Demystifying the Art of Action Planning

Posted by on Feb 06 2015

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.

Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply stated outcomes: be more profitable, finish a big project, launch a new service, or help more clients. It’s more than a mere wish list; it’s stating what you want from life.

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.

Start with Big Picture Goals

Before you jump into details, start with big outcomes you want for your business this year. People often confused goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself the question, “Why do you want to do this? What outcome are you 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: Step back for a moment and write down three big picture goals you have for this year.

Brainstorm Your Projects

Now that you have your goals in mind, let’s talk about how to 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).

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.

Tap 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.

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 planning; 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 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.


5 comments for now

5 Responses to “Demystifying the Art of Action Planning”

  1. ShannonNo Gravatar


    I love this post so very much. It is a great affirmation to something I learned in a book by Jason Womack…and it was a simple trick on my to-do list that changed the course of my life forever. (I realize that is a hefty statement-but it’s true!)

    You see, prior to reading his book, I had the most awesome, LONG task list…it said things like newsletter, blog, follow-up, etc. And while I was making progress, I would get stuck, and it was because, as I learned through his guidance, I needed to actually turn those nouns into action items that started with verbs. So, my new list reads more like this: brainstorm blogs for March, write February 9 Newsletter, and Call x,y, and z to follow up.

    Making this small switch, from noun-lists to verb-lists changed so much in my business. I get a ton more stuff done.

    I also agree with you that focusing on projects, 1-2 BIG ones at a time (ie in a year) can make huge differences. I fell into this trap, and sometimes still do, b/c I want it all, right now. And I just am not superwoman–haha.

    Great tips–bookmarking this for clients and to read when I am stuck.

    09 Feb 2015 at 6:01 pm

  2. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    That’s a creative suggestion, Shannon, thanks for sharing it! It’s so true: a task list is a list of things to DO, so starting that list with a verb makes it clear what exactly has to get done.

    10 Feb 2015 at 9:56 am

  3. Carmen SaundersNo Gravatar

    Great article! A lot of people think that by tackling the small things first that they would be more productive but sometimes you get stuck in the small things and leave the bigger things behind when they should be priority on the to-do list. Thanks for sharing.

    13 Feb 2015 at 11:02 am

  4. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Good point, Carmen. Projects include both big and small tasks, so what’s important is know which task is crucial, not just which one is easiest to do.

    13 Feb 2015 at 4:53 pm

  5. Alberto RendonNo Gravatar

    Thank you Karyn for your very useful article for the business action planning. Your articles or blog posts are wonderful as guides for those start online and offline businesses and projects. Awesome!

    15 Feb 2015 at 4:59 am

Category: Business Strategy & Planning