Demystifying the Art of Action Planning

Posted by on Aug 11 2020

Do you have an area in your business that you want to grow or change? Sometimes it feels like you can’t get there fast enough.

Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply statements of results you want: 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 exactly what will get you quicker results.

Start with Big Picture Goals

Before you jump into details, start with big results you want for your business over the coming year. People often confuse goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself some questions.

  • What results are you trying to achieve and why (goals)?
  • Which vehicles will you use to attain those goals (projects)?

For instance, say your goal is to launch a new class. But there’s a reason you’re launching this new class, right?

Maybe it’s a free class to build your mailing list. Your goal is to build your list; your project is to create and offer a free class.

Or maybe it’s a paid class to show your expert status and build revenue. Your goal is revenue generation and visibility; your project is the paid class.

By asking yourself why you want to achieve something, you get to your core goals.

ACTION STEP: Pause for a moment and write three big goals you have for the next 12 months.

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. Choosing your projects wisely will help you get where you’re going faster, with less effort and friction.

Start by brainstorming all the projects that can help you achieve the same goal. For example, say that one of your goals is to build your expert platform and to get known. 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, knowledge, 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 over the next 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

Write a list of the tasks to complete for your 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: Take one of your projects and begin writing a To Do list of tasks needed to accomplish that project. I call this your Action Plan.

Next, organize the tasks into a logical order. Let’s use the class design project as an example. You’ll need to write a lesson plan so you know how long the class is, and which topics you’ll cover, before you can set the price or write your marketing copy.

And you’ll need to write the marketing copy before the sales page can be put up on your website.

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.

ACTION STEP: Organize the tasks, and take an educated guess as to how long each task will take.

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 is a place where many people freeze. You look at your To Do list and it feels like climbing Mount Everest.

Don’t look at the totality of every task on your list. It’s not possible to do all those tasks simultaneously, so step back and focus on the very first task.

ACTION STEP: Look for one action you can take right now. Just one action, no more.

If your project is to write your marketing copy, your one action might be to write the headline. If your project is to create a profit model for your class, your one action could be to calculate your costs so you know your class will be profitable.

By breaking projects and tasks into small increments, you achieve everything – on time, on budget, and with grace and satisfaction.


7 comments for now

7 Responses to “Demystifying the Art of Action Planning”

  1. Karyn,

    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 Greenstreet

    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. 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 Greenstreet

    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. 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

  6. Bonnie Thompson

    Karen, this is perfect timing as I’ve just committed to restructuring my business. Thank you for clarifying the process and reminding me that I need to start with the goals, not the projects!

    31 Oct 2018 at 12:48 pm

  7. Karyn Greenstreet

    Oh, now is the perfect time for you to do some action planning, Bonnie! Good luck with your restructuring. I did that few years ago with my biz…it’s a great adventure!

    31 Oct 2018 at 2:31 pm

Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time