Use these steps to help you create an action plan you can stick to
The first full week of March is Procrastination Week. You can either use this week as an excuse for a much-needed mental break or use it as a motivator to accomplish tasks.
While we have all procrastinated a myriad of times in our lives, it’s important to stay motivated and plan your day (or week, or project) by mapping out a concrete action plan to help you feel more focused and accomplished in less time.
What is an Action Plan?
An action plan is a proposed strategy to accomplish your goals. It’s a clear, detailed list of all the steps you need to take to reach your goal, along with a proposed timeline of when you’ll complete each step or task.
This sounds like a lot of work but in the end, it will actually help you achieve your desired goal faster and more efficiently. (We can already feel you wanting to procrastinate!) They are especially helpful to those who know what they need to do but easily get sidetracked.
What is the Purpose of an Action Plan?
By breaking down projects into smaller steps, you can ensure that you:
- Meet your goal in a timely fashion
- Don’t skip a step
- Communicate effectively with team members
- Set reasonable expectations for what you can accomplish in a specific period of time
Action plans are good for all sizes of projects and vary in complexity.
Are you convinced you need action plans in your life, yet?
How to Write an Action Plan
Action plans can be as simple or complex as they need to be. Before you start writing out the steps to reach your goal, you’ll need to identify what that goal actually is.
Get very clear on what it is you want, why it’s important, and when you need it done. Create a SMART Action Plan by incorporating SMART goals into it. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. This framework will help you determine if your goal is realistic, identify what actions are needed to reach your goals, and defines what your success will look like.
Follow these steps to create your plan of action:
- Use a template or tool to capture your action plan and share it with anyone who needs to be involved. (Do a Google search for free templates.)
- Brainstorm. Consider all the steps that need to get done to complete your project. You may find it helpful to start with larger aspects of the project and then break those down into smaller tasks. No task is too small to be listed.
- Delegate and assign responsibilities to team members.
- Schedule due dates. It’s a good idea to assign due dates to keep you on course. Keep in mind that some tasks can be worked on at the same time, while others will require that a previous task has been finished before you can start the new one. (You may look into task software.)
- Set up alerts to keep yourself (and your team) on track. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget about a larger project looming in the distance. Use your scheduled due dates to set up reminders and pencil in time to work on specific tasks.
- Track your progress and check in with your team. Your action plan may have looked top-notch when you wrote it, but as you work through it, you may discover that things need to change. Falling behind in the tasks? You may need to tweak your plan.
- Celebrate. Completing a project is cause for celebration.
Action plans will not only help you achieve your goals and feel accomplished once you’ve accomplished them. Formats for your plan may differ depending on your specific project. As long as you include the goal, the steps, the people involved, and the due dates, you’ll have a solid plan to work with.