Action Planning and To Do Lists

Action plans

There are many advantages to effective time management when learning, a few are:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased motivation and vision
  • Reduction in poor learning techniques like cramming
  • Allowing time off without guilt 
  • Increased use of constructive learning techniques like reviewing, action planning and to do lists

It is the last of these items that we are going to explore.

This is a simple means of implementing a plan for learning, which lists everything you need to do to achieve your overall objective.

It is different from a schedule which is essentially a developed diary system, and also different from a “to do” list because it focuses on the achievement of a particular goal.

A basic action plan created in a Word document might look like this:


You can adapt this approach to suit, as you wish.

Creating an action plan enables you to focus on a task, to break it down into chunks and to build in deadlines or review dates. It encourages you to set out clearly what you need to do and gives you a means of monitoring your progress.

As with a schedule or a to do list, an action plan for study should be regularly reviewed and updated. As you complete items you can either shade them out or delete them.

“To do” lists

“To do” lists are simply lists of all items that you need to get done. They do not focus on a particular goal, a timescale, or a priority but instead, are a running total of all tasks to be completed.

Ordinarily, they do not include “standing items” like regular attendance of a meeting or a tutorial perhaps and record items in addition to “normal” or run of the mill items. 

Neither do they typically include personal items as we tend to have a separate to do list for family and home life.

An example of a “to-do” list for work might be:

  • Complete quote for Client A
  • Contact legal department to discuss dispute on Client X
  • Write report for MD on sales conversion rates 
  • Revise call-out list
  • Research the FCA website and write compliance update memo

Similarly, a to-do list for learning might be:

  • Read study text on financial crime
  • Attend local institute lunchtime seminar 
  • Complete assignment
  • Update CPD log

“To-do” lists tend to be updated on an ongoing basis with items being scored out or added to the bottom. Whilst they are certainly useful for keeping tabs on what has to be done, they do not incorporate any action planning or prioritisation, so would most usefully form the basis of these more developed techniques for time management.