By now hopefully you have your version of a Life Binder and have begun to create a mental and physical picture of your future. I know I have. All I have completed so far is my health & fitness, my job and my wardrobe. I am still working on the rest. But if it is important it doesn’t happen overnight. Hopefully, like me, you have started a poster for your wall, a file on your computer, or a binder like mine, 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 visual as a touchstone and keep an eye on it regularly until you get there.
Make an Action Plan
If you are like me, you feel you need to take some steps in the right direction. I do believe that things sometimes just happen, but mostly that I make it so. Because of that, I feel that having a plan is as important as knowing what I want. I keep my Action Plan in my Life Binder, close to the images that inspire me.
First I look through all of the images I have created and the targets I have defined. What do I need to do to turn those things into reality? If I want a better job, I describe everything I can about it. I do research, talk to people, check out the job boards, anything to help me define it. Then I can determine where I really want to be.
My Action Plan combines small and large actions to get me closer to my 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 me moving.
The key to the Action Plan is to get just enough of it defined to get you going in the right direction. Trying to define your entire Action Plan could bog you down for a long time. But knowing your next step is enough. So if you want a better job, the only step in your plan you need for now is to decide what job you want. Which 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.
Once I have started my action plan, I create my To Do List. I don’t keep my to do list in my Life Binder; I use an online task management tool. Before, I used my calendar or a spreadsheet, but things have come a long way with smart phones. You can put this anywhere you want; there are apps for your mobile, or you can use 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. I usually make sure that items on y to do list are short (5 mins) to long (1 hour). By breaking everything into small bites like this, I guarantee that I 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.
For example, if I were using the new job example, I would select the items above from my Action Plan, and I would create several to do items:
- Brainstorm list of job criteria. By next week. 15 minutes.
- Look at online job postings to find descriptions that interest me. 50 postings per week for 4 weeks. 1 hour 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 book on career selection. By third week. 2 hours.
- Refine list of possible job titles. Fourth week. 30 minutes.
- Update Action Plan. Fifth week. 1 hour.
Update Action Plan
So, by the time I’m done with these two action plan items I have a list of what is important to me and a list of potential ideas. Now I can revisit my action plan and decide what I 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.