How To Write A Plan Of Action (With Examples)

By Sky Ariella
Mar. 5, 2023

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Summary. An action plan is a plan that allows you to achieve your goals. To write an action plan you should first specify a SMART goal and then strategize a list of tasks leading up to that goal. You should also schedule a timeline to reach your goal and establish milestones through out that timeline. Finally you should track your progress.

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 your objectives.

Key Takeaways:

  • An action plan breaks a complex long term goal down into achievable pieces. It also sets a timeline, which allows you to track your progress.

  • Action plans can be helpful for managing large projects with multiple goals, or as a way to track personal progress.

  • There are several different planning techniques that are effective, such as the SMART system and SCHEMES.

What Is an Action Plan?

Setting a specific goal illuminates where you want to end up. An action plan lays out a way to achieve that outcome.

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.

How 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:

    • Specific. A good goal needs to be detailed and clear. While a broad goal, such as making more money, seems like the way to go, 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 is most effective when all the steps are followed, so make sure to draw up your action plan using all five steps.

  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 time-frame 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 working on your scheduled plan immediately — or be sure to set a start date.

    Track your progress throughout the journey of working towards your 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 staff 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, 2021 A computer

Internet connection

Information about the position and restaurant

A write-up of the job description was completed (12/21/2021)

Five free career websites were found to post the job opening (12/23/2021)

The position opening was posted on the career websites (12/28/2021)

The job opening description was approved and the posting went live on 12/28/2021
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, 2022 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 (1/2/2022)

14 applications passed the ATS (1/2/2022)

6 applicants showed potential and were called to come in for an interview (1/4/2022)

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, 2022 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 (1/6/2022)

The first three interviews were all completed. Two candidates seemed to be great candidates for hire (1/11/2022)

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 (1/15/2022)

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, 2022 Contact information for applicants

Necessary hiring paperwork

The information about the three chosen candidates was gathered (1/17/2022)

The candidates were all called to be offered the position and give more detailed information. All three of the candidates accepted the position. (1/21/2022)

Each newly hired employee was scheduled to begin their first training shift on February 25th (1/22/2022)

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

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 failing motivation. It takes a lot of personal drive to continue towards a goal that years in the making. A written action plan provides a cushion of motivation when the hurdles seem insurmountable. It’s the reminder that there’s an end in sight and of what exactly you’re trying to achieve.

  4. Establishes milestones. An action plan spells out the steps you need to complete to reach a goal. This can also aid with motivation, as breaking it down into more readily achievable pieces makes you seem like you’re making progress. It also shows you how much closer you are to your ultimate goal.

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

Who Needs an Action Plan?

Action plans can be useful for anyone’s personal or professional life in a wide variety of situations. While the high-level executive plan of action might look a lot different than your entry-level worker’s, the ultimate goal of both is the same: ensuring that daily tasks are building toward a specific goal.

The only real difference between action plans at different levels of a company is scope. A manager needs to plan achievable goals for their employees by setting up a system for measuring results, giving and receiving feedback, budgeting in a smart way, and generally promoting an atmosphere where work can be done efficiently and effectively.

An entry-level employee, on the other hand, might develop a plan of action after meeting with a supervisor. By making sure to write down exactly what the larger business goals are while they’re fresh in your mind, you’ll have a much easier time setting and achieving short term goals that align wtih broader corporate interests.

Action Plan SCHEMES

A good way to check that your plan of action is comprehensive and you’ve got all your bases covered is to run it by SCHEMES, which is an acronym that stands for:

  • Space

  • Cash

  • Helpers

  • Equipment

  • Materials

  • Expertise

  • Systems

Not every action plan has to consider all of these elements. Some small-scale projects will only require you to consider helpers and expertise, for example.

SCHEMES can help make sure that you haven’t missed anything important while planning your big goal. After all, it would be pretty disappointing to have your vision fall of the rails because you run out of cash or your lack of expert knowledge is creating a bottleneck in production.

Action Plan FAQ

  1. What are the parts of an action plan?

    The parts of an action plan should include the “who,” “what,” and “when.” Your who should be who will be involved in the plan. You should include responsibilities of the individuals involved in this plan. The “what” should be the steps in the plan and what you want to accomplish. The “when” will be a timeline of when you want to achieve this goal.

  2. Do you need an action plan to be successful?

    No, you do not need an action plan to be successful, but they can be an effective way to help you be successful. Action plans are useful when you want to identify how far you have to go and give you a clear picture of your goal. They can also provide you direction to the necessary steps in completing the goal.

  3. What is a written plan of action?

    A written plan of action is a plan that indicated what tasks need to get done, the timeline that it needs to get done, and who will be responsible for the tasks. A written plan of action will lay out a plan to achieve your goals that you have set either for yourself or for your team

Final Thoughts

An action plan is your ticket to a much less stressful project. By setting achievable goals early on, you not only help your time management but also your mindset. It’s much better to start a project off with a plan for achieving it than some vague resolutions or a mission statement without an equally compelling vision for the process.

Writing an action plan doesn’t need to be a daunting task. For how much time it will save you in the long run, it’s worth your while to develop a plan of action today.


  1. Feinberg School of Medicine – Developing a Research Action Plan for Your Organization

  2. Augsburg University – Creating an Action Plan

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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