How to Develop a Personal Action Plan in 5 Easy Steps

How to Develop a Personal Action Plan in 5 Easy Steps

Ever struggled to turn your dreams and goals into real-life wins?

You are by no means alone.

If you’re tired of maintaining a ‘graveyard of great ideas’, personal action planning is the one tactic that will get your goals out of your head and turn them into genuine, meaningful achievements.

Planning is already a fundamental part of your life. From work scheduling and project management to the simple list you write before visiting the grocery store – all these plans take ideas and transform them into real accomplishments.

But MOVE OVER humble grocery list. The outcome of personal action planning is far and away more significant than successfully refreshing your Cheetos stash. The simple act of jotting down a plan for your personal development is seriously powerful.

Don’t know where to start? I’ve condensed the process into 5 easy steps that you can use as a template for your own personal action planning journey.

Step 1: Narrow Down Your True Goals

Goals are slippery little things.

In our dreams they appear crystal clear – but try and close your fist and bring them in for a closer look? They dart away like puffs of cloud – suddenly all hazy around the edges.

Digging in and digging down to reach the heart and soul of your goals is the first, most important step in any personal action planning journey. It’s here that personal plans are made and broken. Fail to properly define your goals and you will set yourself off on the wrong path.

Narrowing down your goals is an incredibly personal journey, so don’t be swayed by the goals of others. You may follow an entrepreneur on social media and aspire to be just like them, but consider what aspects of that admiration are at the heart of your own goals:

  • Do you aspire to have the same fame?
  • The same wealth?
  • Live in the same location?
  • Mingle with the same type of people?

Or are you more interested in the lifestyle their job affords them?

  • The freedom they seem to have?
  • Their creative life?
  • The travel they are able to enjoy?

Copy/Pasting the personal action plan or business plan of your idol is to leap blindly over this first, most important step: Understanding you.

Step 2: Determine What Lies Between You and Success

Once you have defined your goals and have a bullseye in your sights, this is where your personal action planning journey really kicks in.

Step Two is where you first identify what you’ll need to do to get from A to B.

For example, let’s imagine your goal in life is to break out of your office job and become an airline pilot. To want to become a pilot isn’t enough. You need to put in the hard yards to map out your journey from Landlubber to Sky Czar. That means understanding the major steps of that journey.

For a wannabe pilot, that might look something like this:

  • Research pilot training schools
  • Take a training test flight
  • Apply for a medical certificate
  • Apply for a student pilot certificate
  • Begin pilot training lessons
  • Earn a private pilot’s license
  • Earn a commercial pilot’s license
  • Find work as a pilot
  • ork your way up the career ladder

Step 3: Break Your Personal Development Action Plan into Bite-sized Chunks

When you look at that laundry list of things that stand between you and your goals it can certainly feel overwhelming. Any one of those steps presents a range of personal challenges, time commitments, fears, failures, and leaps of faith.

The trick is to chop your personal development action plan up into easy-to-manage pieces.

It’s a simple step, but a hugely effective one.

We don’t tell young children to “go bake some choc chip cookies.” We read through the recipe with them, identifying each little step:

  • Sift the dry ingredients
  • Cream the butter and sugar
  • Beat in the eggs …

You get the delicious picture.

Step Three is your chance to write your own recipe for success. This takes plenty of research and a whole smattering of bullet points. Under “apply for medical certificate,” for example, you might need to have this sub-plan:

  • Get laser eye surgery
  • Jog three times per week
  • Cut out alcohol

This mini action plan toward one of the key steps of your goal is a much friendlier and more achievable way of actually making progress and seeing wins.  

Step 4: Wrap Timeframes Around Everything

Not a deadline person?

Today’s the day you become one.

Deadlines mean different things to different people – some love ‘em, some run screaming as they draw near.

The problem is, if you don’t wrap a timeframe around your personal development action plan, you are immediately allowing yourself off the hook. Deadlines are the most fundamental form of accountability. Deadlines will stop you from having those ‘I wish I had …’ regrets when you are old and gray.

Even if you would still rather lick a pig’s armpit than be faced by the tick-tock of an impending deadline, write one down anyway:

  • Research pilot training schools – BY END OF THE WEEK
  • Take a training test flight – BY END OF THE MONTH

We spend our lives conforming to the deadlines set by others, but somehow often fail to learn the art of making personal deadlines.

You can learn to be a deadline person, and you should start … now.

Step 5: Track Your Progress

Tracking progress is something most people see benefit in but is often the first thing they skip when things get busy.

It’s all very well having your eye on the prize and swinging from milestone to milestone like the Tarzan of personal action planning. But without stopping to assess where you’ve been and how you got here, you will miss valuable lessons that take you to even greater heights.

How to work progress tracking into your plan?

Schedule regular check-ins that help you review, reorient, and reset your goals and planning.And record, record, record. Even if your progress seems insignificant it can be a major boost to look back after months of work and see just how far you have come.


Personal Action Planning – Your Key to Success

‘Winging it’ may seem daring and fun but getting a plan on paper is where the real wins are at. If you want to wrap some firm guidelines around your own personal action planning, download my digital personal planner – it’ll have you on the path to achieving your goals in no time at all.

If you're interested in digital planning, we have a great article on using GoodNotes to get started with your digital planner journey.

Back to blog