I find it incredible that I've never written a post on creating action plans. It's something I do all the time, something I got used to doing when I was a director in a hospital a long time ago.

The need for action plans was twofold in my case.

One, I had a lot of different duties and was responsible for a lot more than just the employees who reported to me. I was traveling a lot between 3 different hospitals and 5 different locations; without an action plan, I'd have been lost.

Two, the action plan helped me stay on track for my own department's goals and the compliance goals of the hospital. Of course other things would be put into the plan but the first two were the most crucial items for what I did, so I highlighted them more than anything else.

There are 3 basics of an action plan: long range goal; weekly goal; what you have to do.

Long range goals are really easy to come up with, no matter what you do. Say you want to increase production 20%; easy to write down, but you have to write down what it is now as well. Say you want to lose 20 pounds; same thing.

Weekly goals, in my mind, are the hardest thing to come up with. You might not complete a weekly goal, and the daily action steps might accomplish something that takes you to your goal, but they're still somewhat hard to define. For instance, it's easy on a weight loss goal; you could say something like "I want to lose 2 pounds". It's harder on a production goal because if it's a large organization there's probably little you can do to affect a 2% production increase in a week; things just don't work that way.

If you're stuck on this one go back and take a look at what your ultimate goal is and then set up your weekly goal as being something you want to improve. For instance, maybe your goal for the week isn't to increase production 2%, but to write a process for how to do something that will help get things moving in the right direction. As long as your weekly goal is something that improves things, you'll be fine.

Finally the things you have to do to get to those weekly and long range goals. What I like to do is schedule the time I'm going to work on certain things. For instance, I might schedule 2 hours for marketing, 2 hours for writing, and an hour to do something else. Because I tend to miss stuff, I also schedule when I'm supposed to eat and when to take breaks. It may seem strange scheduling breaks but I do that for two reasons. One, without doing it I might just wander off and do something else so it keeps me on track. Two, because I work from home most of the time, thereby being able to work late into the evening and very early morning (I seem to concentrate better after 9PM for some reason), making sure I take my breaks during the day helps me stay focused on stuff I can only do during the day.

If your action plan involves others, you'll have to work that in somehow. If you're the leader of the group it'll be easier than if it's a peer, but you'll figure that part out. The main thing is that you can really only control yourself, so always go into an action plan thinking of what you specifically need to do.