Action plans, or road maps to accomplishing a set goal, are widely varied. They can be used for personal goals as well as career-related ones. While the content of each will vary, the general template is the same, and can be modified in various ways to suit your needs. Each action plan generally starts with a declaration of a set goal, breaking the large goal into smaller pieces over a set timeline, and overcoming obstacles and setbacks that may send you back to square one.
The first step is to clearly state your mission. Keep it as specific as possible. For example, if your goal is to save money, be extremely clear with the details – such as save $12,000 by midnight of December 31 of this year. Adding the details will make it harder for you to weasel out of your commitment further down the line. However, keep the goal realistic. Make thorough calculations to see if the goal is achievable, and adjust it accordingly.
Now that you have a goal, you need to split it up into several more manageable tasks. For example, if your goal was to save $12,000, then split that goal into “saving $1,000 every month”. If your goal was to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, make it a goal to lose 5 pounds every season. Mark these down on your calendar as non-negotiable deadlines. If any deadline is missed, the action plan should be considered as failed, and you need to start over.
Now that you’ve broken down the first task into more manageable pieces, assign a reward to each deadline. If your action plan is written for a team of employees working towards a common goal of a completed project, let them know that everyone will receive a bonus or prize for each successful deadline. If your action plan was written to lose weight, then reward yourself with a big expensive steak when each target is successfully reached.
While spreading one target into multiple ones is important, a day-to-day log is also the key to your plans success. Keep a logbook with entries regarding your day-to-day activities and how they relate to your goal. Weight-lifting enthusiasts do this all the time by writing down the number of reps they did at the gym each day. Scientists log their experiments daily in order to record changes in variables. A daily log keeps you focused on your goal at all times, and encourages you to do even better the following day. It can actually help you reach your projected targets long before your original deadlines.
If you manage to complete your original action plan, congratulations! Rather than celebrate, however, you should immediately follow up by drafting an even more challenging one. The key to self-improvement through action plans is to never let yourself go soft, and continuously pile on new challenges.