How To Write an Action Plan To Help You Achieve Your Goals

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 October 2022

Published 20 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An action plan is a useful project management tool that you can use to turn your ideas into reality. To successfully achieve your goals you will often need to write an action plan to guide you through the process and get results. With an action plan, you will be prepared to face any challenges that come up compared to if you decided to proceed without a proper plan. In this article, we explain what an action plan is, why it's important and how to write one.

What is an action plan?

An action plan is a proposed plan used in project management to achieve goals effectively. It is a checklist of all the essential steps needed to achieve that goal. The plan clarifies the required resources toward reaching your goals, including timelines, and also determines the team members needed to complete the steps in the plan. In general, an action plan documents the entire project before it starts by listing the essential details required to complete it.

You can also choose to make an action plan of all of your smaller projects that add up to the completion of a larger project. The action plan will make it possible for you to achieve the expected goals within a stipulated time. It also lets you succeed in your project, as it also allows you to put together a competitive team that will help you meet your targets.

With an action plan, tracking project progress is much easier. You will also be able to tell when things are going according to plan and what to expect during and after the completion of each task. A good action plan also leaves sufficient room for adjustment in case things don't turn out as expected. You'll get an opportunity to revisit and make essential adjustments based on your current requirements.

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It's important to note the key components of your project before writing an action plan. Some of the key components to include are:

  • Tasks you need to carry out

  • Essential resources to complete tasks

  • Defined description of the goals

  • People in charge of each task

  • Deadlines or milestones to complete tasks

  • Measures to evaluate progress

Why is an action plan important?

An action plan is important because it increases your chances of achieving your goals. Having a plan helps you to prepare for anything that may happen along the way while you are working towards your goals. It gives you an overview of what to expect and how to handle obstacles along the way.

Here are a few reasons why it is essential to have an action plan:

  • It gives you a clear sense of direction. An action plan highlights the ideal steps required for the job and the timeframe to complete it. This makes it possible for you to know what is required to be done with precision.

  • It tracks project progress. An action plan makes your project path clear and direct. This guarantees that you can effectively track your project progress, hence allowing you to remain focused on your goal.

  • It motivates you to keep working. Sometimes you will feel frustrated and discouraged about working on your goals. However, when you have everything written in a plan, you will be motivated and committed to continuing with the project.

  • It helps you prioritise tasks. Writing all of the project steps from the first to the last allows you to distinguish between tasks and identify those that are most important. Although all tasks might be essential in relation to the final project results, when you have an action plan, it makes it possible for you to prioritise the most important tasks.

  • It makes team management easier. By having a series of clearly defined tasks to complete with deadlines, it's much easier to delegate work to the members of your team, which will make them more likely to succeed in their tasks.

  • It gives team members performance indicators. By giving the people involved in your project access to the information in your action plan, they can make better informed decisions about the progress they're making and feel more involved in the process.

Related: How to use visualisation techniques to accomplish your goals

To get started on your action plan, you will need to have all the details about the goal you are trying to achieve and an understanding of the main tasks required to achieve that goal. There are many action plan templates available on the internet which you can use help with your preparations.

A good action plan works as a road map, giving you essential signals to guarantee your project is successful and performed within a set time. It guides you and keeps you engaged throughout your project to guarantee that you have a good grasp of what your team is working on. Having the ability to track your project progress also helps you to be aware of any challenges so that you can resolve problems in advance before they get out of hand.

Related: How to make a life plan and achieve goals in 8 steps

How to get started on your action plan

There are several steps that you can follow to write a successful action plan that will guide you towards achieving your goals quickly and efficiently:

1. Set SMART goals

The first step to making an action plan is to define your goals. The SMART method is a useful technique to set goals for any project. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. A goal that has been defined using the SMART method is more likely to succeed than one that is loosely defined. Here's how to define your goals using the SMART outline method:

  • Specific: Ensure that you set defined goals, often by adding a measurable value to them. For instance, you want to increase your project completion rate by 20%.

  • Measurable: It's good to set a limited time to measure your achievements and track progress. You can set daily, weekly or monthly targets.

  • Attainable: Don't set unattainable goals. Ensure that you set goals that are realistic to your team. Small, but efficient, tasks are better than lofty goals that will challenge them.

  • Relevant: Your goals must also suit your needs, interests and capabilities.

  • Time-based: It's important that you set a timeline for the completion of tasks to increase your efficiency and achievements.

Related: How to Develop SMART Goals

2. Identify tasks that need to be completed to achieve your goals

The next thing to do when making an action plan is to identify the tasks that you need to complete to achieve your goals. You can do this by breaking your goals down into smaller steps that you can use to identify the specific tasks. When identifying the tasks you need to achieve your goals, the more detail you can provide, the more helpful your action plan can be.

Related: Objective vs. goal (The key differences)

3. Set a timeline

The next step for your action plan is to set a timeline for achieving your goal. This means deciding when you want your project to be completed and setting deadlines for the tasks you've identified that need to be completed. This is an essential step in an action plan, as deadlines will help to keep the project moving forward, and also act as markers for progress. There are many useful specialised tools for setting deadlines but it can be as simple as listing the deadlines on a piece of paper or using a spreadsheet.

Related: How to conduct action research (including best practices)

4. Identify your team and assign tasks to them

If your project is big enough to need more than your individual contribution, then you'll need to select the team that will be involved in your tasks. In some cases, you will already have an existing team as part of your job. Once you know who is involved, you need to assign tasks to them and specify the deadlines. This will allow you to manage their workload, and make adjustments based on their results.

5. Monitor your progress

To support the success of your goals, your action plan should have a way of monitoring your progress. This can be as simple as a checklist of the tasks you identified and whether they were completed on time or not. More advanced progress monitoring might look at your productivity, resource usage and whether tasks were completed within the allocated budget.

Monitoring progress using measurable data is important because it allows you to measure your progress accurately and make informed decisions about adjustments that need to be made to the project. Many project management software packages offer tools to measure progress quantitatively and can be used to take a more detailed look at your progress.

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