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How To Create An Action Plan & Get Started Today – Not Someday

Have you ever spent days or even weeks agonizing over the “best way” to achieve your health and fitness goals only to feel just as overwhelmed, lost, and indecisive as when you started?

If so, you may be suffering from paralysis by analysis.

In this post, we will discuss how to create an action plan that will help you overcome indecision and procrastination so that you can get started on your goals now – not later.

But before we get started, you need to have a well-defined goal already laid out.

If you don’t have one yet, read: The Ultimate SMART Goal Setting Guide For Health And Fitness.

Then, go ahead and download the Action Planning Template from my Free Resource Library so that you can create your own plan as we go.

Preview of the free Action Planning Template
Preview of the Action Planning Worksheet you’ll find in the resource library.

Okay, let’s get started!

What Is Paralysis By Analysis?

Paralysis by analysis is basically overthinking. There can be so many options or possibilities that you become overwhelmed and unable to choose a course of action. So instead, you do nothing.

A lot of times, people know what the end goal is, but they have a hard time deciding on the best method to achieve that goal.

The indecision between all of the possible methods is what leads to this paralysis and procrastination to start a new goal.

Example of What Paralysis by Analysis Looks like In Health And Fitness Goals

Let’s look at a case study to see what paralysis by analysis might look like in a health and fitness goal.

Meet Tammy. She wants to “lose weight” and “get in better shape”.

These are some of the questions that might run through her mind when trying to decide how to go about achieving her goal:

What is the best way to lose weight?

Should I workout more? What’s the best type of exercise for weight loss? Maybe running? Getting a personal trainer? Joining CrossFit? Doing P90X at home? Taking kickboxing lessons at that new studio down the street? Or maybe a spin class?

Or would eating better be more effective? What’s the best diet to lose weight? Should I cut out the carbs? Try this paleo thing I keep hearing about? Intermittent fasting? Maybe order some meal replacement shakes? Or maybe I could try this meal planning thing?

Woah! Slow down Tammy.

With so many choices – it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not make a choice at all. Or to spend days or weeks reading about and researching which method is “best”, rather than actually getting started.

“Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It's important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.” – Robert Herjavec Click To Tweet

To Beat Paralysis by Analysis – Just Get Started

Don’t obsess over which method is “the best” to achieve your goal. This can prevent you from getting started.

Everyone is different, and what might work well for one person, might not work so well for you. 

The best way to overcome fear and figure out what does work for you is to just get started. You can always make adjustments as you go if needed.

Honestly, there are so many different ways most goals can be achieved. Especially when the goal is something like losing weight or getting healthier.

This is especially true if you’re not doing much currently. Remember you don’t need to be perfect to make progress on your goals, you just need to be doing more than you were before. 

It’s okay to learn as you go. Just pick the method you think will work best for you, and get started!

If you find out later that something else might work better, you can make that adjustment, but least you’ll be moving forward rather than being camped out at the starting line.

In summary, to beat paralysis by analysis, commit to getting started, even if you know you may need to make some adjustments along the way. 

There is no “best” method for everyone and the only way to make progress is to get started.

The best way to commit to starting is by creating an action plan.

What Is An Action Plan And Why Do You Need One?

An action plan is a step-by-step process about how a goal will be achieved.

Making a plan of action after setting a new goal can help to avoid paralysis by analysis by providing direction for your goals. 

Simply writing an action plan can help you get started on a healthier habit – which can be one of the hardest steps!

How To Create An Action Plan And Get Started On Your Goals Today

Before you can create an action plan, you must have a well-defined goal in mind. It can even help to have broken this goal down into smaller, short-term goals which are more manageable. 

[Read: The Ultimate SMART Goal Setting Guide For Health And Fitness.]

Step 1 – Brainstorm Possible Methods To Reach Your Goal

Now that you’ve got a well-defined goal, it’s time to figure out how you will actually go about achieving it!

Remember that for many goals, there are more than one way to make progress. This is especially true if your goal is aimed more towards weight loss, health, or general fitness rather than performance for a particular sport or event. 

Let’s take the example of Tammy from above. She listed a ton of options for her goal of losing weight. All of these methods could potentially get her closer to her goal.

Example of how to create an action plan. Step 1 - Brainstorm and write down all the possible methods you could use to achieve the goal of weight loss.

