Action planning helps you to focus your ideas and to decide what steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Preparing an action plan can help you to reach your objectives in life: don't worry about the future, start planning for it!

Get started on your action plan

It's a step-by-step process and, if you get it right, it will give you a timetable and a clearly defined route to reach your objectives. To start, you need to:

  • identify your objectives
  • set objectives that are achievable and measurable
  • prioritise your tasks effectively
  • identify the steps you need to take to achieve your goals
  • have a contingency plan.

Action plans usually focus on three main areas:

  • choosing the career you wish to enter
  • working out a strategy to get into that career
  • developing the skills you need to develop to get into that career.

Action planning model

Action planning is a cyclical process, and once you have been through one cycle, you can start again at the beginning. Of course, in real life, the process is more organic and stages will overlap, or you may change your goals as you progress. You must be prepared to revise your plan as circumstances change. The stages are as follows:  

  • Where am I now? This is where you review your achievements and progress, and undertake self-assessment
  • Where do I want to be? This is where you decide your goals
  • How do I get there? This is where you define the strategy you will use to achieve your goals, and to break down your goal into the smaller discreet steps you will need to take to achieve your target
  • Taking action. This is where you implement your plan
  • Where am I now? Reviewing your plan.

The cycle begins again with a redefinition of your goals. 

How to prepare your action plan

Here are the main steps you need to take to create your action plan.

  • Have a clear objective. Your goal needs to be challenging enough to stimulate you, but not so difficult it's demoralising. So, just outside your comfort zone, to stretch but not stress you.
  • Be precise about what you want to achieve.
  • List the benefits you'll gain by achieving your goal.
  • Start with what you will do now, not with what you will do in six months’ time.
  • Define the steps you will take. Think of all the things you can do to move towards achieving your goal. Break down any large steps into smaller components, so it doesn’t seem so difficult to achieve. Think about obstacles and what could go wrong.
  • Identify the end point for each step and give yourself a small reward for achieving it!
  • Arrange the steps in a logical, chronological order with start date for each step. Put these dates into your diary or onto a calendar.
  • Try to set weekly goals: what research you will do into jobs, what skills you will concentrate on learning etc.
  • You need to consider if your plans are attainable and what would happen if you don't reach your goals. Map out several paths to your goal, then if one becomes blocked another is available: build flexibility into your planning.
  • Think about the type of problems you might encounter at each step. What are the barriers in the way of achieving your goal? What you would do to overcome these problems? Try to turn every problem into a challenge and every challenge into an opportunity.
  • Review your progress. Keep a diary or blog of your daily activities and record your progress as things happen: this keeps your plan as concrete as possible.
  • Review how far you have got towards your objective. Identify any mistakes you made and what you can learn from them. Look at any new ideas or opportunities that may have presented themselves and then revise your plan to incorporate these.
  • Mix with positive people who will encourage you to keep going! Tell your friends or relatives about your goals. They will provide support when the going gets tough.

Below is an example action plan, remember to set your objective, in this case it would be: 'to choose my future career'.

Example action plan

Steps Action Date to complete this by My reward for completing is
Step 1 I will use the Prospects Planner to help me to identify jobs of interest    
Step 2 I will use the What can I do with a degree in... pages to find out what jobs graduates from my subject can enter    
Step 3 I will pick up booklets from the Careers Service and use the Careers website to find out more about suggested careers    
Step 4 I will arrange a day shadowing the career I'm most interested in.    
Step 5 Following the steps above, I will discuss the ideas I have with my careers adviser and aim to narrow these down.    
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