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Writing an Action Plan: Four Steps to Implementing Change

Author By Jackie Lebeau, MS


An action plan is a course of action that outlines the steps that an individual or organization will take to achieve a goal. A written action plan is helpful because it will provide a quick reference of the main goal and list each step within the process, clarify who is responsible, and determine what resources are needed. To get started, consider following the steps below:

Step 1 – Define the goal. For best success, make the goal a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

An example of a goal that is not a SMART goal is: “I want to improve my running time.”

This goal lacks specificity and a measurable outcome.

Two examples of a SMARTer goal would be:

  • “By the next Baltimore Running Festival, I want to be running 8-minute miles.”
  •  “In October, I want to complete my half-marathon in under 1 hour and 50-minutes.”

These examples give us an exact date to strive for and a unit of measurement (timed miles) to track progress and quantify success.

Step 2 – Create action steps. Listing action steps is similar to breaking down the main goal into bite size chunks. All steps, no matter how small, are still worth documenting. When progress seems slow, any forward movement is worth celebrating!

Using the example above, the runner mentioned will need to set smaller goals along the way.

Goal: In October, I want to complete my half-marathon in under 1 hour and 50-minutes.

Action Step


Due Date

Find running partners.

Join running club to meet & train with other runners.



Visit running course for the Baltimore Half Marathon to see terrain.

Drive course first. Then plot course on MapMyRun to create smaller training runs.



Log a minimum of 8 miles per week through summer.

Find a training program to steadily increase mileage from 5k – 10k.



Participate in another half-marathon as a trial to determine current pace.

Register for the Labor Day Half by end of August.

September 3

In the action steps listed above, the steps represent the early planning stage. As the half marathon gets closer, the action steps will likely change as the runner’s mileage increase and time per mile decreases.

Note: If you are creating an action plan for an organization, the entire membership should meet to define the goal and contribute to the discussion regarding action steps. Another option is for the leadership team to create the plan before presenting to the full membership. In this case, it will be beneficial to include a column listing the person who will be responsible for completing the task.

Action Step


Due Date

Responsible Party

Step 3 – Review. The review of your action plan should include three questions:

  1. Is it complete? Does your plan list tasks in an order that makes sense? Listing action steps in order of least to most challenging is one technique. Listing tasks in order of priority is another.
  2. Is it clear? Assign someone to every task on the chart. Make sure that everyone involved understands the goal, the steps that your organization is taking to achieve that goal, and who is responsible for which task.
  3. Is it current? Your action plan can be viewed as a “living document” in that it may evolve over time. Before moving on however, ask yourself if the plan is complete for your goal right now.

Step 4 – Follow up. An action plan for an individual has only one person to blame for uncompleted tasks! A group, however, may run into a few problems when tasks are shared. To ensure that the energy stays high after the planning meeting and forward momentum continues, consider assigning a project manager. The project manager will be tasked with making phone calls or sending out reminders to check on the overall progress of the group. Enforcing deadlines and celebrating task completion will also fall under the responsibilities of the project manager.

Good luck with your action plan!


ActionPlan.pdf. http://inside.augsburg.edu/publicachievement/files/2012/12/ActionPlan.pdf November 15, 2018. Web.

American Council on Exercise. ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 5th ed. 2014. Print.


Project Manager.com. https://www.projectmanager.com/training/make-action-plan. November 15, 2018. Web.



Jackie Lebeau is the Assistant Director for Fitness at Johns Hopkins University. She holds a BS in Exercise and Health Promotion and a MS in Sports Administration. Jackie is an international fitness presenter who specializes in aquatic fitness. She is continuing education provider for ACE, AEA and AFAA and a training specialist for AEA. She lives in Baltimore, MD. To contact Jackie directly please visit www.jlafitness.com.

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