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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

More by this author

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 Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

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Last Updated on August 16, 2019

10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2019

10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2019

The success of our day is largely dependent on the quality of our planning. Not to miss out anything in their to-dos, some people prefer to make a list of upcoming tasks in a notebook, while others have long started using digital technology solutions.

Calendar applications are some of the main tools that are worth using to organize our life and plan your time carefully.

Many people have switched to specific tools; however, there are still some who do not use calendars on a daily basis. They may find some applications uncomfortable to use, non-functional, or expensive.

In this article, we are going to check out the best calendars apps to help you stay organized.

1. Cal Calendar

    Cal Calendar has recently appeared on the market of mobile applications (Android, iOS). It is the brainchild of the development team of Any.do that features impressive functionality and well-thought-out design.

    The application comes with many great features, including support for Exchange and Google Calendar, widgets, voice recording, and many more.

    Cal Calendar has direct integration with Any.Do To-Do List, which gives you a unique tandem of two applications.

    Apart from its extended functionality, Cal Calendar is easy to use. The creation of events is very simple and fast.

    What is more, depending on the name of the event, the application automatically adds contacts and geolocation data to the entry description. You can even import your lists and entries from Any.do.

    Cal Calendar is a great option for any type of user. It is very convenient and doesn’t overcomplicate the mode of display.

    Another good thing is that this tool is available for free, so you can use it without spending a dime for the software.

    Available for iOS and Android

    2. Google Calendar

      Google Calendar is the official calendar for Android devices that has been tested out by many users around the globe. If you are right now trying to get away from it, consider changing your mind.

      Since this application is installed on most Android devices by default, many users think that there is nothing special in this program. They are wrong.

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      Google has been updating its calendar for quite a few years, and now it comes in Material Design with advanced event features, direct integration into other Google services (for example, supports reminders and Google Now), and comes with Exchange support.

      The program is super easy and will not cost a dime for you. It is a good thing, right?

      Available for iOS and Android

      3. Jorte Calendar

        Jorte Calendar is one of the most popular calendar applications in the Google Play store.

        The program features a wide range of configuration options, with many design alternatives. You can adjust display mode to your needs and view calendar entries sorted by month, week, or day (by hours). It is convenient for quickly picking the desired date, using task bars, and setting reminders.

        Apart from its ordinary information storing function, this application can be a special cloud service, Jorte Cloud, allowing you to synchronize calendars, schedules, and task lists on multiple devices. The application also supports data importing from Google Calendar.

        For those paying attention to the program design, there is also Jorte Store, where you can buy styles and icons to personalize the calendar. This feature makes Jorte is one of the brightest calendar applications.

        A basic version of the app is free of charge, so if you do not want to spend money on a calendar application, it is a good option.

        Available for iOS and Android

        4. Business Calendar

          Business Calendar is geared towards people who use their calendar for work purposes and business task planning. It offers different modes with wide configuration capabilities.

          The application gives a default view mode by months, and events can be marked in different colors. Display modes/ sorting can be adjusted to your needs (by month, day, year, or events).

          You can also set a multi-day viewing mode to see how things look for the next few days. Scrolling up and down moves you by month, and if you check a few days, they will be shown in a more detailed form.

          The day display mode offers hourly scheduling, and the schedule mode provides a detailed schedule for a single event.

          Business Calendar is a great tool for planning/ scheduling cases, tasks, and events. There is a support for recurring events, which can be set up in just a few clicks.

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          Having purchased software, you can use it to import and export other calendars, delete, copy, or move several events at the same time.

          Android Business Calendar application may seem somewhat chaotic, but it works fine and is easy to work with if you play with it for a while.

          A full version of the application is available for $4.99, but you can also find a free version for the app test drive.

          Available for Android

          5. aCalendar

            aCalendar opens our collection of top 10 calendar applications available on the market today. With its appealing design, easy navigation, and great functionality, it is one of the most popular calendar apps in our list.

            Some of extra functions include color schemes for each case type (48 colors to choose from), different types of demonstrations, different widgets, moon phases, and much more.

