action plan

Making Your Goals Attainable: A Real-Life Example of an Action Plan

On a previous post, I shared how I walk clients through the process of creating a SMART Action Plan.  To read that post, CLICK HERE.

Goals Concept

So many times we make promises to ourselves:

  • “I need to lose weight.”
  • “I want to start eating healthier.”
  • “I need to get organized.”
  • “I need a new job.”

The problem is that we fail to be specific enough or assign a timeline for getting things accomplished.  A perfect example of putting something off because of lack of an action plan is my desire to obtain my Personal Training certification.  I have been thinking about getting this certification for at least 5 or 6 years, and yet, here I sit with no certification.  I even bought the study books and materials for a nationally accredited certification about 4 years ago, and I think I made it about 6 pages into the manual before I tossed it aside.

My failure to achieve my goal boils down to a lack of a SMART Action Plan, the most important step being that I didn’t assign a timeline.  “One day” is not a specific timeline.  In order to achieve your goals, you have to have a realistic, specific timeline to achieve those goals.  I decided it was time to give myself a taste of my own medicine and put an Action Plan in place!

GOAL:  Obtain Personal Training certification
DEADLINE:  By Thanksgiving  (November 28)
START DATE: August 28
*13 weeks to achieve goal*

STEPS:
1.  Study
Personal Trainer Manual and Workbook  (18 chapters; 2 chapters per week for 9 weeks)
Program Design Handbook  (4 sections; 2 sections per week for 2 weeks)
Anatomy Workbook  (1 week)
2.  Practice Test and Re-visit problem areas  (1 week)
3.  CPR certification  (deadline:  November 1)
4.  Take Final Exam for certification  (may take place in December, depending on test dates available; absolute deadline of January 1st)

By assigning deadlines and dates, as well as being specific about the steps to achieve my goal, I can now hold myself accountable and keep myself on track to meet that goal.  Reaching the goal is no longer a “one day” type of goal, but should be attained by the end of the year.

Given that I am already working on a goal of losing weight (and I’m a third of the way to my goal on my progress), a second goal of achieving this certification is probably my limit for now.  Another reason folks tend to get frustrated and give up on goals is because they overwhelm themselves by trying to accomplish too many things at one time.  In order to be successful in achieving your goals, you should only start one action plan at a time, and limit yourself to 2-3 major goals at one time.  Because I have already been working on losing weight for about 6 weeks and am successfully sticking to my action plan, I feel confident in adding another goal at this time.  However, deciding to work on this certification at the same time that I was starting my action plan for losing weight would not have been a smart choice, as I probably would have abandoned one (or both) goals.

I have put my action plan out there for two reasons: 1) to show that, even I as the Coach, need to practice what I preach (and yes, I make mistakes too), and 2) to hold myself more accountable by putting it in writing (not to mention putting it out there for an audience who can also keep me accountable).  Additionally, I have written out these steps and posted them in a location in my house where I will see the Action Plan every day (it’s harder to play “out of sight, out of mind” when it’s staring you right in the face on a regular basis).

What goals have you not achieved because you failed to be specific and assign a timeline?

Take Action with a SMART Action Plan

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE “TAKE ACTION” WORKSHEET

During a recent coaching session, a client told me that she feels she is being called to help people.  She was reading and soaking up information like a sponge, but really had no direction or focus for how she was going to help people.  During our session, I uncovered that she is passionate about growing herbs and herbal healing.  As she talked about this passion, her eyes lit up, and she was very animated and excited as she went on to tell me that a great grandmother had actually been known in her community as a natural and herbal healing specialist.  By the time we finished her session, we had mapped out an action plan that had specific focus, a time frame to complete a knowledge path for said focus, and her next steps for getting involved in community groups with this focus.

The hardest part of reaching your goals is getting started.  People are often so overwhelmed with the idea of the process that they often just never start.  In order to be successful with any action plan – business or personal – your plan must be S.M.A.R.T. :

S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Achieveable/Actionable
R – Revise for Relevance
T – Timely

SPECIFIC
A goal must be specific in order to measure success.  If you just say, “I want to lose weight”, your expectation is so broad that you will never know if you reached the finish line.  However, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you can set up smaller goals along the way until you reach the 20 pounds.  Now you have focus to your goal and can ultimately measure success.  In the example above, my client started out wanting to “help people”, but by the time we were finished with her session, she had focused her passion into a specific goal of helping others learn about herbal healing.

MEASUREABLE
How will you measure success of your goal?  You should be able to break down your goal into smaller steps along the way by which you can measure continuous achievement.  If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you may decide that you are going to work for losing one pound per week until that goal is achieved.  In the case of my client, we set some milestones for knowledge of her focus area: attending workshops, going to community classes, and ultimately getting a nationally-recognized certification.

ATTAINABLE/ACTIONABLE
Have you made your goal specific and measureable enough to actually carry it out?  Do you have the resources, including both skill and will, to achieve the goal?  Some people miss the first two steps, and by doing so, set themselves up for failure before they’ve even begun.  Any goal worth achieving is worth having a plan to achieve that goal.  You can’t just jump into it and think you are going to get somewhere.  Take the time to map it out – you will thank yourself later.  Without deciding first that you will strive to lose “x” amount of weight per week by “ABC” actions, you will never reach that 20-pound mark for weight loss.  In the case of my client wanting to help others, she had no end result for which she was working and probably would have floundered about trying to find her place in this world of helping/healing.  By sitting down and talking through the steps of a SMART Action Plan, we were able to give her measureable and achieveable pieces for which to strive and by which to measure success once completed.

REVISE FOR RELEVANCE
You may find along your journey a new direction or insight that takes you on a different path than originally planned – and THAT IS OK.  It doesn’t mean you have failed the original goal.  It just means that the original goal is no longer relevant to where you are at this point in your life.  How many people do you know that are still working in the career field of their college major ten or fifteen years later?  My guess is not many.  We all go to college with one passion or idea of where we want to go in life, but as we experience all that life has to offer, we can often be pulled in another direction.  Such is the case with any goal, so stay open and flexible so that you can revise your plan along the way to stay relevant.  My client may find along her journey to becoming a specialist on herbal healing that she has another passion that is even stronger than her one for herbal healing – and that is OK.  She will just need to revise her plan a little to accommodate the new focus in her life.

TIMELY
Without a time-bound point of completion, how will you ever know if you’ve crossed the finish line?  Choose a realistic time frame by which you would like to complete your goal, which is ultimately just another aspect of measurement.  By choosing a time frame, you are holding yourself accountable to actually getting the goal completed – even if you realize the time frame you have set for yourself needs to be revised along the way (in either direction – shorter or longer).  Choose a time that is relatively soon so that you will have a sense of urgency and motivation to actually get the job done, but that is far enough away that it gives you a realistic time frame for completion.  You will not lose 20 pounds safely in one month, but maybe you can lose 20 pounds in 3-5 months.  Again, stay open and flexible to revise your time along the way if need be, and don’t consider yourself a failure if it looks like it might take a little longer than originally planned.  As long as you are making progress in the right direction, you are successful.

I have a worksheet that I use with my clients in our initial consultation that walks them through a SMART Action Plan.  This “Take Action” worksheet aids in taking a large, non-specific goal that may seem overwhelming to tackle and breaks it down into a Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely Action Plan.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE “TAKE ACTION” WORKSHEET