How to Write an Action Plan to Help You Achieve Your Goals
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated June 30, 2022
Published May 17, 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.
Creating an action plan is a great way to achieve career, business, or personal goals. Your action plan guides you on your path to achieving your goals, with clear steps or tasks to complete, thus keeping you on track. In this article, we discuss what an action plan is, the importance of having one, and how to create one to help you achieve any goals you set.
What is an action plan?
An action plan is a checklist that includes the steps or tasks you need to complete to achieve a certain goal. It creates a timeline for each step or task so you can estimate when you'll reach your goal. Individuals or teams can use action plans to outline single or multiple goals.
Components of an action plan
Every effective action plan should include the following:
A description of the goal you want to achieve
Specific tasks or steps you need to complete to reach the goal
Who is responsible for each step or task if the action plan is for a team
Deadlines for each task or step
Resources you and/or your team need to complete each task
A measure for evaluating progress
Why use an action plan
Creating an action plan can be useful for any individual or team to know what they are working towards. Action plans create set tasks or steps to follow so you can stay on track and keep every team member up to date with the end goal in mind. Similarly, action plans can also be great for time management, as you and your team won't waste time thinking about your next move.
Action plans can be a great motivational tool as crossing off steps or tasks encourages you to keep going. This is also a great way to monitor you and your team's progress to ensure you're staying within schedule. Overall, action plans are useful for any individuals or businesses that want to improve their performance either at work or in their personal life.
How to create your own action plan
If you've never written an action plan before, it might seem like a daunting task, but breaking it down into these five easy steps should help:
1. Outline your goal
When creating an action plan, the most important aspect is your end goal. To outline this goal, you can use the SMART strategy. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific. You don't need to include tons of detail to create a defined goal—it should only be a sentence or two clearly outlining what you hope to achieve by following your action plan.
Measurable: Set a measurable goal to track your progress. This ensures that you consistently remain on schedule to hit specific targets.
Achievable: Dreaming big and setting challenging goals is great, but you want to ensure your goal is realistic and achievable to avoid disappointment. Creating smaller milestones or longer time frames can help you work towards big goals.
Relevant: Your goal should align with either your work life or personal life to be achievable. For example, setting a goal to become the CEO of a company you don't work for may not be relevant if you don't plan on leaving your current job.
Time-based: It's important to designate a certain amount of time to reach your goal so you can stay focused and on track. This also helps set timelines for steps and tasks to complete before achieving your goal.
2. Create a list of steps or tasks
Once you outline your goal, you can move on to creating a list of steps or tasks you need to complete to reach that goal. This helps your goal feel more attainable as you're breaking it down into smaller objectives with shorter timelines.
You can have as many steps or tasks as you want and break up bigger ones into sub-tasks.
For example, if your goal is to improve food quality in your restaurant, tasks you can have in your action plan can include conducting market research with patrons, testing new recipes, and hiring new vendors. You can break up each task further into sub-tasks, such as listing each recipe you want to test or contacting and meeting vendors.
3. Set a timeline
Every action plan ends with you reaching your goal by a specific date. To achieve this, you must create a timeline for your steps and tasks to reach your goal in time. So, each step or task you add to your action plan should also have a deadline. You can adjust the timeline as you go if you notice you need more or less time for specific actions.
4. Designate roles and resources
Depending on your goal, you may need resources or other staff members to help. Your action plan should assign tasks to specific members of your team. This ensures everyone is on the same page and knows what they need to do to reach the goal.
You may also need resources, such as equipment or training programs. You should note this on your action plan along with who is in charge of obtaining the resources and when. Including all of this in your action plan gives you and your team one document to refer to throughout the process, making the process more streamlined.
5. Create a way to monitor progress
Ensuring you are constantly monitoring your progress helps you reach your goals on time. To do this, create a method of monitoring your progress on your action plan. If the action plan is for a team, will you hold regular meetings? Send out weekly updates? If the action plan is for your individual goals, will you start a journal of your progress? Update your manager every month?
How you decide to monitor your progress is up to you as long as you ensure it's consistent. This also allows you to adjust your timeline as you go.
Action plan template
A great way to quickly create a successful action plan is to use a template, like this one, which you can adapt to suit any type of action plan:
List of steps or tasks you need to complete to achieve your goal
Roles of team members responsible for each action
Overall deadline for the goal and a timeline for each step or task
Resources you need
Evidence of success:
Tracking and evaluation process:
Action plan example
Here's an example of an action plan for a kitchenware retailer:
Problem: slow profit growth as a result of minimal marketing
Goal: increase profits by 20% within one year
Action plan to achieve our goal
Task 1. Create a website
Action: Create a website for our store to advertise available products
Completion date: January 20XX
Person responsible: Hire a web developer
Task 2. Compile a mailing list
Action: Ask customers to sign up for our mailing list to send them monthly advertisements with our current products and sales.
Completion date: February 20XX
Person responsible: Cashiers
Task 3. Create newsletters to send to our mailing list
Action: Create a monthly newsletter consisting of current products, upcoming promotions, and coupons to send to the mailing list
Completion date: March 20XX
Person responsible: Marketing manager
Task 3. Expand our online presence
Action: Create a social media account where we can post pictures of our new product and update followers on current promotions
Completion date: Starts in April 20XX and remains ongoing
Person responsible: Hire a social media strategist
Task 4. Generate more traffic to our website
Action: Encourage more people to visit our website by starting a blog with SEO content
Completion date: April 20XX
Person responsible: Social media strategist
Task 5. Analyze the effect of our current marketing
Action: Analyze our newly implemented marketing techniques for effectiveness. If social media garners more customer attention than the blog, focus on social media.
Completion date: June 20XX
Person responsible: Marketing manager
Evidence of success: Annual profit of $175,000
Tracking and evaluation process: Assessing sales, visitors to our website, and amount of followers on social media.
Explore more articles
- Top 11 Ways to Develop Leadership Confidence at Work
- TCP vs. UDP: Understanding the Differences and Features
- How to Hire a Branding Consultant in 6 Steps (With Tips)
- How to Create Collaboration at Work (Plus Benefits of Teamwork)
- A Detailed Guide on Scrum Certification (With Jobs)
- The Best Ways to Upskill IT Staff in Your Organization
- What Is EOM and How Can It Improve Your Communication?
- What Is an Innovative Culture? (With Essential Features)
- What Is Inventory Tracking? (Plus Types and Helpful Tips)
- What Is Statistical Data Analysis? (With Detailed Guide)
- What Does a Helicopter Mechanic Do? (With Skills and Duties)
- 9 Sales Enablement Tools to Help Companies Increase Revenue