Do you love setting goals but never seem to follow through with them? I’m sure you’ve felt the excitement of setting goals…only to forget about them a few weeks later. Don’t worry, I’m right there with you.
If you’ve ever not achieved a goal you’ve set for yourself, I’m guessing your goal wasn’t specific or realistic enough. You probably felt overwhelmed by how much work it would take. Maybe you gave up because you weren’t making progress when you weren’t actually taking any action.
If you want to start achieving your goals, you have to break them down into steps that don’t completely stress you out. I recently mapped out my yearly goals into action steps, and I’m determined to make them happen this year.
I’ve set goals for my health (train for a 5k), finances (pay off debt), and business (more clients, products sales, and sponsors). From there, I’ve figured out what I need to do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to make them happen.
Goals don’t have to be daunting. You simply need an achievable action plan. Because I want to help you achieve your goals, I’m sharing a simple process you can use to break down your goals into action steps. Keep reading so you can create your own step-by-step goal plan!
Goal Action Planning 101
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”– Pablo Picasso
What is an action plan?
An action plan is a step-by-step method to get things done. I like to think of it as a plan of attack. It’s a way to break up huge, overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of work your goal will take, an action plan will make it feel achievable.
Why do I need an action plan?
Creating action plans for my goals is something I’ve done since I was in college. Before that, I kept vague goal ideas floating around in my head until I forgot about them (surprise, surprise). Breaking my goals down into an action plan helped me get more done and generally feel more on top of my life. Also, it’s rewarding to feel like I’m making progress even if I haven’t achieved the end goal yet.
What if my goal isn’t actionable?
If you can’t find a way to break a larger goal into smaller steps, it’s most likely not the right goal for you. To figure out the right goals for you, I recommend reading through these posts first:
- How to define your top priorities in life
- How to create a clear vision for the future you want
- How to set intentional goals and actually achieve them
- 30 Goal Ideas to Nourish Your Mind, Body, and Soul
How To Create Your Action Plan
There are so many ways to plan out your goals, but this is a simple (yet detailed) process that has worked for me. Start by grabbing the free goal planner then follow the steps below.
Step 1 / Goal Planner
Download the free goal planner here or grab a blank piece of paper. Writing down your goals with pen and paper can make them feel more concrete.
Step 2 / Bigger Goals
Write down your top 3-5 goals for the year. For each goal, repeat steps 3-10.
Step 3 / Set Deadlines
Set a deadline for your goal. Be realistic with your time frame, but challenge yourself to get it done sooner rather than later.
Step 4 / The Why
Write your reason for pursuing this goal. The “why” is important for helping you identify the positive impact this goal will have on your life.
Step 5 / Habits
Identify a daily or weekly habit that will keep you on track with your goal. For example, keeping your phone in airplane mode while you work. Habits are the framework for success, so it’s important to align your habits with your goals.
Step 6 / Action Steps
List out every single step that needs to happen to achieve this goal. What it would take to get from A-Z? What about from A-B? Once you’ve done that, condense your list into 3-5 action steps.
Step 7 / Order
Review your list of action steps and order them in a way that makes sense based on what needs to happen first.
Step 8 / Smaller Tasks
For each action step you’ve identified, ask yourself what smaller tasks need to get done to make the larger action step easier for you.
Step 9 / Due Dates
Set a start date and end date for each action step and smaller task. Add them to your calendar or favorite to-do list tool (I love Asana).
Step 10 / Reminders
Set up reminders on your phone or computer so that you always know when to work on each action step or habit.
How To Stay Focused On Your Action Plan
Be clear on what you’re trying to do by writing down exactly how you’re going to do it. Keep your goals in a visible place (download this goal planner) so you’re reminded of them often. Review your goals every morning or week as part of your routine.
Take responsibility for your own actions. You have an obligation to yourself, so commit to yourself and your future. Don’t blame others for holding you back or delaying your success. Work on being consistent with your actions and putting effort into your goals day in and day out.
If you get off track, pick up and keep going. There’s no point using up your energy by worrying about how far behind you are. You might have to adjust some deadlines here and there (or completely), and that’s okay. Keep your vision for your future top of mind, and you’ll find a way to get there.
Need more tips for sticking to your goals? Read this post about goal setting.
