Developing your action plan
It is all very well having goals, but for them to have a high chance of success it is important to have a clear plan to follow. This does not mean you can’t change it later – everyone’s circumstances change – but it will help to keep you on track.
Developing an action plan usually involves the following process:
- setting yourself a goal to work towards
- working out what you need to do before you can achieve your goal – breaking the goal down into smaller chunks until you get to a point where you think, ‘Yes, that’s manageable. I feel I could tackle that.’
- putting the steps in a logical order – some will be dependent on others having been completed first, while some will be more flexible and can be completed at any time
- putting a timetable next to each step to spur you on to achieving that step.
Mike has been working for a long time in a job that he hates, but he loves cooking and asks himself whether he could be a chef. It may not pay any more money than his current job and the hours can be difficult, but at least he would be happy doing it.
Mike has no experience or qualifications for the restaurant business, so his ‘smaller chunks’ include finding out what is involved – identifying what qualifications he needs and how he could acquire them, preferably in his home town so that he has the support of friends and family while he does it – and working out the finances. He also has a short-term goal of getting some work experience to help decide whether being a chef would be as fulfilling as he hopes.
Did you notice that the steps he plans to take are designed around his own personal qualities, skills, knowledge and resources? Yours should be, too.
So now the next stage for you is to break your goal down into manageable steps – ones that fit with your personal qualities, skills, knowledge and resources and that you can tick off individually along the way.Activity 1.3 Steps along the way Allow 20 minutes for this activity
Try to think of at least three steps along the way to achieving your goal. The first one should feel like something you can really do in the very near future. Each step might depend on you completing the one before, or it may be free-standing.
Now you have all the information for drawing up an action plan for your chosen goal: your SMART goal itself, several steps along the way (preferably SMART too) and you should also have identified all the key helping and hindering factors related to your goal. So, let’s go!
Activity 1.4 Your action plan Allow 35 minutes for this activity
Start a new page in your learning journal and lay out your action plan with the following headings.
Date to achieve by:
Steps along the way (with dates):
Factors that might hinder:
How I might deal with the hindrances: (Don’t forget to think about all the resources available to you, to help you address any hindrances.)
(You might even want to sign it – as a commitment to yourself!)
You now have a detailed plan for achieving your chosen goal. Make a point of checking off each of the steps of your action learning plan as you complete them. By doing this, you will be engaging in the process of collecting evidence of your achievements, which can:
- really boost your confidence and motivation
- help you to develop your CV when you are applying for paid or voluntary work.
It is a good idea to continue to use a learning journal as you work on developing your action plan and as you learn. It can help you look backward by reflecting on your thoughts, feelings and actions about new activities you have tried, and look forward by developing your ideas and plans for new learning experiences.
Sometimes just the act of writing things down can clarify your ideas, and writing down your thoughts and feelings about your learning is valuable in itself – helping you to get things off your chest, to remind yourself to look for solutions to any problems and to celebrate successes.