How to put together an action plan
If you want to reach a particular goal, you need to have a plan of action. Trying to put an action plan together can often be a really daunting prospect, especially if your goal is something quite big and way off into the future ('Move family to France' for example!!).
This is how to build an action plan from scratch, to take you from feeling overwhelmed at the thought of what's in front of you, to being able to see clearly all the steps you need to take and by when, in order to achieve your mission.
I like to refer to this as 'Turning obstacles into do-ables.'
1. Think about your end goal - the final result you would like to achieve. Put this at the top of your page, so you can see clearly what you're aiming for.
2. Now write or type for 20 minutes non-stop (set a timer), listing out absolutely every factor you can think of that appears to be in the way of you achieving your goal. Maybe you live too far away, maybe you don't have the right degree, maybe you haven't got time to do the extra work needed - whatever is pertinent to the goal you're trying to achieve, get it down. If you use Numbers or Excel to build this, you'll make your job ten times quicker - write one element per line.
3. Looking at each undermining factor in turn and think of a solution for it. How could you turn this obstacle into a do-able? What needs to happen to turn this reason around and get it out of your way? Is lack of training a factor? Then put down 'Get trained'. Is distance an obstacle? ‘Move nearer’ would be a solution.
4. Now go through these solutions, and turn each one into a task, for example 'Get trained' becomes 'Source a training programme local to me'. You want to end up with an actionable task for every point.
5. Now go through your list and make sure you haven't missed out any of the obvious 'To Dos' - the straightforward actions that need completion - 'Book train tickets' for example, or 'Register for the conference'.
6. Now go through your list of actions, taking your time, and give each one a deadline that is realistic and also a bit of a stretch. Don't let yourself off the hook by giving yourself a deadline months away for a really simple task, but at the same time you want to really achieve this goal, so make your deadline one that you'll actually work to. I recommend trying to complete three tasks a week, so work with that timeline in mind, and assign the day or date by which you want to complete each action.
7. Your final job is to re-order the list chronologically (see, I said it would be quicker if you did it on the computer). Sort your list so you have the nearest deadline at the top, stretching down to the furthest at the bottom.
What you now have is an action plan, the systematic completion of which will bring you closer to reaching your end goal, the final result you want to achieve.
This is the simplest way to get things done. If you struggle with procrastination, using this tool will help you get moving, even if it's only bit by bit. It's also a brilliant way to break down a seemingly impossible task. You can use it for big goals months or years ahead (start planning now!), or for a big task just around the corner that needs to be mapped out. And I haven't studied the science, but I'm sure that working towards something we've set out to achieve, seeing our own actions take us closer to our goal, must have a positive effect on our self-regard, which can only be a good thing.
Get into action, start getting things done, and create the life you really want.
The Action Plan forms part of my coaching programme - take yourself from dreaming to doing in eight 1:1 sessions - find out more here.