How to create an action plan to achieve goals
Setting goals and trying to implement new healthy habits to support them is a common ritual at the beginning of the year.
Unfortunately, very few people actually achieve their goals because life gets in the way and they quickly fall back on their old habits.
But things don’t have to be this way.
And reaching success is actually not that hard when you actually know where to start.
All you need is to get clear and what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there. And the easiest way to figure that out is to create an action plan to achieve goals.
This plan will help you set goals, implement new habits, track progress and stay motivated until you actually achieve your goals.
It will also be a roadmap to your success including all the actionable steps to follow in order to achieve your big goals.
If you want to change your life this year, you absolutely need to write an action plan for your goals.
Are you ready to find out how to create yours? If so, the following tips will help you!
Let’s dive in, shall we?
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1. Describe your dream life
The very first thing to do when it comes to setting life-changing goals is to envision your ideal life and where you want to be in the future.
We all have our own vision of the perfect life and it varies greatly from one individual to another.
Being clear on what will bring happiness and meaning to your life is key to living your life to the fullest.
However, defining your dream life is a tricky exercise because you want to shape a close-to-perfect image of your ideal life while staying realistic.
If your life goal is to make more money, you can set this as your big goal for the year to come.
But you need to stay realistic.
You will not become a billionaire by the end of the year and that’s ok.
Acknowledging that there are limits to what you can expect to achieve in a 1, 2, or 3-year timeframe is key to writing a realistic action plan to support your goals.
Dreaming of an unachievable life will only highlight what you are missing out on and how you will never get it.
This will bring nothing but despair to your life.
And this is of course not what you want.
To envision your dream life, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where would you like to be in 15 years?
- Where would you like to live?
- Would you like to be self-employed?
- Can any of your passions make this world a better place?
- Can you monetize any of them?
- How important is having your own family?
These questions are a good starting point.
However, you need to keep asking yourself questions and write down your answers until you get a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.
The answers to these questions will give you step-by-step instructions and a clear direction on what you need to do next.
2. Do a life audit
Doing a life audit will help you figure out where you stand in life and your areas of improvement.
My favorite tool to do a life audit is the Wheel of Life.
This tool will help you grade the 8 main areas of your life from 0 (not satisfied at all) to 10 (very satisfied) and define how to level up in these areas.
After doing your life audit, you will have a very clear vision of what you need to change in your life.
If you need help with your first life audit, here is a post about How to do a life audit with the Wheel of Life.
3. Set SMART goals
After doing a life audit and identifying your areas of improvement, the next obvious step is goal setting.
Setting goals is a key part of the life transformation process.
The aim of this exercise is to detach yourself from irrelevant goals and set goals that will actually align with your vision of the ideal life.
The way you define your goals will also have a significant impact on your chances to achieve them.
And this is why you have to set SMART goals.
Setting goals in a SMART way will help you with the next points on this list. So do not underestimate this step of the process.
SMART goals stand for :
- Specific: Set specific goals and narrow them down to simplify planning.
- Measurable: Set measurable goals to be able to track your progress.
- Attainable: Define attainable goals and make sure you can reach them in a reasonable amount of time.
- Realistic: Set realistic goals that support a broader vision of your ideal life.
- Time-bound: Define time-bound goals with a clear deadline to stay motivated and keep yourself accountable.
An example of a SMART personal goal can be:
” I want to lose 15 lbs by the 30th of April 2023 by working out 5 times a week and following a well-balanced diet”
Setting a SMART goal will help you visualize the outcome of your hard work and draw a clear path for the steps to take to accomplish goals.
4. Define milestones
Defining milestones is another important part of any effective action plan.
Milestones act like mini goals which are great to keep you motivated and make sure you are on your way to achieving your life goals.
To make milestones work, you need to define a specific time frame for each of them.
If we take again our weight loss goal, your milestones could be:
- Lose 5 lbs by the end of February
- Lose an additional 5 lbs by the end of March
- Lose the last 5 lbs by the end of April
Defining milestones will also help you adapt your plans if you progress slower than expected but we will cover that later.
5. Plan rewards
Planning rewards for each of my milestones is definitely my favorite part of writing an action plan.
Defining a reward for each of your milestones is an amazing way to stay motivated and keep up with your goals despite life getting in the way.
For each of your milestones, plan a reward you can look forward to.
In our example, we can define the following rewards:
- Plan a spa day on the 28th of February
- Get a new haircut on the 31st of March
- Go on a shopping spree and purchase 5 new outfits on the 30th of April
Do not underestimate the impact of these rewards on your actual chances of success at achieving your goals.
Having a reward in mind will help you stay focused on your goals even when you don’t feel like putting in the work.
6. Look for success stories
Now, this is something that can change your mindset really fast.
Looking for success stories and finding mentors can definitely make the difference between you transforming your life in 90 days or staying stuck in a rut.
Finding examples of people who already achieved the same goals will help you stay motivated and inspired to keep working hard on them.
And this is when social media come in handy.
Social media, when used right, can definitely help you achieve your goals and change your life.
We spend so much time on social media nowadays that it has a huge impact on our daily lives.
And this impact can be a net positive or net negative depending on the interactions you decide to have.
Spending a lot of time on social media can be either a positive thing if you are looking for inspiration and taking action or a negative one if you spend countless hours envying people who seem to be living the dream life.
It is up to you to choose how you use your time and this will definitely be a big part of your success.
7. Kill distractions
Staying focused is key when it comes to giving your life a new direction and achieving your goals. Doing so will help you save time and be more productive.
If you want to make significant changes to your life, you will have to work hard because success rarely comes overnight.
But there is a way to speed up the process: staying focused and working on your goals daily.
