How to Write an Action Plan to Help You Achieve Your Goals

A well-designed action plan can make it easier for you to track and realize your goals. Whether you have a career, business or personal goal, you can use this document to create a clear path to success. The level of detail in your action plan can vary based on the resources you have and the complexity of your goal. In this article, we discuss how to make an action plan that can help you reach your goals efficiently and successfully.

What is an action plan?

An action plan is a document that lays out the tasks you need to complete in order to accomplish your goal. It divides the process of reaching the goal into actionable tasks based on a timeline. It is useful to a wide range of individuals or organizations with goals to achieve, from employees who want to improve their work performance to project managers assigning tasks to team members.

An action plan outlines all the necessary steps to achieve your goal and helps you reach your target efficiently by assigning a timeframe to every step in the process. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can use this document to set single or multiple goals.

In addition, an action plan can make it easier for you to monitor progress, allowing you to keep your projects on schedule and within budget. You can also use it as a reference tool to find out who should be held accountable for each task, to avoid delays or to prevent other errors.

How to write an action plan

Setting a goal is relatively easy, but creating a plan to achieve that goal can be challenging. While action plans may differ in terms of tasks and timelines, they generally conform to the same structure and include the same types of information. Create an action plan to help you achieve your goal by following these steps:

1.    Set SMART goals

2.    Create a list of actions

3.    Set a timeline

4.    Designate resources

5.    Monitor the progress

1. Set SMART goals

Before you start writing your action plan, consider using the SMART outline to set the right goal. Your goal should be:

  • Specific: Your goal should be clearly defined. For instance, instead of saying that you want to increase sales, you could set a certain threshold you want to reach, such as increasing sales by 20%.
  • Measurable: Make sure your goal can be measured. For instance, if your goal is to generate more sales, try to create weekly or monthly sales reports to track your progress.
  • Attainable: Although it is good to set high goals to challenge yourself, making sure they’re attainable will help you achieve your desired progress.
  • Relevant: Your goal should be relevant to your abilities, needs and interests. For instance, if you want to increase advertising revenue by 25%, setting a goal to initiate a new workplace safety program may not be relevant.
  • Time-based: You should set a specific deadline for reaching your goal, such as increasing your income by 10% within the next 12 months.

2. Create a list of actions

Next, create a list of tasks you need to complete in order to reach your goal. This process entails dividing your main goal into smaller objectives. By doing so, you can make the final goal seem less overwhelming and move closer to it in an organized, step-by-step manner. Make sure the actions are attainable and related to your goal. If you are not confident that you can complete a certain task, you can further divide it into two or three smaller tasks.

For example, if you want to get a promotion, you may have to perform a number of tasks to achieve your goal, such as reaching a performance benchmark or learning a new skill. Clearly describe each task to create a plan that will lead you to your ultimate goal.

3. Set a timeline

Besides setting a deadline for your main goal, you should also establish a timeframe for completing each task in the process. It is essential to create a timeline you can reasonably follow so you will maintain consistent progress toward your goal. Assess the requirements and consider the amount of time you need to complete the task.

For example, you want to increase traffic to your website by 100% in one year’s time through social media and search engine optimization. Set a timeframe for achieving your desired results for each of the tasks, such as increasing your social media following by 30% in four months and making the first page of web search results for certain keywords in six months.

4. Designate resources

If you are managing a large project, you will likely be assigning tasks to a number of people. Assess the skills and abilities of your staff members to determine which of them are most qualified to perform each task. Then, write down who will be in charge of each task and the resources needed to complete the task, such as money, equipment and personnel.

For example, if you’re managing a marketing campaign, you will need to find out which of your staff members are strongest in planning, content production, social media marketing and SEO. You should also have the applications and tools for content production, graphic design and marketing analytics.

5. Monitor the progress

Finally, describe how you will ensure you complete each task in your action plan on time, such as using internal reporting or holding regular meetings. By doing so, you will have a clearer idea of the progress you are making toward your goal. Specify the measures you will be using to monitor the plan’s progress, which can be milestones like the number of tasks completed, or quantitative measures such as sales or market share.

For example, you want your customer service department to be able to handle 1,000 inquiries a day by the end of the year. However, you need to have at least 10 customer representatives in order to achieve your goal. You can know how close you are to your final goal by looking at how many inquiries you can handle and how many customer service representatives you have at the half-year mark.

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