Not long after that, we get peckish, and start seeking out cakes, biscuits and chocolate.

Luckily, with a bit of preparation, you can avoid this situation. The trick is to pack into your bag some healthy snacks such as apples, bananas and nuts. These healthy treats will happily keep you going until lunchtime.

12. Declutter part of your home.

Unless your home is currently spotless and has nothing out of place, then you could spend a few minutes each morning decluttering an area of your home.

Take your hallway, for example. This may have shoes and bags that could be tidied away in just a few minutes.

13. Meditate for 5 minutes.

Many high achievers say that they mediate each morning. This gives them balance and poise, before beginning their working day.

Have you thought about trying meditation? Although there are different forms of meditation, the simplest method is to just close your eyes… control your breathing… and let your thoughts settle.

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And like most things in life, the more you practice meditation, the easier it will become for you.

14. Stretch your body.

You may have woken up with a stiff neck, or perhaps a pain in your back.

From experience, it seems that lying down for several hours can leave your body in need of a good stretch. I’m 2.10 meters tall (yes, really!), so it’s not uncommon for me to have some discomfort when I first wake up.

However, I’ve learned that stretching for just a few minutes offers quick pain relief, improved posture and enhanced energy levels. Here’re some nice stretches to try: 17 Morning Stretches That Will Jumpstart Your Body and Mind

15. Read a motivational quote.

If you want to boost your productivity, then make a habit of reading a motivational quote each morning.

To get you in the mood for adopting this behavior, I’ve picked out one of my favorite quotes for you:

“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” — Og Mandino

And here’re more: 50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

16. Drink a glass of water.

Hydration is essential. Especially after hours of sleeping.

I love to drink a glass of pure, filtered water every morning. It immediately makes me feel better, more energised and… less thirsty!

Even if you’re a caffeine addict, try drinking a glass of water before you start on the hard stuff.

17. Create something.

Like many of the suggestions I’m listing, this idea makes productive use of your morning time.

Let’s say that you are a budding singer-songwriter. You’re not famous yet but you want to be!

Before heading off to do your current job, you could spend 20 minutes or so writing lyrics for a new song. Do this everyday for a week, and you’ll probably have enough lyrics for a whole album.

Other ideas for creating something include putting together a bouquet of flowers, working on your novel, and adding the finishing touches to your latest artwork.

18. Write down things you’re grateful for.

It’s all too easy to take things for granted. We need to constantly remind ourselves of things in our life that we’re grateful for.

A beneficial and rewarding morning practice is to write a list of things that you’re currently grateful for. These could be things such as your partner, your job, and your health.

Some people like to write a list each morning that includes everything they were grateful for from the previous day. Over time, you can develop an attitude of gratitude.

19. Play with your pets.

Do you love animals? Most of us do, for sure.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a pet, then the morning is the perfect time to have some fun with them.

For instance, if you have a dog, they’re sure to like playing with a ball or Frisbee first thing in the morning. They’ll have fun, and you will too.

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20. Listen to an inspiring podcast.

Podcasts are a great way to listen to inspiring and motivating speakers.

As they’re audio only, you can listen to them while making your breakfast – or even while you’re driving your car.

Just imagine hearing expert tips on business, success and well-being every morning. Before long, this precious wisdom is bound to sink into your consciousness.

Here’re some podcasts recommended for you: You Are What You Listen To: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

21. Plan your day.

Self-help guru Alan Lakein famously said:

“Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

Wise words indeed.

To be successful in life, you must learn how to make plans and set goals.

You should have long-term plans, medium-term plans and… daily plans.

That’s right. You can use a few minutes each morning to plan the day ahead. It’s a simple technique that offers a surprising boost to your daily productivity.

22. Learn something new.

Each morning is the start of a new day. Why not tap into this fresh energy by learning something new every morning?

This could be something like a few words of a new language, a new guitar chord, or some facts related to your favorite basketball team.

23. Enjoy the quietness of the morning.

If you can get up in the morning before the majority of other people, you’ll be rewarded with peace and quietness.

You can make use of this special time by perhaps reading a book, or sitting in your garden.

Personally, I love to walk my dog in the early morning, as the streets are empty – and my dog has a whole park to itself!

24. Think of a way to help someone later in the day.

Today’s society seems riddled with a me, me, me mentality. I’m sure you know what I mean.

People talking endlessly about themselves – and others taking hundreds of selfies every day.

It’s important not to get caught in this self-centered trend. One way to do this, is to take a few minutes each morning to think of ways that you can help other people later in the day.

To give you an example, you may have a colleague who has a sweet tooth. You could decide to take in some chocolates to work that you could share with this individual.

25. Go for a swim.

I’ll be honest, this idea may not be for you. If you’re not a swimmer, then please move on to the next suggestion.

However, if you do like to swim, and there is a swimming pool local to you, then this is a wonderful way to start your day.

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Swimming pools are usually quiet in the morning, so you’re likely to have loads of space for serious swimming – or simply having fun!

26. Meet some friends for breakfast.

Until I was in my 20s, I’d never thought about going out for breakfast with friends. However, I was fortunate to be introduced to this idea by a couple of American friends who were staying with me in London.

I distinctively remember them saying, “Where shall we go for breakfast?” I was taken aback because I had always just had breakfast at home.

I’m glad they persuaded me, though, as I loved having breakfast with them in a local café. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I now regularly meet friends for breakfast. If you haven’t tried it before – give it a go!

27. Check yourself in the mirror.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t like to look in the mirror in the morning because they’re afraid of what they might see!

I’m guessing that they probably look miserable and tired first thing in the morning, and want to avoid been reminded of this. It’s understandable, but I think mirrors are a great tool to use in the morning.

Instead of being afraid of them, use them to check your appearance. You can quickly check your hair and makeup (for example).

But more importantly, you can ensure that you’re looking alert, confident and purposeful.

28. Follow Steve Jobs’ advice.

In a speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs revealed that he started each day by asking the following question:

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

He went on to say that, if the answer to the question was “no” for several days, then this told him that he needed to make changes in his life.

29. Leave plenty of time for your commute.

Rushing to work is the cause of so much stress and anxiety. One of the problems is that most people seem to leave a set amount of time for their commute – but don’t allow for any delays.

For example, if someone has a 30-minute drive to work, they probably just allow 30 minutes each morning.

However, as soon as there is a broken down vehicle or roadworks, then their schedule is immediately disrupted.

The resolution is simple: always allow more time than you need.

30. Kiss your loved ones before you leave the house.

Don’t be in so much of a hurry in the morning that you forget the most valuable people in your life.

Whether it’s your partner or your children, be sure to hug and kiss them before heading out the door. Relationships are so important – be certain to nurture yours.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, the above list will give you plenty of food for thought.

I recommend that you pick out a handful of the above suggestions, and make them a part of your daily routine. Here’re How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop.

By building these new habits, you’ll find that your days start happier and stronger. You’ll also discover that you’re more motivated and productive than ever before.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: How Your Morning Mood Affects Your Whole Workday

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