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How to Create a Goal Action Plan

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Learn how to create an action plan that enables you to successfully reach your biggest goals along with examples and a template to get you started!

You’ve got big plans — and you’ve been dreaming big your whole life. If you really want to turn your vision into a reality, it may be time to convert some of those big ambitions into goal action plans. Doing so can help you break down your dreams into smaller, achievable steps. And building action steps for goals is also a great way to take challenges head-on.

Today, we’ll explore what action plans are — as they relate to the hard work of goal setting. We’ll also discuss why action plans are so important when it comes to achieving goals. And to help you get on the road to success, we’re going to break down the process so you’ll know how to build an action plan with the help of our templates.

We’ll also look at examples of action plans so you’ll have a better idea of how to put those big dreams of yours into action.

What Is a Goal Action Plan?

You may remember playing connect the dots as a child — action plans are much the same. What is an action plan for goal setting? It’s a step-by-step process that helps you accomplish your goals, by completing one smaller goal at a time.

First, you’ll form a goal setting action plan outline on what it’s going to take to get from where you are now to where you want to be. And then, you’ll then map out the smaller steps necessary to get you there. Action plans are great because they break down a daunting task in to bite size pieces that are more easily attainable.

Goal Action Plan Examples

When it comes to an action plan to achieve goals, examples can really help light the way. Take a look at these goal action plan examples and see how easy it is to get your dreams on track:

Problem 1

I’m stuck in an unsatisfying, low-paying job.


Find rewarding work that pays more.


  • Brush up on my professional skills
  • Get certified in a related field that makes me more marketable
  • Join a trade organization or society
  • Actively network and build new relationships
  • Send at least two cover letters each week
  • Interview for four different positions each month
  • Land a dream job I’ll love

Resources required

  • Two weeks’ time to brush up on skills
  • $400 to enroll in certification classes
  • $350 to join a trade organization
  • Three hours a week in my schedule to network
  • 10 hours to update my resume
  • Four hours per week to job hunt and meet with recruiters
  • $200 to work with an interview coach


  • Four months to a better job

Problem 2

I want to manage stress better than I am now.


Meditate every day and start to control the way stress affects me.


  • Start journaling to document what’s happening in my life
  • Make a list of things I'm currently doing to manage stress
  • Eat more mindfully
  • Practice deep breathing
  • Talk more with trusted resources and friends
  • Make time in my schedule for hobbies or activities
  • Leverage a wellbeing or self-improvement app (Opens in a new tab)
  • Exercise for half an hour, four times per week
  • Eliminate or reduce stress triggers

Resources required

  • Notepad and pen to journal every day and document stressors
  • $60 per month for healthy food to eat more mindfully (Opens in a new tab)
  • $30 per month to budget for activities or hobbies
  • $20 per month for a wellness and meditation app
  • $20 per month for an express gym membership


  • Three months to a more relaxed, centered you

Both of the above are examples of action plans (Opens in a new tab) for goal setting that require a fair dose of determination and a financial commitment, too. But in each case, the end result can bring closer to your dream of a better you.

Why Are Action Plans Important?

The greatest benefit to a goal setting action plan is that you’ll have a solid strategy to get you towards your goal every step of the way. When done correctly, goal action plans provide milestones, individual steps, details on costs and time commitments so you’ll know what needs to be done to help propel you towards your goal and achieving your dreams.

It’s this framework for success that makes goal setting action plans so popular. After charting your course, you’ll have incremental goals to help hold you accountable and keep you motivated along the way.

How to Create an Action Plan for a Goal in 9 Simple Steps

The SMART goals system is a great way to embark on the path to a better you. Some people find that defining the steps from the goal — rather than looking to the destination — can be helpful when developing your goals and action plans. Take a look at these simple steps on how to create action plans for goals that can change the direction of your life:

1. Set goals that are SMART

First off, what are SMART goals? The SMART goals system is a fantastic method when you’re looking for a process to help you make big changes. Here’s how smart goals can help you achieve your dreams:

S — Keep your goals specific, with a narrow scope to keep your planning effective.

M — Make it measurable so you’ll be able to chart your progress.

A — Be sure your goal is attainable and within reach.

R — Your goals should be relevant, aligned with your beliefs and long-term objectives.

T — By working on a time-based schedule, you’ll be motivated to complete your goal on time.

2. Download an app

Like everything else these days, it’s safe to say that if you’ve got a need, there’s likely an app for that. Automating the job of setting goals helps to prioritize your objective and keep it in front of you, on your smartphone. When it comes to how to make an action plan for goals, the right app (Opens in a new tab) can be of great service.

Apps can offer reminders, build out micro goals for daily achievement and help you with everything from boosting meditation to taking your career to the next level.

3. Build a list of tasks and actions

To truly create a goal action plan, you’ll need to start with the steps necessary to get the job done. You may want to open a spreadsheet (Opens in a new tab) and assign each task to a row. Across the top of the sheet, title the columns Time, Money, Place and Details to get started. This will help you create an attainable step-by-step checklist. If needed, start a new sheet for individual sub-goals if they need to be further broken down.

4. Find the purpose (“the why”) of your goal

Action plan objectives, goals and intermediate milestones are all key to getting across the finish line. Take another look at your list of tasks and answer “Why” to each line item. If you’re using a spreadsheet, add another column and fill it in for each item.

5. Schedule/set deadlines

Even if you use an app to help stay on task, it’s a great idea to physically write down each of your objective’s due dates onto a physical calendar. Hang it on the wall, keep it in front of you so you’ll remain focused on the goal.

6. Determine necessary resources

In some cases, you’ve determined that achieving your goal will cost you money. In other instances, a sub-goal will require a time commitment. Take a good, honest look at each objective and estimate the resources:

  • Time to get to and from the gym
  • Money for additional gas to get to therapy every week
  • Incidental expenses when traveling long distances to interview
  • Online purchases that will help you achieve your goal
  • New clothes and a haircut for the interview

7. Align habits with your goals

The best way to make a change is to create new habits that reinforce your determination and keep you focused on the goal. Do what you can to make room for new habits like looking at your diet app to help you decide on what to eat, or getting out of the house each day at noon to help get those steps in.

8. Set up reminders

Although you’ll have reminders built into the app of your choice, it’s a good idea to place them in your work calendar. Even if they’re only to help train your focus back on your goal for a moment, those subconscious memos-to-self can create lasting change. Try placing sticky notes with details on your goals around your living space to help promote change, too.

9. Monitor your progress

Like any project, you’ll want to stop and look back every once in a while and verify that you’re on track. One important reminder to is set up intermittent reviews. Take this time to assess your progress and make adjustments where necessary.

If you’re lagging because work’s gotten more hectic, tweak your end date a bit to accommodate that change. But if you’re just been lazy, it may be time to redouble your efforts and get your head back in the game.

Use a Goal Setting Action Plan Template

Remember the spreadsheet that was recommended? Now it’s time to put that plan into place and develop your own goal setting action plan template. Or, look online for downloadable action plan forms that can help keep you honest as you pursue your dreams. When looking for action plans to achieve goals, templates can make all the difference.

Start Achieving Your Biggest Goals Today

With a little time and attention, the next big chapter in your life can be within reach. You can use this action plan to achieve your goals — but more importantly — leverage this action plan to build a bridge to a better, more confident you.

At American Family Insurance, we know that a dream is the most valuable thing you own, so why not join the dream movement? You can explore our tips and tools that empower you to push the envelope and advance confidently in the direction of your big dreams!

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