In the last issue of InFocus, we talked about setting goals and considered 10 questions to help you determine what you really want to achieve in 2006. Hopefully, you've developed a clear picture of the way your business will look when you've reached those goals. This week, we'll take the next very important step: creating an action plan to help you get there.
Before we jump into creating the action plan, let's be clear about what it is…and isn't. An action plan is a set of distinct actions that, if completed, will get you closer to a specific goal. An action plan isn't a schedule, a to-do list, or a collection of wants or needs…although it may be used to create a schedule or to-do list and it may involve fulfilling some wants or needs. Think of it as a detailed blueprint that will help you build your business.
You'll create a separate action plan for each goal. Start by writing the goal at the top of a piece of paper and include the date by which you want to accomplish it. Then answer this deceptively simple question: "What do I need to do to achieve this goal by the target date?" It's "deceptively simple" because making this list sounds like a no-brainer, but coming up with a series of "next steps" is what often trips people up when they try to reach their goals.
Here's an example. This is a typical list of action steps for the goal "Acquire 20 referrals a week beginning January 2, 2006":
It's a good start, but there are a few problems with the items on the list.
Learn better techniques for asking for referrals
This is more a process than an action. An action is something that can be completed in one session (how you define a session is up to you, but typically it won't take longer than a few hours). Learning is an ongoing proposition with no clear end point.
When something in your action plan requires more than one session, break it down into a series of action steps. In this case, your action plan might include these:
Attend networking events
How many? When? Where? Why? The fact that this item prompts so many questions is a good indication that it's not a distinct action step. Although this isn't a process, it does represent a series of actions, so list the steps and let them lead you to related or supportive activities:
Make a list of possible referral sources
This item almost meets one of the criteria for an action in that it can likely be accomplished in one session. However, there is no clear end point. How would you know when you were done? Adding the number of referral sources provides a clear target:
Call existing clients and ask for referrals
Do you intend to call every client? When will you make these calls? When setting action steps, be as specific as possible so you'll know when you've completed each of them:
Make calls to potential clients
The goal for which you're creating this action plan involves asking for referrals, not converting the referrals into clients. Certainly that's a logical next step and, as such, is an important goal in itself. But for the purposes of creating an effective action plan, it's important to stick to the topic at hand. It will help you avoid becoming overwhelmed.
From Action Plan to the Best Year Ever
The examples above show you what to focus on and what to avoid when creating your action plan. Just follow a few guidelines and you'll soon have a blueprint that effectively supports your goals. Each action step:
Once you're sure all the steps in your action plan meet the criteria for effectiveness, all you have to do is integrate it into your daily activities. Some of your action steps may involve creating entries in your schedule. Others will be entered onto to-do lists for specific days.
Day by day, you'll be taking the appropriate steps toward achieving your goals. Once a week, review your action plan to make sure you haven't overlooked something important. Before you know it, the vision you had of your best year ever will be a reality!
- Scott Wintrip
StaffingU Founder & President
Scott Wintrip, PCC (scottw@StaffingU.net) is Founder and President of StaffingU, the leader in providing relationship-building techniques guaranteed to grow your business. For information on StaffingU's programs and services, including TeleClasses (live telephone-based classes), Virtual StaffingU (web-based courses), individual and group coaching, on-site training and speaking, and consulting visit www.StaffingU.net or call 866-SU-WORKS (789-6757).