Step 2 – Choose A Method That Works For You

Now that you have a list of methods to choose from, it’s time to narrow it down. Ideally, you want to focus on just one method to start.

Remember you can always add other methods later on down the road when you’ve built up some confidence and momentum.

[Read: Harness the Power of Starting Small to Achieve Your Fitness Goals]

So how do you choose just ONE method when there are so many out there?!

Here are some things to consider:

  • What is the most realistic for you in terms of resources (time, money etc.)?
  • Which method do you feel the most confident about?
  • Think long term – What are you most likely to stick to? 
  • What fits into your current life and schedule the best? 

Hopefully these questions help you choose a method that’s right for you. But if you’re still having trouble settling on just one option, check out the next section.

What If You Still Can’t Decide On A Method?

If you’re still not ready to choose just one option, narrow it down to 2-3 using the questions above. 

Then, make a pros and cons list for each of the methods. Does one of the options stand out as a better choice than the other(s)?

If yes, great! Proceed to step 3. 

If you’re still having trouble deciding – just commit to starting, even if it’s just to start figuring out which method works for you.

For example, let’s imagine that Tammy has narrowed down her list of methods to lose weight to two options. 

She is still debating between joining the kickboxing studio down the street, or prepping meals in advance so she doesn’t resort to fast food after work.

If Tammy still can’t make a choice, my advice to her would be to make a commitment to start trying out the options, and then giving herself a deadline to choose by.

For example, I might suggest a one week deadline. In that one week, she could take the free trial at the kickboxing gym and try out a class or two, and on the weekend, she could choose one recipe to make in bulk. 

At the end of that week, she would choose a method and begin focusing all her effort towards that.

Do you see how Tammy actually started making progress toward her goal, rather than just getting stuck in the paralysis by analysis stage?

And now, she’s ready to move on to step 3!

Step 3 – List The Tasks You Need To Complete To Achieve Your Goal

Now that you have a well-defined SMART goal and a method by which to achieve it,  list all the things that you need to do to be successful. 

Be as thorough and realistic as possible. Don’t be afraid to do some research here.

Google it, or ask around for friends who might have past experience with your current goal.

Ask yourself:

  • Are there things that I would need to do or purchase before I can get started? 
  • What would I need to do on a daily basis to stick to my goal? 
  • On a weekly basis?

As an example, let’s stick with Tammy’s situation. 

After her 1 week trial period, Tammy decided the method that she wanted to focus on first was meal planning. 

Meal planning, meal prepping.

She wants to start preparing lunch and dinner for the coming week on the weekend. This will allow her to eat healthy throughout her busy week rather than stopping for fast food on the way home.

The following are things she might need to do in order to achieve this goal.

Example of action planning - step 3. Write down all the steps you need to complete to be successful in your weight loss goal.

Step 4 – Make A Plan For When And Where You’ll Work Towards Your Goal

Now that you know exactly what you need to do to achieve your goal, it’s time to set a specific time and place to do work on it.

You may be tempted to skip this part and just say, “I’ll do it when I have time.”, But this is a common mistake which often leads to failure. 

Believe it or not, making a simple plan for where and when you will work on each task makes it much more likely that you actually will! 

The plan can be as simple as “I will do X behavior at Y time in Z place.”

Or a variation of this that can be useful is, “I will do X behavior after/before Y behavior”. Where Y behavior is something you do pretty regularly, like getting up in the morning, eating dinner, taking a shower, getting off work, going to bed etc.

You can make a plan like this for each one of the tasks that you listed in step 3.

It works best to be as specific as possible.

See examples from Tammy’s situation below.

Action planning example - step 4. Make a plan for when and where you will work on your weight loss goal using implementation intentions.

Now that you know what you need to do to be successful, block out some time to do each of the tasks you listed.

Be as realistic as possible when estimating the amount of time something will take. When in doubt, it is best to overestimate the amount of time rather than underestimate. 

Everything will take a little longer at first, but you will get faster as you form a routine.

Step 5 – Execute Your Plan!

Now you’re ready to take action – paralysis by analysis conquered! 

Remember that this is just a plan. It’s main purpose is to give you direction to help you take action. 

Do not treat your action plan as if it is written in stone. If it’s working, great! 