“By thinking about your goals every morning, many times during the day, and every night, you begin moving toward it and bringing it toward you.”– Bob Proctor
Which goals are you working on right now?
I hope this post has encouraged you to break your own goals down into actionable steps. I’d love to know if this process works for you and what your top goals are right now. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
The financial goal I’ve been working on for the last few months is building an emergency fund. It will actually be done in two weeks! :D
What I did was transferring just $50 per bi-weekly paycheck. Sometimes I did more, like this week when I put away $200, but at the very least those $50 were automatically gone from my checking account. I think it really helps to just not think of that as “your money” and instead as “savings,” because then it never feels like a loss to not have it in your spending account anymore.
I also made a tracker in my bullet journal so I got the joy of coloring in a box whenever I saved some money. I love doing that, so I will totally put in $50 extra dollars sometimes just for the joy of doing that… You need to find the ways you can trick yourself into doing good things. ;)
Since I paid off my car in August (yay!!) my next venture will be to pay off the last little bit of student loans I have, with the same principle I’ve been using for my emergency fund. :)
Having an emergency fund is such a good goal! Sounds like you are killing it with the financial goals, Erika <3
Great advice, Catherine! I’m a stickler for organisation so I love setting goals, I also obsess over formatting so I love how you set this post out. The interactive timeline is genius!
I follow many of the steps you addressed, but what I didn’t consider were habits! I can see how this would be extremely helpful for one’s overall chance of success. I should probably focus on this a bit more. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Grace! I thought the timeline made it a little easier to follow! And the habit thing is something I recently realized was a part of goal-setting that I never thought much about either. But it really is necessary to make a goal stick.
I feel like you took a complicated topic and made it so simple to follow! I just downloaded the workbook and I can’t wait to get started on it!
I’m so glad to hear that, Mel!
I love your blog! Just so easy and simple to digest. I’ve downloaded the action plan and can not wait to use it and set my goals.
I tend to procrastinate A LOT that’s my problem, I have no urgency. I do give myself credit and I do end up doing things I want to do, after a long frame of time.
I have followed you on Instagram now.
Thank you so much! I’m glad to hear you give yourself credit even if you do procrastinate. Most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit.
Thanks Catherine. I’ve just gone full time on my health coaching business and was looking for a good goal setting format. I usually write down my goals for the year, month, and then action items, then put the actions as appointments in my calendar each week and month. But the big yellow legal pad I write it down on gets buried on my desk and forgotten about. The key is going to be to have my goals be front and center in my work space, maybe on a wall. I’m looking forward to trying your tool
Good for you for going full time, Mary Ellen! That’s incredible. Glad this post was helpful for you.
Finally, someone broke down the steps! The 3 Priorities idea (not sure if its original or taken from elsewhere), but it is profound for me. I was OVERWHELMED with much to do. I couldnt figure out where best to start….and I always thought if I got the small stuff out of the way I could finally tacke the big projects….WRONG!!!!
If I really put my energy in the places that mean the most to me — I have a sense of satisfaction and progress that fuels so many other aspects of my life.
Thank you. I learned something very valuable today.
After reading this I bought my own mini planner (i bought the little one so that i can put it on my pocket and bring it anytime) right away and i am so excited to follow all your advises. I hope this will work for me because i really want to be more responsible when it comes to my/our financial needs. And as a person like me, i have so many things that i want to do but i really don’t know how and when to start.
Thank you for all the learnings! Looking forward for more inspiring & motivational blog for you, Catherine. :)
I loved reading this article and I guess i would really help me have a clear vision on my goals and the action plan I need to make to make them real ! after reading some comments I noticed that I am not the only one struggling with money saving ( I barely can save any …) but it’s one of my top priorities for 2020 ! I would love to use your goal planning worksheet but I cannot send it to mail, an error shows up whenever I try to ! Can you help me figure that out ? Thank you so much for all the inspiration <3 <3
Hi Jihad! Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com and I will send the Goal Planner to you! Also check out The Budget Mom on YouTube. She has amazing money-saving tips!
Wow. U just made my life easier.. Thnx for helping catherine
I really love this article post, Thanks for sharing a lovely article! This is very informative, Thanks to all!
This is so good!! Great info and so inspiring!! Thank you!!