Demystifying the Art of Action Planning

A half body photo of three people planning on a table

Do you have an area in your business where you want to grow, change, be more successful? Sometimes it feels like you can’t get there fast enough.

This action plan template is here to help!

Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply stated outcomes:

  • Be more profitable
  • Finish a big project
  • Launch a new service
  • Help more clients

It’s more than a mere wish list; it’s stating what you want from life and business.

The trick is to get from goal setting to goal attainment. That’s where we hit potholes and brick walls.

Being a planner rather than a jumper will get you results quicker. This action plan template will help you get started!

Man creating an action plan template as he looks at a board filled with drawings and graphics

1. Start your action plan template with big picture goals

Before you jump into details, start with big outcomes you want for your business this year.

People often confuse goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself the questions …

“Why do I want to do this? What outcome am I hoping to get?”

For instance, you might say that one of your goals is to launch a new class for your audience. But there’s a reason you’re launching this new class, right?

Maybe it’s a free class to build your mailing list.

Maybe it’s a paid class to show your expert status and build income.

By asking yourself why you want to achieve something, you get to your core goals.

ACTION STEP: Take a moment and write down three big picture goals you have for this year.

2. Brainstorm your projects

Now that you have your goals in mind, let’s set up your action plan template so you can achieve them.

There are many paths that will lead you to the same goal, and choosing your projects wisely will help you get where you’re going.

Start by brainstorming all the projects that can help you achieve the same goal (don’t worry at this point about committing to a project, just write down as many as possible to limber up your creative juices).

Action plan template example 1

For instance, say that one of your goals is to build your expert platform.

You could boost your blog audience, write a book, teach a class, do more speaking engagements, start a column in a national magazine or website, hire a PR firm, or create a podcast.

All of these things will show you’re an authority in your field.

How do you know which projects are the best ones to tackle? Here’s a checklist to help you decide:

  • Which ones inspire and excite you?
  • Which ones align with your personality and skill set?
  • Which ones match the way your audience likes to connect with you?
  • Which ones fit your budget?
  • Which ones are likely to get you to your goals the fastest?

ACTION STEP: Pick one or two projects to work on this year.

You can always add more later, but choosing too many projects will overwhelm you and cause you to lose focus.

Start the year right: don’t overburden yourself.

3. Develop your task list

ACTION STEP: Take one of your projects and begin writing a to do list of tasks needed to accomplish that project.

Next to each task indicate whether it’s a task you will do or whether you’ll need to outsource it to someone else. Also note whether a task will require a specific resource, like hiring someone to update your website, or taking a class to learn a new skill.

Action plan template example 2

Say that your project is to create a new class. Tasks might include writing a lesson plan, creating worksheets or a student guide, selecting a teaching method, picking dates for the class, setting a price for the class, creating a marketing plan for the class, etc.

ACTION STEP: Organize the tasks into a logical order.

For example, you’ll need to write a lesson plan so you know how long the class is, and what you’ll cover, before you can set the price.

You’ll need to write the sales copy before the sales page can be put up on your website.

ACTION STEP: Take an educated guess as to how long each task will take.

Tally up those tasks and the timing for each one, and calculate when the project is likely to be finished.

Allow for some “stretch time” in your action plan template; you never know when you’ll hit a bump in the road that might delay your project.

Get moving, it’s easy

You have an action plan template to use for your project. That’s great!

Now it’s time to start implementing that plan. This can be the place where people freeze. You look at your to do list and it feels like climbing Mount Everest.

The problem is we look at the whole action plan and automatically think we have to do every single action all at the same time. Our intellectual brain knows that’s not possible, but our emotional brain sees it that way.

ACTION STEP: Look for one action you can take right now. Just one action, no more.

If your task is to write your sales page, your one action might be to write the headline. If your task is to set your price, your one action could be to calculate your costs so you know your class will be profitable.

By breaking project and tasks into smaller and smaller increments, we achieve everything — on time, on budget, and with grace and satisfaction.

Explore my Ultimate Guide for How to Build Your Business Online ➡️

9 thoughts on “Demystifying the Art of Action Planning”

  1. Great tips! Love what you said about looking at the big picture first. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the tasks and forget about the projects that will move you forward.

  2. Thanks for laying out a plan which a ‘real’ person can actually do. I like the idea of climbing Mt. Everest one step at a time. We don’t have to do all we can think of, just get one successful project off the ground and then another. Thanks

  3. Karyn,

    I’ve got to wonder why it is that when we write down our goals on paper and put our peepers on it everyday, that progress starts to occur. From writing down goals to making a task list, every time I force myself to do it (instead of juggling the thoughts in my head), I feel renewed, refreshed and on track. And, there’s the extra added bonus of taking the biggest Sharpie marker in my desk and marking through the task once it’s done 😀

    I love to write out my to-do list the night before, right before I lay my head down to sleep. I swear, I sleep better and wake up with a better attitude (which my clients and family appreciate.)

    • It’s so true, Colleen! If I write it down, I feel better. I think it’s because I know I’ve thought through all the possible tasks and goals thoroughly, and feel confident I’ve chosen the best ones which will propel me forward. (Or, maybe…I’m just obsessed with writing down To Do lists!)

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