And avoiding distractions is key to achieving this.
Breaking bad habits is just as important as implementing new ones because bad habits will inevitably slow you down when it comes to changing your life.
A great way to identify your bad habits and distractions is to log your time for a day or even a week if you can.
This will help you be more aware of how you actually spend your time.
To do so, you can either use an app such as Boosted.
Or, if you don’t like the idea of having to log your time during the day, take a few minutes before bed to reflect on your schedule and all the tasks you have completed.
If you don’t remember what you did during a given timeframe, chances are that you were just scrolling on your phone. And this is really something you want to avoid.
Making better use of your time will considerably increase your chances of success.
Not scrolling on your phone as soon as you have free time will allow you to make time for smaller tasks.
You will rapidly notice how much you can get done when you stay away from social media.
8. Define your new habits
Defining new habits that will support your goals is also part of the planning process.
Think about the habits you could implement daily to support your goals.
You want them to be challenging enough to change you while still being sustainable so you can keep up with them.
Because to make your plan work, you will need to make these habits stick.
And this is usually the hardest part of the life transformation process. If you need help to make habits stick and break bad habits, I have published a very detailed article sharing the 8 rules to make and break habits.
If you haven’t downloaded the free life audit sheets yet, I highly recommend you do it now because these worksheets will help you get clear on your personal goals and define the habits to implement.
9. Stack your habits into routines
Now that you have defined your new habits, you need to think about how to integrate them into your daily routine.
The timing of a habit is super important when it comes to making it stick.
I’ve tried to lose weight for years to no avail because I wasn’t able to stick to my workout routine.
I initially planned all my workouts after work which made it really hard to stick to them after a long day.
Planning my workouts either early in the morning or during my lunch break is all it took to make the habit stick.
If you fail to stick to your habits, try planning them at a different time of the day. This simple change might be all you need to achieve your goals.
This is why I highly recommend tracking your habits and routines, either in a journal or using an app such as To-Do List – Schedule planner.
Tracking your habits and routines will help realize how often you actually skip them and take action upon this information.
Tracking your habits with this app will also help you view tasks completed and progress, which is highly motivating, especially when you have a lot of things to get done.
Plus, it is also super cute! I mean, look at it:
10. Find a great planner/agenda
To achieve your goals, you will need to be aware of how you actually spend your time.
We’ve already covered this when talking about avoiding distractions and breaking bad habits.
But another time management aspect we did not talk about yet is how you need to actually plan your time carefully to ensure you make time for your new habits.
This will be hard, especially if you are usually all over the place.
Getting organized and finding a system that works for you is definitely the hardest part of the life transformation process.
Whether you use a paper planner or an app is really up to you but you need to find something you will be able to stick to.
I find it much easier to use a digital planner because I can carry it with me all the time.
And it definitely helped me with the next point on this list.
11. Time block your time
Time management is a new skill you will have to learn to make the most out of your life.
And the best way to excel at time management is to time block.
To time block, you need to break down your daily schedule into blocks and assign tasks to each of these blocks.
Assigning tasks to each time block and moving from one block to another will ensure you get things done and don’t get stuck on one activity.
As soon as the time is up, move to the next block and its assigned tasks.
This will help you find balance in life and make time for everything that matters to you.
Which will lead to you being more productive and getting things done faster.
Remember how I said digital planners were more convenient to use than paper planners?
Well, this is particularly true if you decide to give time blocking a try.
Digital planners such as Google Calendar make it super easy to create recurring events which are key when time blocking.
Time blocking your time will also help you ensure your new habits fit into your routine.
If you have never time blocked before, this post about How to organize your life with Google Calendar will help you get started and organize your entire life in a couple of hours only!
12. Track your progress
Tracking your progress is key when creating an action plan for achieving goals.
It will not only help you ensure you progress toward your goals but also motivate you to keep going.
Seeing progress is truly motivating. So establishing a system to keep track of your progress is an important part of your action plan.
Apps such as To-Do List – Schedule planner can also help you with that because it allows you to mention when a habit has been completed or skipped.
13. Check in with yourself
This is a step most people do not consider when setting goals and implementing new habits.
Yet, it is an important part of the process if you want to ensure you design a life you love.
No matter your vision of the dream life, you need to be aware that it might change over time.
And this is perfectly normal.
You might realize, on your way to achieving a goal or after achieving it that it actually did not improve your life or that you overestimated the impact of this goal on your life.
And once again, this is ok.
Being able to acknowledge this is important because it will allow you to adapt your plan to your new long-term goals.
14. Adapt your plan
You should consider adapting your plan in 2 circumstances:
First of all, you should rethink your plan and set new goals if you fail to achieve your goals and have no chance to achieve them before the deadlines you previously set.
But you should also consider reassessing your plan if you realize that your goals do not support your vision of the dream life anymore.
We change and so does our vision of happiness.
Taking your feelings into account all along the journey is key to ensuring you set goals for yourself and that these goals truly support your vision of a happy life.
15. Enjoy your success
Achieving goals is hard. But you have done it!
It is now time to enjoy your success and look back with pride at everything you have achieved … so far!
Find your own way to celebrate.
You can either organize a girls’ night out or a spa day or spoil yourself with something you have always wanted.
It’s all up to you.
But never don’t that personal growth is a never-ending journey.
And as soon as you have achieved your goals, it’s time to start again with… bigger, greater goals!
Setting goals and not achieving them can truly be demotivating.
No matter how much you wish something to be true, it won’t unless you have a good action plan and work for it.
Your plan should give you a crystal clear vision of all your goals and the actions to take to achieve the desired results.
If you want to change your life, writing a clear action plan is the place to start.
And you now have all the information you need to create yours, so start today!