Brainstorming often leads to new projects and goals. However, you may be wondering how to write an effective action plan based on your goals for each project. In order to make forward progress, you have to understand how to convert your overarching goals into lists of smaller “action items”.
What are “Action Items”?
Action Item Definition
Lets start with defining what an action is and isn’t: An action item is a discrete task that must be accomplished. This differentiates it from SMART goals because goals compose of multiple discrete tasks.
In other words, action items are singular tasks that can usually be handled by one individual, and are thus delegated across teams of employees. When trying to determine if something is an action item, think to yourself, “Can it be checked off a to-do list?” If the answer is yes, it’s an action item
Breaking a Goal into Action Items
Let’s imagine your goal is to increase your business’ sales by 10% over the next year.
You need a plan.
In order to make your goal achievable, you have to break it down into smaller pieces that add up to the end result. What type of steps will you take to increase your business sales by 10%? Will you invest more in marketing? Are you better off trying to find new customers or sell more to current customers? What smaller steps make up each of these options?
How to Make an Action Item List
Here are step-by-step guidelines for how to break down your goal into smaller steps and create your action item list.
- Determine your timeline and set a date for achieving the goal, i.e. January of 2018
- Break the larger goal down into smaller amounts of time. A one-year goal can be broken down into months and weeks.
- Pick the goal apart – determine which benchmarks need to be hit on the way to the goal.
- Analyze how to reach these benchmarks, then
- Make each step toward the benchmark into a single item. These are your action items.
- Assign each task to a member of your team. This task list will show the steps that, once completed, will help accomplish your goal.
- Track the progress of each task and make adjustments, as necessary.
Breaking a large goal into smaller, actionable tasks will not only streamline your path, but will also allow you to balance the workload among your team members. When each step is clearly defined, it becomes simple to determine to whom the task should be delegated, and where that task fits as a small piece into the larger puzzle.
Action Item List Examples
Here is an example of a process in action:
- Your goal is to increase sales by 10% for the year, so you have your timeline set out for you.
- Ideally, this means you should aim to up sales by 1% month over month.
- When picking this goal apart, you’ll realize that it’s two-fold: you need to (1) up your spending on marketing, and (2) scale up cold-calls.
- Your content marketer will be responsible for producing two additional pieces of content per month, these are both “action items.”
- Each salesperson may try to work 5 more cold calls per day into their schedule. Each call is an “action item.”
- Finally, your action plan should also include a way to track progress.
If every salesperson adds 50 calls per month, for example, you need to know if those calls are translating into sales. This will help to ensure you stay on track, or make adjustments as needed along the way.
Managing Your New Action Plan
Determining your action items is only the first part of achieving your goals. Once you have a list of tasks, you need a way to manage each one.
With Priority Matrix, you can quickly prioritize your action items, and delegate them to team members at the touch of a button. The app displays a small avatar alongside each task, which makes it easy to keep track of who is responsible for what, and real-time updates across your team allow for up-to-the-minute progress tracking.
You can customize your action item template for each of your projects by editing the section headers to be most applicable. You can also drag quadrant borders to make certain sections bigger or smaller to best suit your needs. You can make checklist templates in Priority Matrix for just about anything, but sometimes a project requires more than just a to do list. You can make a quadrant in each project designated specifically for reference items, such as login information, informative articles, and other directions and supplementary materials needed to complete each action item. By keeping everything needed to complete a project in one place, Priority Matrix helps you and your team be more productive and eliminates redundant work.
Make Your Goals a Priority
By following the process laid out above, you can quickly and effectively turn a lofty goal into actionable steps. Before you know it, you’ll be checking items off your action item lists for each project, well on the way to achieving your goal!
Check out other content from our productivity blog