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How to create an action plan (with free templates and examples)

David Hartshorne 10 min read
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An action plan template provides a ready-made framework for quickly adding the steps — like tasks, due dates, and assignees — to achieve your project goals. It’s a great way to ensure your project action plans are effective and consistent so everyone understands what’s expected.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to write an action plan step-by-step, with examples for inspiration. Plus, you can download two free action plan templates — including one from our Work OS — to get started immediately.

What is an action plan?

An action plan is a detailed blueprint that outlines the steps you, your team, or your organization will take to achieve a specific goal. It includes specific tasks or actions with due dates and assignees, a timeline, and the resources required to accomplish your goal.

Action plans include detailed information, such as:

  • A description of each action or task to complete
  • The person responsible for each action
  • Due dates for each task
  • Resources required to complete the action
  • Space to reflect or take notes after you have completed a task

What is an action plan template?

An action plan template is a pre-structured document that gives you a framework for crafting your new action plan. A practical action plan template has designated spaces for each aspect you need to cover, often presented in a table format like this.

Screenshot of monday.com's action plan template

Free action plan templates

Here are two free action plan templates you can download and use today:

Try monday.com’s Action Plan Template:

This action plan template breaks down goals into actionable steps that you can prioritize, assign ownership, and track progress. You can also add start and end dates for each action, plus relevant details and files.

Why is an action plan template important?

Leaders and managers use action plan templates to speed up the strategic planning process. Rather than spending unnecessary time designing the document used for planning purposes, project managers can simply pull up their template, save a new copy — keeping the existing template intact — and get straight to work scheduling and assigning tasks.

Action plan templates ensure consistency

Additionally, templates help to ensure consistency across plans and teams. When your organization uses the same action plan template for the whole company, it’s easier for team members to interpret and understand the plan — because they’re familiar with the format — and it contributes toward an organized, professional appearance.

Action plan templates help you plan more effectively

Action plan templates help project organizers plan more effectively by offering predefined categories and columns, reducing the chance of human error or omitting information from an action plan. In addition, you can apply any learnings from the project management process to your template. That way, you’ll consistently improve subsequent action plans.

While completing a project, you might find that some of the tasks in your task lists didn’t have clear outcomes. In addition, it wasn’t immediately obvious how to identify when the task was complete. So, you could borrow from the SMART goals framework — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound goals — and include a new column in your action plan template to note how you’ll measure if the task is complete.

And when using an action plan template built on a Work OS like monday.com, you can add your action plan to relevant project boards, create cross-team automations, and more — making it easier to collaborate with a distributed team in real time.

What are the essential features of an effective action plan template?

Action plan templates should contain the following features:

  • Multiple views — such as tables, timelines, Kanban boards, and Gantt charts to visualize tasks.
  • Task notifications — to detail and assign tasks to team members.
  • Structured layouts — to plan tasks based on priority, status, and resource allocation.
  • Collaboration ability — to maintain notes, comments, and files in one place.
  • Automations — to update task status and notify owners.
  • Status columns — to show the current status, such as Stuck, Working on it, and Done.
  • Dashboards — to track overall progress, timelines, and budgets.

What is the difference between an action plan and a project plan?

A project plan is more detailed than an action plan. Both list the tasks, timelines, and resources required to achieve a desired goal. But project plans also include:

  • Project goals and objectives
  • Project milestones and deliverables
  • Project scope and budget
  • Project roles and responsibilities
  • Project stakeholders and communication schedule
  • Project risk mitigation and contingency plans
  • Project success criteria

You can create an action plan from your project plan to outline the steps required to achieve your project goals.

What are the key elements of a well-written action plan?

A well-written action plan consists of seven components:

  1. Goals: define what the action plan aims to accomplish.
  2. Steps: detail the actions required to achieve each goal.
  3. Items: determine the task dependencies and priorities.
  4. Timeline: maps out the schedule and milestones from start to finish.
  5. Resources: identify the people, tools, and budget required.
  6. Responsibilities: assign tasks to an individual or a team.
  7. Review: monitor the overall progress of action items completed.

What are some examples of action plan templates?

Now that we know what they do, let’s look at a few action plan templates.

Business action plan template

This template outlines how to write an action plan to track progress toward a specific business goal.

Example of a business action plan template

(Image Source)

This action plan begins by detailing the primary goal, with the first column dedicated to a breakdown of each action required. For example, if your business goal was to design and launch a new website, your activities might include:

  • Gathering design assets
  • Choosing a color scheme
  • Copywriting for new website pages
  • Assembling design and development teams
  • Creating design wireframes
  • Design and development
  • Testing
  • Launch and promotion

Note that the second to last column in this action plan template is reserved for noting potential hazards. This helps identify roadblocks that might get in the way of achieving your goals to plan around them.

Personal development action plan template

Though action plans are most often used in a business context, they can be a handy task management tool to help you stay motivated and work toward your personal goals.

