I find myself suggesting frequently that clients right an action plan or even helping them create one during our kick-off Unleash Intensives. I kind of love action plans.
See, you’ve probably done lots of research and learned a ton. You know enough to get started or improve what you’re doing now. But we like to stay under the warm blankets of our comfort zones, far away from the wide open unknown arena of actually taking action.
And where do you actually find that success you’ve been yearning for? Whether you define it by money, customers, freedom, fun, or anything else – you find that success in taking action. Because if you don’t actually DO anything, nothing changes. No one is more in control of whether you become successful than you are.
So all that being said, I like action plans.
Let me tell you what I think makes a good action plan. It starts with a nice long list of all the things you want to accomplish. Then you pull out one or two of them, or three if it seems manageable. The trick is to not overwhelm yourself here. Yes, you want to do EVERYTHING on that list, but maybe we’ll just start small so that if something takes longer than we expect we don’t get discouraged. And if you finish early, you can always add another one.
So those are your goals of course. And then you dig into your brain and you think up all the little tasks you know from lots and lots of blog posts and newsletters and little free training videos are going to help with each task. So one goal might look like this:
Improve My Photography
– read my camera’s manual to figure out what the buttons do
– memorize aperture settings
– buy a tripod
– collect product photos that I like and figure out why I like them
– clean up the corner by the window so I can photograph there
– test three different staging ideas
– practice using Photoshop Elements to fix color and quality issues
Those are just a few ideas for improving your photography. Feel free to steal them for your own list if photography is something you want to work on this coming year. Anyway, once you’ve set the goal and the little action steps. We’re going to put dates on things.
Of course, dates make it all a little hairy-scary.
But stick with me. If you just take it in measurable mini-steps, it won’t be so bad. Did you notice how my list is all little things? On looking at it again, I might even break some of the steps down further like adding the step to actually find my camera’s manual or spending a few minutes asking friends on Facebook if they can recommend a tripod. The smaller the step, the easier to complete. And honestly, this is how I conquer big tasks all the time.
See, I get pretty freaked out and overwhelmed and totally paralyzed when I’m not sure how I’ll complete a task. So I’ve learned that if I back up and make a list of every task I have to complete and then break those down into even smaller tasks, I can conquer the smaller tasks one by one and not get stuck. Because “find my camera’s manual” is a lot less daunting than “make my product photos better”.
Back to the point.
We’re going to set some dates. So pull out your calendar of choice and put the tasks on real-life dates. Be careful here too – this is another place where you can try to do too much. Give yourself extra time on each and every little task in case something happens. You can always do a task early, but should avoid doing tasks late or you’ll start to give in on everything and you’ll end up at inaction again. Not fun.
So take all those little tasks and give them dates, like so:
January 2nd – read my camera’s manual to figure out what the buttons do
January 8th – memorize aperture settings
January 14th – buy a tripod
January 18th – collect product photos that I like and figure out why I like them
January 24th – clean up the corner by the window so I can photograph there
January 29th – test three different staging ideas
February 3rd – practice using Photoshop Elements to fix color and quality issues
Not too bad, right? That’s only a month to get a lot better at your product photos. And that’s moving pretty slowly. But without those mini tasks, you feel more like:
January through March – take a ton of photos and try to get better at it
Ugh! That sounds so scary and unmanageable!
So ok, you’ve got dates. Now feel free to provide yourself with rewards or punishments, if one or the other works particularly well for you. For me, neither is very helpful because I usually cheat and either give myself the reward anyway (hello ginormous package of Oreos!) or pretend I never made up a punishment in the first place. So I choose accountability, which is just telling someone important you’re going to do it – someone who will be disappointed if you don’t. That disappointment typically does the trick for me. Though I can typically motivate myself if the step is small enough.
Play around with this part and do what works for you.
Now you’ve got an action plan, which should be treated like your business’ holy book. Post it in multiple places. Set reminders on your phone. This stuff is sacred. I’m not kidding.
Because that’s how things get done. Like I talked about at the beginning of this post, if you don’t DO anything, nothing changes. And I know you want change or you wouldn’t be reading this right now, wishing for more sales or customers or freedom or fun or whatever! You want something different to happen and now you’re going to make it happen.
With an action plan.