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.

Related: How to Create a Career Plan in 9 Steps

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.

Related: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

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.

Related: How to Create Task Lists (With Steps and Benefits)

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.

Related: Time Management Skills: Examples and Definitions

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.

Related: What Are Key Metrics? (With a List of Some to Consider)

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:

Problem:

Goal:

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.

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