there is no doubt that goals are needed. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. But goals aren't just self-supporting—you need a plan of action to help you achieve your goals. With an action plan, you'll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what you need to do to get there, and how you'll find the motivation to go ahead. Without a plan to stick to, it's too easy to falter and get distracted. That's why many people don't keep them in the New Year or start a long-awaited part-time job. Without a plan to work, everything does not work out. With that in mind, here's how you can create an action plan that will help you achieve whatever personal goals you've set.
1. Define Your Whys
Here's a little experiment for you to try right now: think about the goal you've set. Now think about the goals you have achieved and those you haven't. I hope you see a common theme here. Goals You have succeeded in achieving some goal. These goals you failed to do not. In other words, you knew why you set those goals in a place that motivated you to go all the way. Simon Sinek, author find why: a practical guide to finding goals for you and your team, explains:
“Once you understand your why, you will be able to articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you are at your natural best. When you can do that, you will have a starting point for everything you do, go ahead.”
This, in turn, enables the development of more informed decisions and clearer choices. Sinek says:
“You will be able to make more intentional choices for your business, your career and your life. You will be able to inspire others to buy from you, work with you and join your cause.”
I will share with you one of the recent examples of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father - I really don't care about all that wheezing every time I play with my kids. These factors gave me a long-term goal, not a superficial short-term goal like looking good at an event. Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you are setting a new goal. This will guide you along the way and give you the North Star to indicate when problems arise (as they inevitably will).
2. Write down your goals
Now that you have a goal in mind, it's time to get it out of your head and on paper. While you can also do it electronically through an app, a study found that you're 42% more likely to reach your goal if it's written down. This is especially true for business owners, if they don't schedule their time, it will be scheduled for them. When you physically write down the goal, you are referring to the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a consequence, it tells your brain that this is what you really want to do. It will even encourage you to open up your subconscious mind so that you can develop suggestions for the goal to be successful.
3. Set SMART goals
SMART goals draws on a popular business management system. This is because it makes sure the goals you set are realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a link to guide you through your action plan. By creating a smart goal, you can start brainstorming the milestones, tasks, and tools you'll need to make your actions effective.
- Specifically: you must have specific ideas about what you want to achieve. To get started, answer the “w” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
- Measurable: to make sure you're reaching your goal, achieve tangible metrics to measure your progress. Determine how you will collect data.
- Really: think about the tools or skills you need to achieve your goal. If you don't possess them, figure out how you can achieve them. Can you take an online class? Shadow of a friend? Watch YouTube videos while you practice?
- Relevant: why are goals important to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions will help you determine the true purpose of the goal - and whether it will be justified.
- Deadline: whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly goals, deadlines can spur us to action sooner rather than later.
Learn more about setting a SMART goal here: How to set SMART goals to make lasting changes in your life
4. Take one step at a time
Have you ever taken on the road? You most likely had to use a map - be it an old paper map or an app on your phone - to get from point A to point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan. Like a map, your action plan should include step-by-step instructions on how you will achieve your goal. In other words, these are small goals that will help you get where you need to go. For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you would reduce factors such as calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps taken, and quality of sleep. Each of these play a role in weight loss, and you might even be inspired to look at other aspects such as stress, because cortisol, the stress hormone, helps our body maintain weight, reducing stress levels can lead to weight loss. This may seem like a lot of work ahead, but it makes your plan of action seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it will help you determine the specific actions you need to take - or what behaviors you want to change - at each stage.
5. Order tasks by priority
With your actions sorted out, next time you'll want to revise your list and place your task in the order that makes the most sense. This way you fire up with the most important step to make the biggest impact. For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, then the first step should be to be at least a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan. The next step might be to change the diet, like a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or to replace the soda soda. Check out these tips to prioritize better: how to prioritize in 10 minutes and get work done 10x faster
6. Schedule Your Tasks
Setting deadlines for your goal is mandatory; it prevents you from postponing your plan of action. The key, however, is to be realistic. It is unlikely, for example, that you will lose 20 pounds in two weeks. It's even less likely that you would keep it. What's more, you should also set start and end dates for each action step you've created, as well as deadlines for when you'll complete certain tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on tasks when they need to happen, without letting anything distract you. For example, if you're scheduling a gym, you don't plan anything else at that time. Beware of the temptation to double book yourself - some activities can indeed be combined, like talking to a friend, but some cannot. Don't be fooled, you can both write and catch at the same time on Netflix. While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar might be the best option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders when each step is due, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your restless friend or mentor).
7. Stay on track with healthy habits
Without healthy habits, it will be even more difficult to achieve your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you grabbed chops for lunch every day, you'd negate all your hard work. You would like to replace that fast food with a more nutritious meal to meet your weight loss goals. Let's say your goal is more career oriented, how to become a better speaker. If you stick to your speech at toastmaster meetings, but avoid situations where you need to be here, unexpectedly - like in online forums or community meetings - you will not help yourself. You have to think about what will help turn you into the person you want to be, not just what is comfortable and most comfortable.
8. Mark items as you go
You may think that you have spent a lot of time creating lists. They not only help you reach your goals, but also keep your action plan organized, create a sense of urgency, and give you the ability to track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce excitability—you know exactly what to do and when to do it. There's something else special about lists. When you cross a task off your action plan, your brain releases dopamine. ((Psychology Today: The Science of Achieving Your Goals)) This reward makes you feel good and you want to repeat that feeling. If you cross off the days on your calendar when you went to the gym, you want to experience the satisfaction of every bold "x". this means that you will continue to go to the gym.
9. Review and reset as needed
Achieving any goal is a process. While it would be great if you could reach your goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience mishaps. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent comments - daily, weekly, or monthly - to see how you're progressing. If you are not yet where you hoped, you may need to change your course of action. Soldering so you can achieve the goals you set.
No matter what you want to achieve in life - whether it's weight loss, learning new skills or making more money - you need to create a plan of action. This will help you in creating realistic steps and time frames to reach your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble - and we all do.