Here are eight tips for creating an action plan. Having an action plan and following it consistently means you are more likely to focus on the right things in your business and get things done according to a thought through, structured timeline. The different elements of your business will be more likely to run smoothly, impressing your customers and growing your income.
- Keep your plan focused
Thinking and dreaming big is one of the first steps to achieving something worthwhile. However don’t try to run before you can walk. Decide on what is appropriate to where your business is right now and the path it should be taking next. Letting your focus wander and allowing ‘mission creep’ to set in can spread your efforts too wide and result in you making little progress.
- Have short term and long term tasks
Split your tasks into short-term and long-term ones. Both will need addressing consistently so make sure both types of task are clearly identified and included in your plan. For example, a short-term task would be to buy a specific piece of software and a long-term task would be to improve your website traffic.
- Break down your larger tasks
It’s a cliched saying that you can eat an elephant one bite at a time. However if you can break down the bigger tasks into more manageable ones you’ll be able to get the big task done without it feeling overwhelming.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
If you are aware of your strengths, weaknesses and the time available to you you are more likely to realise when you cannot do everything all on your own. Identify the parts of your action plan that can be delegated and decide who you can delegate to.
- Have a realistic timeline for each task
Create a timeline for each and every task and make sure completion dates are realistic. If you aim to complete a task too soon it may set you up for failure. If you don’t already know how long a task will take you should time yourself the next time you do it. If you have never performed a task before ask someone who has to give you an estimate. Having realistic timelines is an important part of setting yourself up for success.
- Decide when to measure your progress
Build checkpoints and milestones into your plan so you can regularly measure your progress. Comparing where you actually are with where you expected yourself to be gives you important feedback which will help you adjust your plan and keep your business on track.
- Build in buffer time
There are many reasons actual progress may not match the progress anticipated in your plan. If you are doing a number of tasks for the first time it’s almost certain you will take longer than average. If you delegate you may find others may not be as efficient as you expected. To cope with the unexpected and other factors outside your control it is important that you build in buffer time. This could be a set period included as a final step in each task and you could also make extra allowance for the tasks or steps that are most likely to be delayed.
- Have a written plan
However you put your plan together, whether it’s on spreadsheets, timelines, flowcharts, or notes, it’s important to put your action plan in writing. It doesn’t have to be a formal document but it should be a point of reference that clearly states what you should be doing, when you should be doing it, and when it should be completed.
Follow these tips and you are more likely to stay focused on your plan and stick to your timeline. It’s tempting to let tasks go and timescales slip when there are so many distractions in business. Having a realistic plan with plenty of opportunities to check your progress as you work the plan is one of the secrets of success.