Action Steps


I’ve always struggled with breaking goals down into specific action steps. Instead I often have a general idea and just keep “working on it.” The key breakthrough for me was when I read a book called “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” by Arthur M Freeman that really isn’t about setting goals or time management at all. It just goes to show: you can look in all the logical places, but you just never know where you’re going to find the information you need. It’s all about pasta! 🙂 The steps involved in making pasta you would not believe!


A motivational water bottle like this one from uncommon goods is a great way to see a goal broken down into smaller steps.

I’ll use another example here.

Example goal with action steps

Goal: I will get organized by setting up files for paperwork and filing incoming papers every day.

  1. Buy filing cabinet and files
  2. Label files
  3. Arrange files

That’s a good start, now think in more detail:

  1. Go to the office supply store after work tomorrow.
  2. Find the section with filing supplies.
  3. Decide what kind of system I want.
  4. Buy supplies.
  5. Decide where I want to set up files.
  6. Take supplies to the area I chose.
  7. Set up file cabinet.
  8. Fill cabinet with file folders.
  9. Decide on headings and color codings to use.
  10. Make label for each file. (Oops! out of label tape-go back to the store.)
  11. Put files in proper order.
  12. Put papers in the proper folders.
  13. Locate paper retention guidelines.
  14. Purge un-needed papers.
  15. Shred purged papers that include personal information.
  16. Maintain system by filing incoming papers daily.
  17. Review and purge files in February each year.

Wow! That was a lot more involved than I thought at first. No wonder I kept putting off this project! When you think about the action steps involved, it becomes more manageable. Rather than attempting to do it all at once, the different steps can be scheduled into your calendar. This is a part of weekly planning.

To determine action steps, ask: What projects will accomplish this goal? What actions will accomplish the project? What can be done today? First list action steps without worrying about the order. Evaluate the first list, add more detail and then prioritize. For each step, estimate the time for completion, set a target date, and select a mini reward.

Another example from the Goal Shift Chart at Choosing Goals. Perhaps you want to create simplicity in the area of organization by decluttering. Decluttering is a big goal that needs to be broken down into smaller steps with a decluttering checklist.

Read more about Next Actions

Read more about setting up files.

I seek to create order from the chaos of complex information. Join me at the Daily PlanIt to gain insights, inspiration, and information to increase skills for a better life. I unlock the power of teaching reading with phonics in the pursuit of literacy at In my spare time I explore books and movies, often choosing titles available on both screen and page.

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Posted in goals, productivity
15 comments on “Action Steps
  1. this approach of breaking things into smaller peices has helped in many areas of my life beyond getting more organized and accomplished.

    Here’s two:
    Facing ssomething I fear (great heights… climbing the wall higher each time

    Facing an audience: pick out 3 friendly faces in 3 parts of the audience, beam at them in genuine warmth (the cluster around them might think I was smiling at them too) then gradually feeling more connection with more faces in the groups

    I’m a once “phoebically shy” stutterer-turned NBC TV commentator and now public speaker for eight years. This advice of (as geeks would say) “going granular” helps me see the big picture and the small picture better too – and they are often mirrors of each other, after all

    Thank you for your information and well-written blog – another fan, Kare

  2. moonlander says:

    can’t be stressed enough, don’t let you get overwhelmed.
    Break down things untill manageable sure is the way to go.

    Thanks for pointing out the importance of this matter.


  3. MaryC says:

    Your site has helped me so much.
    Another fan….MaryC

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