We set goals. We create to do lists. Why do we need an action plan? Isn’t that redundant? No! It is the crucial missing piece that when omitted results in us spinning our wheels and keeping us from accomplishing our goals.
Goals represent the finish line. That are explicit statements of things we want to accomplish or who we want to become. The most effective goals are specific. For example, instead of having a goal to save $1000.00 compare that with “I will save $1000.00 by Dec 31 of this year (6 months) by going to Starbucks once a week rather than every day. In addition to saving money that will make my Starbucks visits feel special rather than routine. That’s a double win I’m excited about!” Do you see the difference? General goals are nice but rarely achieved.
Perhaps your goal is to write a book in the next 6 months and as nice as that is, the chances of it happening are nominal. If you make that more specific by saying “I will write the first draft of my book by Dec 31 and in order to do that I will devote 1 hour per day to writing and 4 hours every Saturday morning. This means I will get up an hour earlier during the week so I can write when the house is quiet and I am fresh. By getting up at the same time on Saturday I will have my 4 hours because everyone else sleeps in on Saturday.” See the difference?
These goals include specific actions and a time line to achieve the desired outcome.
Ideally goals come in 10 year, 5 year, 3 year, 1 year, 90 day, monthly and weekly increments. Each represents a benchmark towards a larger goal. If your 10 year goal is to become a best selling author perhaps your 5 year goal is to have 1 book on The N.Y. Times best seller list. Maybe your 3 year goal is to have multiple best sellers on Amazon and your 1 year goal is to have 1 best seller on Amazon. In this case perhaps your 90 day goal is to have a solid outline for your book filled with lots of details. At 30 days you are committed to a basic outline and at 60 days with that outline being fleshed out. Weekly goals are designed to help you stay on track to accomplish your 30 day (monthly) goal.
You may have no desire to be an author but see how this example has shorter term goals building towards longer term goals. Some smaller goals may simply be 1 year or 90 day goals. The principle is the same. Create specific incremental benchmarks to monitor your progress and your focus.
We all have them. They include appointments and household chores. Some of the things on our to do lists are important and others are things we want to do, and need to do at some point, but may not be crucial to do today. Have you ever looked at your to do list and chosen to do something simpler and less important because it was quick or easy? When the list is long being able to scratch things off of it feels good. Our rationalization is “When I get this other stuff done then I can focus on……” Does that sound familiar?
An action plan is specific action (at least 1 but not more than 3) that you commit to in the morning that will move you towards your weekly goal.
Using the example of the author perhaps you goal this week it to create chapter titles. Monday’s action plan might be to jot down a list of possible chapter titles. Tuesday’s action plan might be to review them and see if it feels like there is anything missing. Perhaps on Wednesday you create a sequence to see if there is a logical flow. Thursday’s action plan might be checking for redundancy. Are there titles that basically say the same thing in different words and the subject matter could be combined? As a part of Friday’s action plan perhaps it is time to check and see if there are chapters that will be too long and need to be divided. Each of these actions are designed to take about an hour or less.
On Saturday you have a four hour time block. This could be a time where you start an outline listing 2-3 key points for each chapter. Getting into the overall flow will help you know if there are concepts that need to be added or removed. Create your working chapter title list You have accomplished your goal for the week. Take Sunday off and enjoy family time and make it a special time of your week. Attend church services or create other family routines that you cherish and are important to you.
Can you see how an action plan is crucial to accomplishing goals? It effectively becomes your personal GPS to keep you focused on achieving your goals in the quickest most direct manner possible.
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