Action Plans Help You Achieve Your Goals

 Action Plan

Sports teams use action plans all the time. So do some of the greatest companies in the world. So why don’t you? Many people hesitate to invest the time in really thinking through the steps involved in executing their strategy and achieving their goals – really experiencing the success they desire.

How S.M.A.R.T Is Your Goal?

To get started, you need to test your goal. Many people, and I mean many, make the mistake of setting too vague or too ambiguous goals. To successfully accomplish your goal, it needs to be complete and focused. One simple tool you can use to check your goal is the S.M.A.R.T goal process. After you have written out your goal, (that’s right, write it down – there is science behind it!) check your goals against the following questions:

  • Specific– Does it answer Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?
  • Measurable– How will you know you have achieved your goal?
  • Achievable– Is your goal achievable?
  • Reasonable– How reasonable is it that you can accomplish this goal at this time?
  • Time Oriented– When will you accomplish this goal?

How Committed Are You?

Action Plan 2

Before jumping into action planning, ask yourself on a scale from one to ten, ten being “nothing will stop me” and one being “it’s not going to happen”, how committed are you to your goal? If you are not at a ten, it is unlikely you are going to follow through. You will find yourself making excuses and your attention will be drawn elsewhere. There is no point in planning something you are not likely to do. So change your goal. Spend some time reflecting on what is holding you back from being 100% committed. Work with a coach. Find the right goal for you.

How to Layout Your Action Plan

Once you have identified the goal and you are 100% committed, it is time to plan to succeed. There are two ways to approach this, planning from either the beginning or starting with the end date and working backwards.  The next 5 steps should be taken for either approach.

Step 1: On a separate piece of paper, brainstorm all the actions you need to take in order to achieve this goal.  You can also use Post-it notes.

Step 2: Once you have everything written down, look down your list for anything that is similar.

Step 3: Eliminate duplicates, and trim your list down to the smallest number of actions you need to take.

Step 4: Number your actions.

Step 5: On a separate piece of paper, draw a timeline

This is where you can either work from the beginning of the project or from the end date.

To work from the beginning of the project:

Step 1: Ask yourself what the most essential step you need to take is in order to move towards your goal. Plot that action number on your timeline. (Remember, you numbered your actions in step 4.)

Step 2: Continue to ask yourself, “What is the next step?” until your entire list is plotted on your timeline. Now you have the order of actions you need to take.

Step 3: It is helpful to move these actions to a separate list, adding start and end date columns.

Step 4: Take the first four actions and identify each action’s start date. In order to determine your start date, you may need to identify the end date and work backwards from there.

Step 5: Add these actions to your calendar.

Step 6: As you complete your actions items, update your list (Step 3) and add the next action(s) to your calendar.

Action Plan 3

It is often helpful to work from a completion date, to determine if you can realistically accomplish your goal in the time-frame you have identified.

Step 1: Starting from the completion date, identify the last step that must be completed prior to completing your goal.

Step 2: Continue to work backwards, identifying the step that must be completed before the last step plotted.   Since you are plotting these on the timeline, it should become clear fairly early if you can hit the completion date you set-out for yourself.

Step 3: Once you have all the steps plotted, you can make any adjustments to the timeline that you may need – that may include changing your goal date.

Step 4: Take the first four actions and identify each action’s start date.  You should have identified the end date as you moved backwards through your timeline.

Step 5: Add these actions to your calendar.

Step 6: As you complete your actions items, update your list (Step 3) and add the next action(s) to your calendar.

A well-designed action plan will help you focus your ideas and identify the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal. Now that you have your plan, you are ready to take ACTION!

A version of this article first appeared at the Law Firm Consultants Network of Chicago