By now hopefully you have your version of a Life Binder and have begun to create a mental and physical picture of your future. Remember, if it is important it doesn’t happen overnight.
This is a journey and your binder will be with you all of your life. Sections will come and go, things will be subtracted and added, but you will always have goals you want to achieve, even if they change.
Hopefully, you have started a life binder as described here, and now have some visual reference, something to look at and some targets to shoot for.
Maybe that’s enough for you. You may believe that knowing where you are going is enough to get you there. If so, read no further. Use your binder as a touchstone and keep an eye on it regularly until you get there.
Make an Action Plan
If you believe in taking action, you will need to complete these last few steps. Sometimes things just happen, but usually because you make it so. Because of that, having a plan can be as important as knowing what you want. You can keep your Action Plan in your Life Binder, close your goals and inspiration pages, just in case you need them.
First look through all of the images you have created and the targets you have defined. What do you need to do to turn those things into reality? If you want a better job, describe everything you can about it could or should be. Do research, talk to people, check out the job boards, anything to help you define it. Then you can determine where you really want to be. The bonus is that once you can clearly describe it, you can easily describe it to others when they ask.
The Action Plan combines small and large actions to get you closer to your dream. Some may include projects that will take a year to complete, others may be much smaller. Sometimes it isn’t even a full plan, just enough steps to get you moving.
The key to the Action Plan is to get just enough of it defined to get you going. Trying to define an entire Action Plan could bog you down. But knowing your next step or two is enough. Remember that:
Perfect is the enemy of good.
If you want a better job or a career change, the only step in your plan you need for now is to decide what job you want. That means determining what your criteria is and creating a list of potential job titles that interest you. So, that is all you need to define for now. Your Action Item would be: Define potential job titles and brief description. Once you have that done, you can come back and revisit your action items.
If you already know that you want to list where those opportunities might be available, what skill are required and who you know that could help, fine – add them to the list. But if you don’t know that when you start, that’s okay, you will get there.
Create a To Do List
Once you have started your action plan, it is time to create your To Do List. You can use the printable to keep it in your Life Binder, but you may want to keep it elsewhere as well. Use an online task management tool or your calendar to make sure that they are handy for you. If you can’t see them, you won’t do them. Bottom line, you can put the list anywhere you want; your mobile, or a paper notebook. How you track your to do list doesn’t matter as long as you do.
How you define your to do list is critical. If you are actually going to get anything accomplished, you need your to do list items to be short, small and relatively easy. Assign each one a date and make sure you get them done. Make sure that items on your to do list are short (5-30 mins). By breaking everything into small bites like this, you can move a few things forward every week. This practice makes even the larger and more vague action plans achievable. If your items are to big you will likely procrastinate.
If I were using the new job example, you would select the action items from the example above for your Action Plan, and create several to do items:
- Brainstorm list of job criteria. By next week. 15 minutes.
- Look at online job postings to find descriptions that are interesting. 20 postings per week for 4 weeks. 30 mins weekly.
- Take a personality assessment to get job recommendations. By next week. 30 minutes.
- Make appointment with local non-profit employment center for advice. By next week. 5 minutes.
- Read 2 chapters a week of book on career selection. Complete by third week. 30 minutes 2X per week.
- Refine list of possible job titles. Fourth week. 30 minutes.
- Update Action Plan. Fifth week. 30 minutes.
Get It Done
Now schedule in a task every day or two. No more than 30 mins per day, but block that time in your calendar and stick to it. If your to dos are small enough, you should be able to knock a good chunk of them of your list every week. If you don’t overwhelm yourself with a long list and hours of sloggin, you will also find this schedule very manageable over the long term.
You will be celebrating in no time.
Update Your Action Plan
By the time you’ve completed the first action plan item, the rest of the list should become more clear. By now you should realize that you need to look at what skills and training are required, and what companies are hiring those jobs most. Now you can revisit your action plan and decide what you should do next. That’s the beauty of working in this circular fashion, as you complete some work, you get clearer on next steps. This way you are constantly moving forward without getting stuck trying to figure out everything you will need to do.