            Taking into account it functionality, aCalendar is a reliable calendar application that has an easy-to-navigate interface with three display options. Scrolling from side to side allows you to switch between the display modes of the month, week and day.

            When scrolling down and up, you are moving through the calendar at intervals in accordance with the selected display mode.

            Apart from its time planning feature, aCalendar synchronizes photos from contact lists or social networks to remind you about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special dates.

            The program also supports data transfer through NFC and full-screen widgets, which eases your work with any data.

            The program is available for free, but you can also get even more features if you buy the extended version of software for $4.99.

            Available for Android

            6. DigiCal Calendar

              DigiCal Calendar is very similar to Cal Calendar in the fact that the application focuses on design more than on its functionality. However, this doesn’t mean that the application doesn’t serve the purpose.

              With this calendar application, you can synchronize all your calendars and view them in different ways.

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              Along with the basic functions, this program comes with support for Google Calendar, Outlook, and includes some unique and interesting features. You can match keywords to the image or set up a dark theme.

              The app can even show you the weather forecast for three days. There are many other features that deserve the attention of people who really like to use calendar applications.

              Available for Android

              7. SolCalendar

                SolCalendar can be called a universal application. It claims to be an all-in-one digital solution having a basic calendar functionality combined with some other advanced features, such as weather forecast for a specific day.

                The application supports Google Calendar, as well as tasks, widgets, lunar calendar and even Foursquare.

                Those searching for a calendar application to cover just everything in its functionality, SolCalendar is a program to consider. There are a lot of interesting things in this application; the program does an excellent job working in “all-in-one” mode.

                Test SolCalendar – the application is available for free. You can test it out without purchasing the service.

                Available for Android

                8. Calendar

                  Calendar is a relatively new app. It works as a web app and for both iOS and Android devices. It is an intelligent app that learns your contacts, schedule and tasks. It also helps you schedule and arrange meetings according to your available time slots.

                  A good thing about Calendar is that it allows you to sync up with other calendars you use such as Apple Calendar and Google Calendar. And so you can manage all the calendars you have in one place.

                  Calendar also gives you analytics of your meetings, giving you a clear picture on how you can improve your time management.

                  Available for Desktop, iOS and Android

                  9. Today Calendar

                    Today Calendar is one of the most hip and edgy calendars in our list. The solution was one of the first ones that really embraced Material Design and remains one of the few that adhere to the neat style.

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                    The calendar application offers bold colors, simple controls, and great functionality. This is not as heavy an application as many others; it will not eat all the memory of your device.

                    If you are not searching for something complicated and over-functional, Today Calendar is what you need. You can always test the application before paying for it – the program is available for free.

                    Available for Android

                    10. Calendar Widget: Month

                      Sometimes people do not need a heap of calendar applications. They would prefer to have one efficient calendar widget.

                      Calendar Widget: Month perfectly fills this niche and meets all the needs of a modern user. It has some features of an ordinary calendar, but the real great thing about this software is that it has 80 or more themes in its library.

                      The design of the application is great; the themes are perfectly tuned. There are options for almost any theme of your smartphone. The only drawback is the fact that the widget memory is not too large, and you should be ready for it.

                      This simple calendar widget was created in the image and semblance of widgets from Yahoo. The widget window displays one calendar month with the ability to go to the previous and move to the next one.

                      If you need a simple and affordable calendar to plan your tasks and affairs for one month, this widget is ideal for you. Calendar Widget: Month is so simple that it does not even have Google Calendar support.

                      At the moment, it does not have the function of connecting any third-party calendars and services. Developers allow the possibility of introducing support for Google service as an addition to the widget, if users request to have this opportunity.

                      Available for Android

                      Our Verdict

                      Searching for the right application to manage your various calendars and plan your busy day can sometimes turn into a streak of obstacles.

                      Most of us need flexible applications that can be easily used to manage our tough schedule. The application should have all necessary time planning functions and be intuitive.

                      Stylish design and limitless compatibility also matter. It is not always easy to find such a program.

                      The above digital calendar solutions fall under the category “worth” of being used. They are modern, multifunctional, easy, and easy. Pick the one you like!

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                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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