You created this big, demanding, long-term goal statement, now what? Well from the famous Chinese Proverb – the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. And my first step toward goal achievement is constructing an action plan.
The process of making an action plan helps me strategize how I am going to accomplish my goal, along with creating a framework that I can continuously refer to when I need direction, accountability or progress checks.
Creating an action plan can be daunting but it doesn’t need to be–and shouldn’t be! Use this as an opportunity to get excited about starting your goal. Action plans can and should be continuously revised throughout the process, as you gather more information and learn how to best accomplish this goal. Here are the six steps I use to construct an action plan:
- Write down your motivation
Why are you motivated to complete this goal? What will keep you motivated when it becomes complicated? Without motivation, your brain will revert back to what is comfortable. Make sure you give yourself a good reason to overcome the switching cost. Review your notes from your initial brainstorming session and find ways to continuously remind yourself why you have to achieve this goal (ie. health, money, or a specific personal relationship).
2. Brainstorm actions that need to be taken to achieve your goal
Starting with your ultimate goal, break it down into smaller, more digestible steps. If you do not know what it will take to meet this goal, do some investigation. You may need to research online (ex. google, “how to..become a better public speaker, lose weight, be more confident”) or speak with people who have experience with achieving this goal.
3. Turn these actions into micro-goals
With these action items, begin to create micro-goals. Organize the tasks at hand and then work backwards to set your milestones. Set specific start and due dates. This will be helpful because as you achieve each milestone, you will realize that you are making progress toward your ultimate goal. These micro-goals should also have measurables as well, which serve as reminders to keep yourself on track and act as a way to regularly review your goals.
4. Monitor progress
Schedule time to monitor and review your progress. Depending on the goal, this could be done daily with a habit tracker or on a weekly/monthly basis. Ask yourself these questions as you review:
- Did you make progress toward your goal?
- How did your plan fare?
- What got in the way of achieving your goal?
- What can you do to improve your progress?
5. Celebrate progression
An often missed (but important step) is to make sure to celebrate the incremental progression throughout the process. Often, I like to tie progressively gratifying rewards into my micro-goals. This step will reinforce positive behavior by releasing dopamine and snowball beneficial momentum for future challenges. Splurge on a new pair of shoes, treat yourself to a spa day or celebrate with dinner at the new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try (bonus, invite someone that has helped you accomplish your goal so far).
6. Consider what challenges you will face and how will you overcome this obstacle
What are the potential difficulties in achieving your goal? What will happen when a setback occurs during your path to goal achievement? Think through potential obstacles and create a corrective action plan for when these occur. A great way to overcome obstacles is to create a support team and have an accountability partner. Discuss with them the obstacles you will face and give them specific instruction on how they can help you. Continue to build corrective action plans as you identify obstacles throughout the process.
I know this process seems daunting, but planning out how you will accomplish your goal will lead you to successfully achieving it. I’m looking forward to hearing all about the plans you have set for yourself. If you’d like to see an example of one of my goal plans, you can find it here, and for an action plan template that you can use, download here.