If not, don’t be afraid to learn, adapt, and overcome.

[If you do hit a few bumps in the road, check out The Complete Guide To Overcoming Setbacks and Achieving Your Health & Fitness Goals]

Conclusion

Starting a new goal can be overwhelming, and even scary!

Creating an action plan gives you direction and helps you overcome paralysis by analysis by removing some of the fear of the unknown. 

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." – Dale Carnigie Click To Tweet

So if you’re ready to “get busy”, here are the steps to create an action plan for your goal:

  1. Brainstorm possible methods to reach your goal.
  2. Choose a method that works for you.
  3. List the tasks you need to complete to achieve your goal.
  4. Make a plan for when and where you’ll work towards your goal.
  5. Execute your plan!

By following these steps, you can say goodbye to paralysis by analysis and hello to a happier, healthier you!

Don’t forget to download your Action Planning Template from the Free Resource Library!

And remember, if you ever have questions about filling out the template or need help with action planning, please feel free to reach out to me!

You can leave your questions in the comments below, or message me on Twitter any time!

~ Clarissa

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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

36 Replies to “How To Create An Action Plan & Get Started Today – Not Someday

  1. Your posts are always so well thought out and contain so much helpful information! Every time I try to make a commitment to changing either my eating habits or my exercise routine or whatever, I always get nervous because there’s so many different options and I have so many questions about what’s best for me, ya know? This helps a lot though, especially focusing on just one or two things besides so many little ones. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Awww thanks Kayla! I hear you, I am the exact same way when there’s a lot of options. And if I can’t decide on one, I totally get stuck! I know a lot of people that are this way. I think it’s important to remember there is no silver bullet, no one “right way” to accomplish a goal. As they say, there are many ways to skin a cat. The most important thing is to just start taking steps in the right direction.

  2. I think that we’ve all been there at one time or another in our lives, whether it’s in relation to our health and fitness goals, career goals, personal/relationship goals, financial goals or another aspect of our lives. That being said, you have offered some GREAT advice to work through it. I know that I’m guilty from time to time and I’ll definitely be referring back to your tips moving forwards!

    1. Thanks for reading Britt! I agree, this is a super common problem with ALL goals, not just health goals. I’m glad you found the tips helpful! I think they’ll apply to most types of goals. Best of luck with yours!

  3. I was really shocked how accurately you worded my situation because I’m guilty of overthinking and then doing nothing about haha. And I think you’re right about trying to start somewhere than being overwhelmed. Thanks for the helpful tips! Can’t wait to implement them! 🙂

  4. DId you write this about me?? Honestly! My goal is Kilimanjaro. I had it booked for August and I was really into the fitness plan I was doing at the beginning of the year. Then Covid happened and I seem to have this paralysis right now. I can’t get back to it and I know I’m overthinking it. I’ve now rescheduled Kilimanjaro for January and I really need to get a plan of action going. Really helpful post, Thank you 🙂 I’ve subscribed for the Template!

    1. Yay, that’s fantastic Ellie, I am so glad you found it so relevant! Kilimanjaro sounds amazing! I would love to do that some day. I hope the template helps you get over the paralysis by analysis. Happy training! 🙂

  5. Great advice! And I’d add Step 6: Be patient and give the plan time to get results. I’ve seen so many people get discouraged when they don’t get near-instant (like within 2 weeks) results. They lose momentum and peeter out.

  6. Fantastic post! I used to over think things a lot. Lately, I’ve been taking immediate action when I get an idea and figuring it out as a go along. Planning is super important and helpful too especially as you ease into the rhythm of your new routine. Thanks for sharing this thorough article, Clarissa!

    1. You are very welcome Ebony! I definitely agree that a certain amount of planning and preparation are needed when undertaking a new goal, but as you said, once we’ve done that, we’ve just got to jump in and figure it out as we go! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and share your experiences!❤️

  7. I love SMART goal setting! Such a good way to make sure you’re not overreaching with your goals. As always, this post is super helpful and filled with great advice! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome Rebekah! If I can’t come up with a plan I often get paralysis by analysis. It’s such a frustrating feeling! The “figure it out as you go” method has worked wonders for myself and many others who I’ve coached. I hope it can help you in meeting your goals as well. Thanks so much for reading!

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