How To Write A Plan Of Action (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 8, 2021
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It’s an inherent human quality to dream of success. Dreaming is the easy part, but attaining it is much more complicated. It requires vision, goal-setting, and most importantly, a detailed action plan to meet even your wildest objectives.

What Is an Action Plan?

Setting a goal illuminates where you want to end up. An action plan initiates that outcome into motion.

A detailed plan for making goals reality provides necessary guidelines for what to do next, milestones to reach, and defines ultimate success. This makes it easier to know how far you’ve come and what’s left to do before you reach a goal.

Formulating an action plan in the early stages of strategic planning is essential. It establishes the steps to take that lead towards completion. This is a crucial practice for any type of project, whether it be professional or personal, because it provides details for how to proceed.

Reasons Why an Action Plan Is Useful

  1. Identifies how far you have to go. A clear picture of how far you have left to go before you reach your goal is a strong case for writing an action plan.

    It shows you have much work there’s still left to do and what exactly it entails. Having this timeline is especially helpful for accomplishing long-term goals.

  2. Provides direction. Completing a goal is much tougher when the project lacks an objective. An action plan points you in the right direction and keeps you on track.

  3. Strengthens motivation. One of the biggest reasons for falling short of meeting a goal is flailing motivation. It takes a lot of personal drive to continue towards a goal that takes many years and a ridiculous amount of effort to complete.

    A written action plan provides a cushion of motivation when you want to throw the project to the side. It’s the reminder that there is an end in sight.

  4. Establishes milestones. An action plan spells out the steps you need to complete to reach a goal. This can be useful because reaching each milestone along the way is validating and motivating.

    Additionally, the establishment of milestones within an action plan maintains focus on the task at hand.

5 Easy Steps to Write an Action Plan

  1. Specify a SMART goal. The first step to writing an action plan is to decide on a concrete goal that adheres to SMART standards. This is a framework that helps align fanciful ideas of a goal to become a realistic objective.

    The letters of the SMART framework stand for:

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time

    Specific. A good goal needs to be detailed and clear. While a broad goal, such as making more money, seems like it gives a lot of information, there’s too much room for straying and not enough direction.

    Measurable. The goal that you choose to pursue should be quantifiable. Along the way, this allows you to track your progress and growth. For instance, if your goal is to sell more tickets to a concert, state how many you want to sell exactly.

    Attainable. Never set a goal that’s too outlandish to accomplish either in your timeframe or at your skill level. While being ambitious is good quality, it needs to be met in equal part with realism. Evaluate your circumstance and spend time on an attainable goal.

    Relevant. SMART goals should be relevant to the overall outcome you’re trying to achieve. In a professional setting, make sure your objectives are relevant to your long-term career plans – vice versa for personal goals.

    Timeframe. The final aspect of a SMART goal is specifying a timeframe that you’ll complete the end goal. Stating a timeline keeps your mind focused on finishing goals by the deadline.

    The SMART system works as a system together. A goal that’s missing one or more factors of the framework has a lower chance of success.

  2. Strategize a list of tasks leading up to the goal. Once a SMART goal has been established, start strategizing the actions you’ll take to work towards it. The best way to accomplish this is by creating a list of these tasks.

    For long-term goals that have many steps to fulfill before reaching completion, break them down into smaller objectives. List instructions for completing these larger steps that lead to the end goal. This makes an elongated process more digestible and easy to follow.

  3. Schedule a timeline. Having a timeline in mind is a qualifier for whether a goal is up to SMART standards, and it’s also a requirement for writing an action plan. A timeline should be a series of deadlines, in addition to the final date that you aim to achieve the end goal.

    When listing the steps to your action plan, think about a realistic date to complete each task and include it. Some parts of a project only require a couple of weeks of attention, and others take up months.

  4. Establish milestones. Define what the milestones of the project are during the writing phase of an action plan. Incorporating milestones into the timeline of an action plan supports motivation and gives you a good idea of where you stand.

  5. Track progress and assess success. After writing a detailed action plan, the final aspect is following through with the map to success you’ve outlined. The effort you put into planning is validated by completing the work you’ve strategized. Begin the schedule created immediately.

    Track your progress throughout the journey of completing a goal. This can be done by scheduling a team meeting at work or just doing some self-reflection by yourself for personal goals. If anything needs to be tweaked or isn’t going according to plan, progress tracking is when you’ll be made aware of it.

    Part of monitoring the progress of your action plan is examining how successful you’ve been. At each milestone or the end of every deadline, check back in to assess your success on the task.

Template for Action Plan

The Issue At Hand Is:

The End SMART Goal Is:

Tasks Leading Up To End Goal Who is Handling this Task? Task Deadline Needed Resources For Completion Progress Updates The Result
What tasks will you need to do leading up to the end goal? (From earliest to latest) Who is responsible for completing this task? What is the date you will complete this task by? Is there anything you will need to complete this task properly? Use this section to update your progress on each task Describe the result of the task. Was it accomplished, when, and were there any obstacles?

Example of an Action Plan

The Issue At Hand Is: Lacking servers at a restaurant

The End Goal Is: To increase restaurant by 3 experienced employees in the next month

Tasks Leading Up To End Goal Who is Handling this Task? Task Timeline Needed Resources For Completion Progress Updates The Result
Post a detailed open job posting online to at least three career websites. Include details regarding the restaurant background, position expectations, and requirements for the role. The Restaurant Owner December 28, 2020 A computer


Information about the position and restaurant

A write-up of the job description was completed (12/21/2020)

Five free career websites were found to post the job opening (12/23/2020)

The position opening was posted on the career websites (12/28/2020)

The job opening description was approved and the posting went live on 12/28/2020
Run the applications received from the open job posting through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Go through the resumes of the remaining candidate pool.

Reach out to candidates with the most potential to come in for an interview.

The Restaurant Manager January 4, 2021 A computer

Access to Applicant Tracking System Software (ATS)

25 applications for the job were received (12/31/2020)

The applications were run through the applicant tracking system (1/2/2021)

14 applications passed the ATS (1/2/2021)

6 applicants showed potential and were called to come in for an interview (1/4/2021)

After receiving many applications, six promising applicants were chosen to come in for an interview.
Schedule an interview with the potential hires. Ask a series of approved and relevant questions to assess the candidate’s abilities to succeed in the role. Take notes about particularly remarkable interviewees. The Restaurant Manager January 15, 2021 A place to conduct the interview

Pen and paper

Relevant interview questions to ask

The six candidates with potential were scheduled at various times to come in for an interview (1/6/2021)

The first three interviews were all completed. Two candidates seemed to be great candidates for hire (1/11/2021)

The last three interviews were completed. One of the applicants never showed up and the other didn’t have enough experience.

The final applicant was perfect for the job (1/15/2020)

Six candidates were interviewed for the server positions at the restaurant, and three seemed to be a good fit.
Gather a list of the strongest interviewees and offer them the job. Discuss the paperwork they will need to begin, their salary requirements, and when they can start. Hire at least three new restaurant staff members. The Restaurant Manager January 22, 2021 Contact information for applicants

Necessary hiring paperwork

The information about the three chosen candidates was gathered (1/17/2021)

The candidates were all called to be offered the position and give more detailed information. All three of the candidates accepted the position. (1/21/2021)

Each newly hired employee was scheduled to begin their first training shift on February 25th (1/22/2021)

All three applicants who were offered the position accepted. They are scheduled to begin training on February 25th, 2021.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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