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Published on January 14, 2021

What Is An Action Plan And Why Is it Important?

What Is An Action Plan And Why Is it Important?
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All of us have goals we want to accomplish in life. Maybe you want to do your taxes yourself for the first time or lose weight. You may also have a really big goal, such as starting a successful business or remodeling your kitchen. But to achieve your goals efficiently and effectively, you must have an action plan. An action plan is a tool that lists the tasks you need to finish to achieve your goal by a certain date.

The length and complexity of your action plan will depend on the complexity of your goal. If you just want to change your oil, your action plan can be a simple, half-page document. On the other hand, if you want to build that new kitchen, your action plan will consist of many pages and will likely have diagrams and drawings.

In this article, I’ll explain why an action plan is important and how to create one to help you achieve your goals.

Why Is an Action Plan Important?

An action plan is critical in accomplishing goals because it will help you stay motivated and ensure that you’re on track to complete your goal in a reasonable amount of time.

Have you ever planned to do something but procrastinated? Having an organized action plan will help you overcome procrastination by keeping you motivated with a visual map of exactly what you need to do and when you need to complete each task. It’s easy to put off that big project when you don’t have a solid plan to get it done.

You may lose motivation because it feels overwhelming. But after you create an action plan, you may find that you aren’t overwhelmed anymore because all of the tasks are laid out in an organized, step-by-step manner.

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The action plan will help you monitor your progress. You’ll have an official start and end date, and you’ll know approximately how long it will take to finish each step. It can also help ensure that you’re staying within a certain budget and if you need to make adjustments to your time or resources.

How to Create an Action Plan

Here are the 6 steps you should follow in creating an action plan.

1. Define Your Goal

If you want to create an action plan, you first need to know your goal. To do this effectively, make sure you create a SMART goal, which must be:

  • Specific – you must clearly identify the goal. An example is weight loss.
  • Measurable – define the metrics or measures you’ll use to make sure you’ve completed the goal. An example is “I want to lose 70 pounds.”
  • Attainable – make sure your goal is realistic. Losing 70 pounds in two months isn’t attainable, but losing 70 pounds in 7 months is something you can do.
  • Relevant – make sure the goal is very important to you. This is a critical part of the process. Why are you doing this? Why is it important to you? Make sure your goal is aligned with your values and is authentic to you. Don’t do something just because of peer pressure or because of a reason that conflicts with your core values.
  • Time-bound – you must have a specific start and end date. If your goal has a lot of steps, you’ll also want to know how long each step will take.

In our weight loss example, the goal can be: “I want to lose 70 pounds in 7 months because I want to be in good physical and mental health. I want more energy and I want to set a good example for my kids. I want them to know that health is very important.”

2. Pick a Tool to Create Your Action Plan

The tool you use to create your action plan will depend on the complexity of your plan. If you have a large, complicated plan, you may need specialized software to aid you.

Most action plans can be done with readily available software, such as Microsoft Excel or Word. I use Excel or Word for all of my action plans. A very simple action plan can even be written on a piece of paper.

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3. List and Weigh Your Options

Now that you have your goal, list all of your options and the costs and benefits of each one. Continuing with our dieting example, you’d research the different dieting options and then list the pros and cons of each one.

Maybe the Mediterranean diet is the best one for you. Perhaps the keto diet would work well. Or maybe you want to create your custom diet. If necessary, get help from experts in the area in which you’re doing research.

4. Define Your Budget and Identify Resources

Not all goals require a defined budget, but many do. Define your budget up front. Then, identify the resources you need to complete each step of the plan.

The main resources you will need to achieve your goals are time, money, people, and technology. There may be certain technologies you want to use, but you don’t have enough money to buy them. If you have more money, you can buy more technology and hire more people to help you complete certain steps, which decreases the amount of time it will take to finish your project.

If you have fewer resources, it will take more time to reach your end date. Find the ideal balance for your goal.

5. List the Steps You Need to Take

Just like what I did in this article, you should list the steps you need to take in your action plan.

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First, create a detailed, prioritized list of steps you must take to achieve your goal. Start with the very first step and end with the last one. Some steps will involve a series of other steps. Finding a good nutrition specialist may involve doing internet research, checking your current health plan for nutrition specialists, and talking to friends to see if they have specialists they can recommend to you.

Next, make sure you document all of the steps and, if applicable, all sub-steps involved in achieving your goal. Also indicate who is responsible for performing the steps, if necessary. And include what tools, technologies, and other things you need to finish the steps, along with the price of these things.

Then, ensure that you’re operating within your budget.

Finally, Document how long it will take to finish each step. If you have people helping you, make sure you work with them to determine exactly how long it will take to finish each step.

6. Monitor and Adjust Your Plan

Once you execute your plan, you have to closely monitor and adjust it to make sure you’re staying within your budget and that you’re completing each task on time. If some things cost more than your original estimates, you may have to use more economical options. Another way to cut costs is to learn how to do more tasks yourself instead of hiring others to do them.

I saved a lot of money creating my website for my life/business coaching and speaking website. You have to make sure you have enough time to learn new skills and technologies, which can sometimes require a big-time investment.

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You may find that some tasks will take less or more time than you first estimated, so you’ll have to adjust your timeline as needed.

Final Thoughts

Creating an action plan gives you a clear direction. It’s a visual guide that will help you achieve your goals in an effective and timely manner.

A well-crafted action plan will help you stay motivated and committed to your goal. It will allow you to track your progress and make adjustments that will keep you moving toward that very important goal.

Always remember to start with a strong “why.” Make sure your end goal is something that’s aligned with your values and who you are. A lot of people procrastinate or fail to achieve their goals because they don’t have a strong reason to achieve them.

Your action plan will help you achieve those goals and when you’re done, you’ll feel extremely proud.

More Tips on How to Create an Action Plan

Featured photo credit: ConvertKit via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Charles Amemiya

Speaker, life/business coach, social responsibility advocate and technical writer.

How to Hack the Reward System in Your Brain And Stay Motivated How to Stay Motivated at Work While Working From Home Top 10 Motivation Tips Learned From Highly Successful People What Is An Action Plan And Why Is it Important? How To Keep Pushing Forward And Overcome Any Obstacle

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Last Updated on July 29, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
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If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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