How to Write an Action Plan

How to Write an Action Plan

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One of the most difficult parts of running a business or a team of employees is managing tasks and getting things done. Even if you are fantastic at managing people or time, trying to organize tasks and make progress can often feel like an upward struggle and this is where action plans help immensely.

In this article, I explain how to write an action plan from a business perspective, explain what they are, and show you how they can transform your task management and productivity.

What is an Action Plan?

An action plan is a structured and detailed document that outlines the steps, strategies, and resources needed to achieve specific goals or objectives. Thy are typically used in business, but there is no reason why you can’t create an action plan for something you want to achieve in your personal life.

Typically, an action plan breaks down goals into manageable tasks, assigns responsibilities, establishes timelines, and allocates necessary resources. The aim is to make everything run smoothly, and make sure that everything is in place to complete the task(s) as efficiently as possible.

The Importance of Action Plans

Action plans in the context of business offer the following benefits:

  • Clarity: They break down complex goals into specific, manageable tasks for a clear understanding of the necessary steps.
  • Accountability: Responsibility is assigned to individuals or teams, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment.
  • Focus: Provide a structured roadmap to maintain focus on key priorities and prevent distractions or veering from the tasks.
  • Progress Tracking: They enable the tracking of progress against set milestones, ensuring a measurable and achievable path toward goals.
  • Communication and Collaboration: The action plan serves as a shared reference point, promoting clear communication and collaboration among team members and stakeholders so that everyone is on the same page.

A Simple 6-Step Guide to Write an Action Plan

This 6-step process is straightforward and I have broken it down into logical steps that can be repeated each time you create a new plan. To make things easier, you could consider creating an action plan template too with these steps included as headings.

  • Step 1 – Define SMART Goals

    Defining SMART goals is a critical step in creating an effective action plan. SMART is an acronym standing for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. I have described each aspect of SMART goals below:

    • Specific: Clearly articulate what you want to achieve. Be precise and avoid vague statements.
    • Measurable: Establish concrete criteria to measure progress toward your goal and use metrics and data where possible so that you have definitive figures to work with or towards.
    • Achievable: Ensure that your goal is realistic and attainable. It's important to set challenging goals but within the realm of possibility. There is literally no point setting unrealistic goals as your team members may quickly lose focus and become demoralised at the lack of progress.
    • Relevant: Make sure that your goals align with broader business objectives and are pertinent to your overall mission or purpose.
    • Time-Bound: Set a specific timeframe for achieving the goal. This adds a sense of urgency and makes sure that everyone involved has a clear deadline to work towards.
  • Step 2 – Create a list of actionable tasks

    For any action plan to succeed there must be a list of tasks that have to be completed otherwise no progress is made. For example, perhaps you have to create a new product showcase video for your business YouTube Channel.

    A list of actionable tasks could include:

    • Create the YouTube video thumbnail.
    • Create the music soundtrack for the video.
    • Write the narrators script.
    • Record the product footage.
    • Edit the video.
    • Upload to YouTube.

    With a clear list like this nothing is left to chance and it’s also important to assign these tasks to the relevant people and make sure they are aware of their responsibilities.

  • Step 3 – Define a realistic timeline for the tasks

    Although you have defined a timeframe to achieve your overall goal and action plan completion, you have to define realistic completion dates for the individual tasks within the plan too. 

    For example, you could give a timeframe of one week to complete the music soundtrack, and three days to complete the YouTube thumbnail. This is because typically a thumbnail is easier and quicker to create than an entire audio soundtrack. An unrealistic timeframe would be to expect the soundtrack to be complete as quickly as the thumbnail!

  • Step 4 – Allocate resources to complete the tasks

    Part of writing an action plan is making sure that everyone has the required resources to complete the tasks they have been given. Examples of resources could be finances, equipment, office space, or a team of people to organize.

    In the product video example, the employee responsible for editing the video will need access to video editing software, while the soundtrack producer may need audio equipment such as a microphone and speakers.

    If the people don’t have the required resources, how can you expect them to complete the tasks?

  • Step 5 – Implementation

    At this point you are ready to implement the plan and if you have done it right, everything should run smoothly!

  • Step 6 – Monitoring progress and evaluation

    During the process it’s important to monitor progress and keep track of how everyone is doing with their assigned tasks. This could take the form of daily or weekly meetings or even a request for regular updates via email.

    Once the task is completed, it’s also important to have a review. The review must be objective and look at both what worked well, but what could have been improved. The idea is to strive for continual improvement and make the next action plan and task better.

Incorporate Action Plans into Your Business to Streamline Task Management

The first time you write an action plan will take time and I get that at first it could seem like a fruitless venture. However, you can make the process easier by creating action plan templates. Each time you create one, the process becomes easier too and you will notice an increase in productivity and that your business generally works faster and more efficiently.