Example of a personal development action plan

(Image Source)

This template allows you to break down your actions into a step-by-step sequence and includes a “How will I know I’ve been successful?” column to ensure that the actions you write down have a clear outcome.

Corrective action plan template

Creating an action plan can also be a great way to solve a specific business problem or even an issue with a particular employee’s performance. This is known as a corrective action plan, as shown in the example template below.

A corrective action plan template includes important columns, such as “metrics and constraints” — to help users complete tasks and plan for potential roadblocks — and “percent completed” — to help measure the progress toward the goal.

monday.com’s Action Plan Template

As you’ve seen in the examples above, the typical action plan format is a PDF or Microsoft Word document. While this is fine for goal setting and creating the plan itself, it’s not so great for putting it into action.

That’s why we’ve purpose-built a flexible, customizable, intuitive action plan template to use with monday.com.

When you design your action plan on monday.com, you can:

  • Access multiple views (such as a table, Kanban, and timeline) to work in a manner that suits your needs.

Timeline view in the action plan template

  • Assign tasks to individuals and notify them instantly.
  • Comment and collaborate on tasks to keep communication contextual.
  • Design custom automations to save valuable time and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
  • Report on progress with the Progress Tracking Column.

Screenshot of the progress tracking column on monday.com

 

Once there is buy-in from the team on the plan, it is easy to copy actions, dates, and assignees over to the task management board.

Because monday.com is a comprehensive Work OS, any action plans you create with this template also integrate with relevant project boards. In addition, comprehensive analytics make tracking easy.

Get the template

How to write an action plan step-by-step

Never created an action plan before? Then, follow this simple guide and get started with the free template above.

1. Determine your goals

First, you need to understand what you’re trying to achieve. Then, make this goal as specific as possible.

For example, “increase sales” is not a clear enough goal. “Increase sales by 20% in quarter three” is more specific and allows you to set a metric for achieving it.

2. Break down the steps required to achieve each goal

What actions are necessary to get there?

In this example, that might include:

  • Hire three new sales development representatives
  • Increase content marketing budget by $20,000
  • Implement a new sales training program for new hires

3. Determine task dependencies and priorities

Remember: you can’t do everything at once! So now that you’ve broken down that big goal into bite-sized chunks, you need to figure out the perfect order for completing the tasks. In the above instance, you need to hire new sales representatives before starting a sales training program.

4. Set milestones

Now, set some milestones for significant events or checkpoints along the project. Some typical milestones are:

  • Completion of a substantial task or phase of the project
  • A significant event, such as a product launch
  • Important meetings, like customer review meetings

5. Add deadlines

When do you need to complete each task? Setting deadlines for each task helps your team stay on track and allows you to identify if your timeline for the larger goal is realistic.

6. Identify the resources you need

What’s getting in the way of completing these tasks? What do you require — perhaps from leadership or another team — to meet or exceed your goals? In our sales team example, we might need some assistance from the HR department to advertise an open role and attract new applicants.

7. Assign tasks to individuals

Who is responsible for each action? Assign a clear task owner to each task. Ownership doesn’t just make someone feel accountable; it empowers them to take the initiative and solve problems without dragging in management at every twist and turn.

8. Agree on a plan to review progress

Before you jump in and start your project, determine how you will measure progress toward your goals. For example:

  • Will you review your action plan every day or every week?
  • Will the task assignees or the project leader be responsible for updating the plan to reflect progress?

Determining these answers upfront means the action plan remains a living document reflecting actual progress.

Get the template

Customize our Action Plan Template to your needs today

Prepare and present your action plans with our flexible, customizable Action Plan Template. Team members will love the multiple views, automations, and collaboration features to keep them on point. And you’ll benefit from the Progress Tracking column in your weekly reports to stakeholders.

FAQs about action plans

An action plan and a to-do list are helpful tools for organizing tasks and achieving goals. A to-do list is a list of tasks to complete, but not necessarily for the same goal or project. Typically, to-do lists are less organized than action plans and can change daily. In contrast, an action plan follows specific steps and includes tasks that all lead to completing a common goal.

An action plan and a strategic plan are essential for an organization’s long-term and short-term planning. A strategic plan outlines an organization’s vision for the future and helps prioritize goals, make resourcing decisions, and unite employees. On the other hand, an action plan makes the strategic plan operational by providing detailed instructions on how to accomplish those goals.

An implementation plan and an action plan are essential documents that help teams execute a project successfully. An action plan focuses on the specific tasks needed to achieve a goal. In contrast, an implementation plan is a more holistic document outlining the steps, teams, and resources required to execute a project successfully.

David Hartshorne is a writer for leading B2B SaaS and tech brands, creating detailed, actionable content that resonates with their audience. When he’s not writing, you’ll find him chilling with a thriller or roaring on the Villa.
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