Developing an Action Plan

Module: Exercise

Jane Brandenstein, PT, and Janet Poole, PhD, OTR/L


Exercise log

Use this printout to identify an activity, and track goals and frequencies.

Printout PDF

Developing an Action Plan

One way to achieve a goal, such as starting or increasing an exercise program, is to make an Action Plan. This is an agreement you make with yourself to do a new activity regularly.

An Action Plan has several parts.

Identify an activity that you would like to do

If you are not really interested in the activity, it is sure to fail. So pick something you like! You could do it by yourself, with a buddy (a better idea), or even in a class. Take some time to make this selection.

It must be reasonable

This should be something you can accomplish in 1 week. It may be a small piece of the overall goal. For instance, if walking 30 minutes is the overall goal, and you are just starting out, perhaps walking 5 minutes is a good goal for the first week. This way, you can applaud yourself when you accomplish the task.

It should be behavior-specific

For example, the idea of just “getting stronger” is not a behavior, but “lifting weights” is a specific behavior.

It needs to answer the following questions:

  • What exercise? The answer could be walking, swimming, or climbing the steps instead of using the elevator.
  • How much? The answer could be walking 5 minutes or going to a yoga class.
  • When? The answer could be after the kids leave for school or Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • How often? The answer could be 2 days a week, 4 days a week, or every other day (if you say every day, you may be setting yourself up for failure because it is probably too difficult to do; give yourself some slack).

When you rate how confident you feel about completing your Action Plan should rate at least 7 out of 10, where 0 is no confidence and 10 is total confidence you will complete the entire Action Plan.

Now write it down and place it where you will see it as a reminder–for example, on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, or by the front door. Set the Action Plan up as a 7-day plan. At the end of the 7 days, review the plan. If you were successful, give yourself a round of applause. Redo your plan for the upcoming week, and increase your goal slightly.

If you did not reach your goal for the week, give yourself a round of applause for trying, and review your action plan to see why you did not meet your goal. Did you plan to do too much, do it too often, or do it too long, or was the activity not really something that interested you?

Do not give up! Redo your Action Plan, think about why you did not reach your goals for the week, and make next week’s action plan more realistic.