Throughout the course of running a business, you will need to set goals for yourself along the way.  These may be related to customer service, marketing, professional development, or anything else that will contribute to the success of your business.  However, it isn’t enough to simply set a goal; you must create a plan of action that will guide you in achieving it.  For most people, a step-by-step guide that includes benchmarks and due dates is effective.  Here is a list of things to consider when creating your action plan.

  • Prepare for success. Think of an action plan like a race. Just like in a race, warm up your body and mind before you make your action plan. See yourself reaching the finish line, celebrating the win, and have a reward ready for once you complete your tasks. Successful people know they will win before they even start the race.
  • PrioritizeMost projects or goals require a multitude of steps to complete, often overlapping and dependent on each other.  As with any other aspect of business, time is of the essence, and you likely will not be able to exclusively work on this project all day every day.  For this reason, prioritize the steps included in your plan so you can work on the most imperative ones first.  Tip:  When deciding on an item’s priority level, also put the most difficult tasks at the top of the list.  This is especially important if the list includes items that you dread.  For example, if your action plan includes making follow-up calls to collect overdue payments from clients, it’s a good idea to put it near the top of the list.  Asking for money, even money owed to us, is never pleasant, so instead of procrastinating, get a task like this out of the way.
  • Break down long-term projects into smaller chunks.  If you have something that needs to be done within the next six months, for example, create more short-term checkpoints that will allow the project to be completed on time.  This way, even if you don’t get to work on it every day or even every week, you will still have a plan in place for getting it done because the tasks involved are more manageable.  If something seems too overwhelming, we tend to do nothing because we don’t know where to start.  Breaking down projects into smaller tasks will prevent this from happening.
  • Plan realistically.  Because you are the backbone of your business, you should have a very good sense of how much time you have to commit to all of your responsibilities.  Keep this in mind when writing the action plan, especially when choosing deadlines and benchmarks.  If you only give yourself three days to completely overhaul your entire filing system, you are setting yourself up for failure.  Consider not only your other business responsibilities, but also your personal ones as well.  If you are the one your family depends on to take your turn in the soccer carpool, have dinner ready when everyone comes home, or walk the dog every evening, don’t forget to factor those types of things into your day.  Planning too much in too little time will only frustrate you, add stress to your life, and even prevent you from accomplishing your goal altogether.
  • Revisit and adapt as needed.  Sometimes in life and in business, things do not play out as we had hoped or planned.  To prepare for and deal with the unexpected, take the initiative to review your action plan and change it if necessary.  Let’s say your goal was to implement online ordering by the end of the quarter.  However, your local competitor has just launched a new website that includes this feature.  You now need to go back to your action plan and re-work it so that you can get your website up and running by the end of the month so you don’t lose customers that want this convenience.  As business owners, we must always be flexible, prepared, and willing to adapt to change and unforeseen circumstances.

How do you create an action plan for your business?  Please share your ideas below!

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