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How to make an action plan to achieve your goal

The Right Questions - decision making process and achieving goals
The_Open_Road by Trey Ratcliff

Tips for how to achieve your goals and dreams successfully

If you want the best chance of successfully achieving your goals and dreams then you are going to need some sort of plan. Here are some tips, steps and templates to help you plan and achieve any goal.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Walt Disney

What is a goal?

A goal is something you want to achieve. It could be a personal ambition or a group objective. It is an idea that you envision and then plan and commit to fulfilling.

The Importance of goal setting

The process of setting goals helps us psychologically to encapsulate an idea and commit us to action. Working towards a goal gives us the feeling of positive forward movement.

It also helps practically as setting goals allows us to quantify our end-state and qualify our success. Having a set goal allows us to measure our progress and reflect and learn as we work towards it.

Setting goals allows us to know when we have succeeded in something and provides the opportunity to celebrate when we achieve the goal.

“We aim above the mark to hit the mark.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Importance of Plans

Whether you are an individual thinking about a career change or personal development, a team undertaking a innovative project, or a large organisation rolling out a new strategy you will need a plan of some sort.

Action plans do not need to be overly complicated. For example, at the simplest level, to-do lists and shopping lists can be crude but effective action plans.

If you are an individual aiming to achieve a simple goal such as going on holiday the details of the plan will of course be very different to a large multinational corporation making an action plan for launching their next product. But despite this the initial questions that you need to ask are very similar.

The steps to making a plan and achieving your goals

To achieve your goals you just need to follow these simple steps and create your plan:

1. Ask yourself why do you want to do the thing you are thinking about? 

Asking why helps to work out what you value and what motivates you.

To find out more about discovering your principles, passions and priorities go to the post ‘What are your personal values?’

2. Work out where is your ultimate destination or your dream?

Thinking about where you want to be in the long term is your vision. This is your dream of a better future.

If you want more help in developing your vision statement read ‘What is a vision statement and why are they important?’

3. Define what your overall mission is and what success looks like.

Now that you have captured your vision you can define what success actually means in terms of fulfilling that dream. This mission statement is the overarching big audacious goal that you want to achieve.

For more detail on this process have a look at ‘What is a mission statement and why do you need one?’

4. Think about which ways you could achieve success and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

There are different routes you can take to your preferred future. Which one seems the best? Think about what the risks might be and what advantages and disadvantages there are to each option. Then you can work out what you believe to be the best option to choose.

For more help with this section have a look at ‘Which is your best course of action?’

5. Pick your preferred goal and work out how you are going to achieve the goal. 

Now that you have considered the options and picked your favourite you can start to plan how you are going to achieve it. Think about: What are the steps you need to take? What resources might you need? 

For more detail look at ‘How do you set goals, tasks and milestones for a plan’ and also ‘Setting goals and tasks the SMART way.’

6. Break the goal down into steps, noting who can help you.

You don’t have to do everything on your own, even if this is a personal plan rather than a group one. As you break down the goal into steps think about who might be able to assist you or give you advice.

If you would like to find out more about this step read ‘Networking and the power of relationships in building a team.’

7. Schedule the individual steps into your diary to define when you will achieve them.

Now that you have a list of steps you can put them into your diary. I tend to keep my list of goals and steps on my phone then prioritise them and put the most important next steps straight into my diary. A step should be easily achievable, something you can do in minutes or at most hours. The one most important thing you need to do should be the next thing in your diary, even if that’s a simple 5 minute task such as making a phone call.

Picking the right time is also important. For more on this have a look at ‘The secret of perfect timing.’

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” 

Confucius

Asking The Right Questions to achieve goals

This process reflects The Right Questions decision-making process and can be applied quickly – as a rapid problem solving method – or in a more lengthy in-depth study to formulate a detailed plan or strategy.

The Right Questions planning process employs the seven basic interrogatives in the English language (why, where, what, which, how, who, when) to provide an easy to remember and holistic approach to problem solving.

You can find out more about The Right Questions and how to apply them via the following link:

What are The Right Questions for Decision Making and Strategic Planning?

Goal setting and personal plan templates

Whether you are doing a quick appreciation of a situation or looking at a problem in greater detail it is useful to create a simple summary of your conclusions. Practically it is useful to have this summary on a single piece of paper that is quick and easy to refer and easily communicated or shared.

A personal action plan template can help you achieve this headline view of the challenge you are facing and remind you of the critical factors you need to address. If you post the action plan in a prominent place – be it your noticeboard, fridge or computer screen – it will also help to keep you accountable to the next steps you need to take in your plan.

Here is a simple pdf template (pictured below) to capture your personal plan for achieving goals. You can download the template for your use below:

Personal plan for achieving goals

I have also created a one-page template that summarises key factors from The Right Questions methodology in a mind map format. Feel free to download and copy the picture below:

Decision making process for strategic planning and achieving goals

I wish you all the best in achieving your goals! 

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

Tony Robbins



4 thoughts on “How to make an action plan to achieve your goal

  1. If you were at the ‘I am’ conference on getting into international development please do leave a comment and say hi!

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