The minimalist guide to creating an action plan that works

Yeah, yeah, yeah—we’ve heard it ad nauseam: If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.Planning and DOING lead to success.

But here’s the question: What if you’re having trouble planning?

What if the very process of creating an action plan feels so overwhelming that it’s almost impossible to get started on it?

And here’s the answer: Your business is probably going nowhere fast.


Since there have been times when I’ve felt like a hamster on her wheel, I’ve had to figure out how to get and keep moving forward.  Following are several very effective techniques that I’ve adopted for myself and used successfully with clients.


Do the worst first.

This is probably one of the best ways to free up a ton of energy and get yourself off dead center.  (It’s also the one I enjoy least; go figure.)

I’m sure you can easily identify the most uncomfortable or scary task facing you on any given day.  That means it’s simplicity itself to identify the very first item to put on that day’s To Do list: your “I don’t wanna!” task.

Yes, that task is a pain in the neck (and probably other body parts), but it’s very unlikely it will just go away.  In fact, the longer you delay it, the greater number of negative consequences—depleted energy, decreased confidence, increased stress— you’re likely to suffer as a result.

So fortify yourself with however much caffeine or chocolate you require, take a deep breath, and focus on how fabulous it will feel to get the worst done right away.  The rest of your day will flow so much more smoothly.


Do what’s important, not just what’s easy.

Okay, you’ve done your worst task first—woohoo!!  Now that you’ve freed up all that energy and confidence, you get to move on to the tasks that don’t have deadlines but which do have significant consequences for your business success [succes]—what Stephen Covey referred to as Quadrant II activities.

The concept of identifying your A-1 priority may be a cliché, but clichés are all based in reality.  What one thing is most important for filling your pipeline, for closing new clients, for bringing in more revenues? This is what you get to work on until it’s as done as you can possibly make it.

 Ideas without action are useless.  Are you one of the many talkers or one of the few doers?

Allow yourself to identify and work on teeny, tiny, baby steps.

You can get yourself into so much trouble by ignoring this tactic.

It’s very tempting to list a whole slew of items on your To Do list, only to realize that one or more of the items is actually a multi-faceted project in and of itself.  The results?  Most of your To Do items end up getting shuffled to tomorrow’s list because you didn’t have a realistic appreciation of how much time one item would take.

When planning your day, give yourself permission to think through what it will take to accomplish each item that’s made it onto your To Do list.  If necessary, consider creating a mini-To Do list for any activity that turns out to be more complex than you’d first realized.  You’ll have a far easier time tackling an activity like “outline one blog post” than an activity like “write blog posts for the second quarter of the year.”


Decide what you’ll do tomorrow today.

This one is pretty much no-fail: If you walk into your office with your To Do list already written out and waiting on your desk, the probability of having a productive day is WAY higher than it would be if you got to work with no clue what you’d be working on.


If this sounds good but still doesn’t provide quite the oomph you need, I encourage you to download your no-charge copy of my Take Action Now System™.  Just go to the box on your right, fill in your name and where you’d like me to send the System, and in a few minutes you’ll have an outline for working through the often-challenging process of creating an action plan that actually accomplishes things without driving you insane in the process.

And if that doesn’t quite do the trick, maybe it’s time you and I have a phone conversation to see if a living, breathing action-planning coach and accountability partner (that would be me) is the missing link in your journey into Big.

By the way, thanks to Sean MacEntee for his image of multiple To Do lists. I found it in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.

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