How to Plan Anything: 5 Key Steps

April 7, 2022

Categories: Organization

Many people I know have the following experience: They have a goal or project that they need to make progress on, but they just can’t seem to do it. Maybe they aren’t sure about the best way to tackle the project. Or, maybe they get bogged down in the details, instead of moving forward with clarity.

In his book “Getting Things Done,” David Allen presents a 5-step process that can be utilized to plan and make real progress on anything, whether it is a work project or personal goal. Before I walk through the 5 steps, think about a goal or project in your own personal or professional life that you have been struggling to make progress on. Try walking through the 5 steps and see if it helps you.

Step 1: Purpose

The first step is the purpose for why you are wanting to do the project in the first place. In other words, there is some reason that you have a particular goal. There’s something you want to see happen that’s different from how it is currently. Your purpose is your “why.” So, take a few minutes and take stock of your particular situation. What is the purpose behind the project you are trying to complete? Why is this important?

Step 2: Outcome

The second step is to visualize the outcome. In other words, what would it look like if the project were successful? If you could snap your fingers, and the goal would be achieved, what would it look like? It’s important to get a clear picture in your mind of what a successful outcome would be like. What would it look like, feel like, sound like, if you knocked your goal out of the park?

Step 3: Brainstorming

The third step is brainstorming. In this step, you get all your ideas out on to the table. It’s important to actually write down your ideas—don’t store them all up in your head. At this point, suspend judgment. Don’t think about whether an idea is good or bad—just get all the possibilities down on a piece of paper. Focus on quantity rather than quality.

Step 4: Organizing

The fourth step is organizing. In this step, you start to make connections between the ideas that came up in the brainstorming phase. You have your outcome in mind, and you also have a bunch of ideas that may or may not work. In this stage, you start to think about how the ideas fit together. What is the structure or sequence of events that has to happen for you to get from Point A (where you are now) to Point B (your outcome)? What comes first, second, third, etc.? What are the steps?

Step 5: Actions

The fifth step is where the rubber meets the road. Now that you have a plan with the required steps to get you to your goal, this last phase identifies the necessary action steps to get the project moving. “What’s the next action?” is the key question to ask. Identify the next action that needs to be done and do it. If this is a group project, make sure each member of the group is clear about what their next action is.


What do you think about the 5-step process to plan anything? When you are successful at moving forward on a project, you likely run through these steps, although you may not be conscious of them. When you feel stuck on a project or goal, however, that’s when the steps really come in handy. By slowing down and working through each step, you can gain an impressive amount of clarity and get going in a short amount of time.


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