When you’ve got a great idea but don’t know where to start, creating an action plan for your business or your project can point you in the right direction.
It’s been said that the only action that matters is action. Action constitutes the work, the steps, the “action” necessary to reach your goals and aspirations. But some entrepreneurs are decidedly better at seeing the big picture instead of breaking it down into doable actions.
One of the things I see often is that people create new plans and ideas but never take the first action to make it happen. (I may or may not have done this myself a time or two!) I think the key to getting started is to know, without a doubt, what the first step to take is. And to do that, creating an action plan is a necessary first step.
Here are 6 tips for creating an action plan that even the big-picture thinkers can work with.
1. Start with the big picture
What is your company mission or goal in life? Highlight 3 to 5 main objectives and why these are the goals that will make you successful.
2. Break things down into manageable steps
Take each main objective and break it down into two to five smaller actionable steps. This means you should have a different to-do list for each one of the objectives you created earlier. If you started with three main objectives, you should now have three new to-do lists.
3. Prioritize the steps into a relevant order
It’s easy to jump all over the place when you don’t know where to start. By starting with the most relevant and urgent tasks, you’ll see the progression for achieving your goals. When you doing this, don’t forget to keep your daily schedule or any critical meetings in mind.
4. Create deadlines for yourself
For each goal, set a hard deadline and don’t give yourself any more time. Add the steps and tasks you need to do to complete that goal in your calendar and let yourself and other important people know about it.
5. Know your limits and keep your focus
While the saying “the sky is your limit” may sound motivational, it can be unrealistic when running a successful business. You need to be laser-focused on your overall goal, and if you believe you can do all the things and be all the things to all the people, you may lose focus on what truly matters for your specific business and goals.
In other words, don’t go down the rabbit hole of “shiny object” syndrome. Shiny objects are leading you down a path of uncertainty and disorganization. Each task you do needs to support your main objective; otherwise, you are putting in more input than is productive for the amount of output generated.
6. Set realistic expectations
Normally I’m not one to tell anyone to lower their expectations, but when you’re just starting out or starting a new project, it doesn’t pay to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. That just paves the road to frustration and the temptation to give up. Learn from the mistakes you make, add a little more time to get things done, and you’ll get there in the end.
Finally, don’t be afraid to take the first step. Creating an action plan is just the first step, but eventually you have to stop planning and just get going. The trick is to make that first step so easy that you can’t avoid it. Once you get going, you’ll build up the momentum and the confidence to keep going and build the successful business you dream of.