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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.

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Last Updated on January 24, 2020

10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

  • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
  • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
  • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

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2. Be Grateful for What You Have

Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,[1]

“I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

3. Smile

Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.[2]

Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

Can you smile again?

4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[3]

If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

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Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

5. Exercise Daily

One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[4] He said,

‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

So how do you manage your time effectively?

Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

“I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:[5]

  • Monday – Management
  • Tuesdays – Product
  • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
  • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
  • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
  • Saturdays – Taking off
  • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

“What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

Be intentional about your daily goals!

8. Seek Inspiration

It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

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Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,[7]

“The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

“A small leak sinks a great ship.”

It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

The Bottom Line

Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

More About Habits

Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

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