Creating an Annual Plan of Action to Keep You on TrackAs the year draws to a close, it’s always a good idea to create an action plan for the coming year. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s absolutely critical that you take consistent action if you want to take that nebulous dream of yours and turn it into something real. Dreams don’t just wander out of your head and into your life without you doing your part, and that involves action. But it’s got to be the right kind of action, and that’s why today’s post is all about how to create an annual plan that’ll help you get your goals and your year off to the right start, and I’m going to give you a free PDF template package to make this exercise as easy as possible.

It’s about the right kind of action

Now, when I talk about taking action towards your dreams and goals (which I do an awful lot around here), I don’t mean random disconnected actions. I mean taking directed, purposeful action that is specifically designed to take you closer to where you want to be. And you can’t possible take that kind of action without a well-thought-out plan of some sort. Which is why having an annual plan of action is so critical — you wouldn’t jump in your car and start driving off to some place you’ve never been to before without looking at a map or doing some kind of route planning, or at least knowing which direction to drive in, now would you? So don’t flail around with messy action steps without having an idea of what that action is supposed to do for you or you’ll be left frantically spinning your wheels while getting absolutely nowhere.

The Annual Plan Creation Process

So you want to make your action count, and I just happen to have a handy 6 step process to help you with that. This is the same process that I use for creating my own annual plan every year, and I’m even going to give you a template to help you as you go through the steps (scroll to the bottom to download the package which you can print out and use as you do these exercises).

Step 1: Define Your Dream

The annual plan is all about setting up the action steps that are necessary for turning your big dream into reality, so it helps to have a clear idea of what that dream actually is. Take the time to think about what it is that you really want out of life. Once you know what it is you want, take the time to reframe that dream into a goal and make it concrete. This will give you a solid foundation and a direction for your annual plan.

Step 2: Define Your Other Goals

You want to live the entire depth and breadth of your life… not just one sliver of what’s available to you, so think about what else you want to work on this year, aside from your big dream. These could be fitness or health-related goals; creative, financial or business goals; or goals related to inter-personal relationships, or whatever. Think about the other areas of your life that you want to explore this year and write down everything that you want to do – even if these goals aren’t on your priority list for this year, you can create a section in your plan for long-term goals (say 2, 5 and 10 years out).

Step 3: The Year-End-Review

If you already have any kind of annual plan that you’ve been working with, the first thing to do is a final review of your plan for the current year in order to learn what you can about what worked for you and what didn’t. You can find step-by-step instructions and examples of how to do a review in my last post, where we went through an exercise designed to help you gain insights into the how and why of your successes and failures over the past year. Once you finish that review, you’ll have a clear idea of how you achieved your successes last year, and of what you can do to mitigate the factors that affected your ability to achieve the other things you had wanted to, but didn’t. These insights are going to be really helpful when you start breaking your goals down into action steps, so if you haven’t done this exercise yet, then I strongly recommend that you go do that before working on your next annual plan.

Step 4: Prioritize Your Goals

Once you’ve gone through and done the self-review and analysis exercise, the next thing to do is prioritize all your goals. This is a two-part step – if you have a plan from last year, the first part is to review any outstanding goals and decide which ones are still important to you and should be transferred over to your new plan, and which ones are no longer important and can be discarded (remember, dreams and goals change with you – as you gain new experiences and understanding, what was once important may no longer be, or new priorities may have developed). The second part is to review your list of goals from steps 1 and 2 above and decide which are the most important ones; pick your top five goals and transfer everything else to your long-term goals list.

Step 5: Break it Down

Once you have your main goals figured out, break them down into smaller and smaller pieces.  So figure out what you want to do towards each of those big goals for each month, and then from the monthly goals, decide which items to accomplish for each week within the month, and then break your weekly goals down into specific action items for your daily “to-do” list items. When you break your big goals down into manageable pieces, the big goals become less intimidating. And as an added bonus, you’ll know how each of your daily task list items fits in to your “big picture”, which adds to the motivation factor and keeps you on track to achieving the things you want to.  You’re no longer spinning your wheels doing random stuff – you’re taking concrete, specific action that is purposefully building up to something awesome.

Step 6: Your Personal Mantra for the Year

The final step in creating your annual plan is to decide on your personal mantra for the year. This is an optional step, but I think it’s an important one because your mantra is your magic catchphrase for those times when things get rough or when you start to doubt yourself. Pick a mantra that inspires you and reminds you of what you’re working towards and why, and be sure to repeat it to yourself often throughout the coming year.

A Gift From Me: Your Annual Plan Package

Because I believe so strongly in the importance of the annual plan, I’ve created a free, four page package for to help you create your own plan. To get the package, just right click on the link below and choose “Save As”.  If you like the package, I would absolutely love it if you could share this page via your social media platform of choice… handy links for that are below under “Sharing is Caring”… please and thank you! 🙂

Download your four page Annual Dream Plan Package (PDF 122KB)

You’ve got dreams, and those dreams are important. You owe it to yourself to do everything you can to make them happen. This is where your annual plan comes in – by understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, you give yourself the direction, focus and ongoing motivation you need in order to turn those dreams into something real.

photo credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

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