If you’ve read our previous post on SMART goal setting, then you’re well on your way to laying out your business goals.

If you haven’t read that post yet, be sure to go read it now, and come back. (We’ll wait.)

Now that you’ve set your goals, you may be wondering how you can turn those goals into realities. The next step for you is to create a development action plan to outline the HOW and guide you across the finish line.

Just like your goals, your plan needs to be as specific and detailed as possible. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to create your action plan:

Specify the Goal

You will create an action plan for each of your goals. So start by specifying your first goal. Yep, that was easy.

Outline the How

Next, you will outline the process necessary for completing your goal, or the actions you will take to complete it. Let’s say your goal is to speak at a popular event in your industry, but you’ve never spoken at an event before. Your action steps would likely include…

  • Watching speeches from others in your industry, preferably ones from the previous year’s event.
  • Watching talks about your industry (if applicable) on Ted(R). Or any talks on Ted for that matter, because they are always really inspiring and awesome.
  • Choosing three to five speeches that are your absolute favorite in the inspiration category.
  • Taking some public speaking classes or joining a speaking group like Toastmasters(R) to develop your speaking skills.
  • Creating a presentation topic for the event.
  • Submitting a presentation topic to the event.
  • Developing media for your speech including slides, handouts, etc.
  • Practicing your speech alone (over and over and over and over….).
  • Practicing your speech in front of friends and family (sometimes embarrassing, but it helps).
  • Coordinating travel arrangements to the event.

The more detailed your action steps are, the more likely you are to complete them.

Define the Resources

While creating your action steps, you’re likely going to find that you need resources to complete them. In the above example, those resources would be the speeches you watch for inspiration, the classes you take or speaking groups join, the material for the presentation you plan to make, and the people you practice in front of. Detail each of these resources (what, when, where, and who) as soon as possible so you can attain each for related action steps.

Create the Timetable

Each of the action steps you list as part of the process towards achieving your goal should be linked to a due date. When do you want to have chosen your top three to five favorite speeches? When do you want to start taking your classes or join your group? When do you need to submit a speech to the intended event in your industry? When do you need to book your travel? Make sure everything is aligned with a date so you don’t get off track and have a setback that could cost you the fulfillment of your goal.

Determine the Who

Knowing someone who can hold you accountable for your goal can really motivate you toward achieving it. Solopreneurs only have themselves, so they may have to find a friend or family member. Employees have managers or the business owner. No matter who you choose, make sure to choose someone, let them know your action steps and when each is due, and encourage them to follow up with you on your progress.

Track the Progress

Speaking of progress, be sure to track your progress for yourself, even if you don’t have anyone who will be checking in on you. Set reminders on specific due dates so that you know you are on track. Don’t fear the due date – look at it as a source of motivation, and reward yourself each time you complete an action step towards your overall goal. Don’t reward yourself with slack off time though – you don’t want to celebrate one completion for so long that you delay another.

Use a Template

When it comes to development action plans, there are tons upon tons of templates out there that you can use to craft yours. For those who want simplicity, you can just use a simple Word template such as an employee status report that allows you to outline short term and long term goals with action items.

If that doesn’t suit you, you can actually find hundreds online – real ones used by other companies for individuals and groups looking to achieve a particular goal. How do you find them, you ask? Here’s where we’ll share a fun search tip. Go to your favorite search engine and try the following searches:

  • development action plan filetype:pdf
  • development action plan filetype:doc
  • development action plan filetype:docx

This will give you access to action plans used by universities, government agencies, and other businesses. Don’t feel bad about it either – they’re publicly accessible to anyone. The variety is bound to help you find the right action plan to fit your needs, no matter what type of goal you are trying to achieve!

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