Developing an action plan can increase your efficiency and help turn your vision into reality. An action plan describes how you will meet your objectives through action steps including how and when these steps will be taken. This post provides everything you need to know to develop and use an action plan to help you achieve your goals.
How an Action Plan Can Help Turn Your Vision into Reality
What Is an Action Plan?
An action plan is a way to help make your vision a reality. It describes the action steps you will take and when you will take them in order to meet your objectives.
The following questions should be answered for each action step:
- What actions will occur?
- Who will carry out the action, you or another member of your team?
- When will the action occur?
- What resources (i.e., money, third-party plugins) are needed for the action?
- Who should know what action has taken place (if working in a group)?
What Makes a Good Action Plan?
The action plan for your project should meet the following criteria. The action plan should be:
- Complete: Does it list all the action steps that need to be carried out and by when?
- Clear: Is it apparent who will do what and by when?
- Current: Does it reflect the current situation? Does it anticipate potential problems and newly emerging opportunities?
Why Should You Develop an Action Plan?
Ever heard the saying, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail? If you don’t want to fail, you need to take all necessary steps to ensure success. That includes developing an action plan. Here are five reasons an action plan will help you succeed. An action plan:
- Gives credibility to your project. An action plan demonstrates to you and your team that you are dedicated to getting things done and promotes a positive attitude.
- Ensures you don’t overlook any details.
- Allows you to assess what is and isn’t achievable for you and your team.
- Makes the project more efficient. An action plan helps save time, energy, and resources.
- Creates accountability, to make sure you and your team will do what needs to be done.
When Should You Create an Action Plan?
Ideally, an action plan should be developed as soon as you have determined the vision of your project. If you develop an action plan when you are ready to start the project, it will give you a blueprint for keeping your project on track.
An action plan is not set in stone. It is not something you write, save on your desktop, and forget about. Print it out and stick above your workstation. As your project unfolds you should check and revise your action plan to fit the changing needs of the project. But don’t use this flexibility as a way of avoiding doing your tasks.
How to Write an Action Plan
- Have a clear objective. Make the objective challenging but achievable. Too difficult and you’ll be demoralized. Too easy and you won’t be motivated. Make your objective clear and concrete and write it at the top of your action plan.
- List the benefits of achieving your goal. This will keep you focused on the purpose of the project and serve as motivation when times are tough.
- Identify the steps you will take. Start with what you will do right now (what’s the point of an action plan that starts next year?), and then list all the possible things you could do to get you closer to achieving your objective. Don’t worry about the order for now, just write them down. Break down any large steps into smaller, less intimidating steps. For each step, think about problems that could occur preventing you from completing it on time.
- Identify the end point for each step. Make sure each step has a clearly-defined end point that you can tick off once you’ve achieved it. If you like, you can note down a small reward for the completion of each step to keep you motivated.
- Arrange the steps in a logical order. Assign a completion date to each step that is challenging but achievable and note it on the plan. For small projects, set yourself daily goals. For longer, more complex projects, set yourself weekly goals. Make a note of any vacations or other commitments that may prevent you from working on your project.
- Be prepared for problems. Include some flexibility in your plan to accommodate any unforeseen problems. People usually underestimate how long a project will take because they don’t think about what can go wrong. Think about the type of problems you might encounter at each step and identify potential solutions.
- Review your progress regularly. Recording your progress as things happen maintains the relevancy of your action plan. Log how far you have got towards your objective, identify any mistakes you made so you can do better next time. These regular review sessions are great for generating ideas for future projects and how to achieve them.
- Be accountable. It’s a good idea to tell your friends, family, or team members about your plan. Not only will they provide support when things get tough, but the prospect of having to tell them you failed will be a great motivation! List the people you are accountable to at the top of your action plan.
What Does an Action Plan Look Like?
An action plan doesn’t have to be long. A single side of paper will do. And it doesn’t have to be pretty (procrastination anyone?) An action plan scribbled on the back of an envelope is better than no plan. Here’s an action plan template you can download and use. Click the image for a printable PDF:
What Do Action Steps Look Like?
Action steps should be discrete, concrete, and have a clear end point. Here are a few example action steps I used when I was setting up my first affiliate marketing strategy:
After You’ve Written Your Action Plan
Once you’ve written your action plan, and are putting it into action, you should stop occasionally and ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I doing what I said I’d do?
- Am I doing it well?
- Is what I am doing advancing the project?
If your answer is yes, carry on, you’re doing a great job. If your answer is no, you may have got sidetracked, or a problem has arisen that you didn’t plan for. Go back to your action plan and readjust your goals.
After You’ve Achieved The Objective
Pat yourself on the back, treat yourself to a nice coffee and cake, and celebrate a job well done. Then go back to your action plan and review what worked and what didn’t and what could have been done better. You can put any learning points into action for your next action plan.
It may seem like developing an action plan is a waste of time, but trust me, it will help focus your mind on the objective and increase your efficiency. Action plans are particularly useful when there is more than one person working on a project to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and when.