Action planning

Behaviour change techniques

Action Planning

An action plan is a type of process goal that comprises detailed planning of the exact steps that must be taken in order to achieve a specific goal. Action plans involve someone specifying exactly what they will do in the immediate future to work towards their goal. This involves stating what they will do, when and where they will do it. For example, if someone’s goal is to run 3 times a week, their action plan might say they are going to run 3 miles around the park on Tuesday morning before work,  run 2 miles around the local neighbourhood on Wednesday after work, and run 3 miles around the park on Saturday morning (please see attachment for example action plan).

Setting specific action plans increases the likelihood of intentions (i.e. the goals that have been set) turning to behaviour (i.e. the desired actions to reach the goal).  In other words, if you plan it, you are more likely to do it! 


When you have set a specific action plan with a family, it can be useful to ask them to self-monitor their behaviour.  This means asking them to record what they have done each day in relation to the behaviour they are trying to change. For example,  if their action plan is focussed on running 3 times a week, you might ask them to tick off each time they ran (basic self-monitoring) or to write more details about how they felt after running, how far they went etc. (more detailed self-monitoring).  Parents can be offered choice in the level of detail required or the format they use to record their behaviour (e.g. writing down, phone app, online document), as it is important they feel able to complete this task and don’t see it as an extra burden on top of the changes they are already trying to make. 

Self-monitoring is a popular behaviour change technique used in many technology applications today, such as phone apps that allow people to count calories and watches that track number of steps taken.    The benefits of asking a parent to self-monitor their progress towards their goals include:

  • Helping parents feel a sense of achievement as they “tick” off their progress
  • Giving parents an incentive to persist with their behaviour change (as they want to be able to tick off their progress – seeing our behaviour written down can be a powerful thing)
  • Providing an account to help you review progress with the parent at the next meeting

How can you help parents to make an action plan and self-monitor their behaviour?

You can help support a parent to create a goal and action plan for them to take away with them.



Have a go at setting your own goal and action plan. It could be anything for example, drink more water, walk to work, spend more time with your children/partner…

What do you want to achieve?

What is your first step in achieving this?

When will you do it? (be specific)