How to Write a Work Plan
Identify the purpose for your work plan. Work plans are written for various reasons. Determine the purpose up front so you can prepare properly. Keep in mind that most work plans are for a certain period of time (i.e., 6 months or 1 year).
- In the workplace, work plans help your supervisor know what projects you will be working on over the next several months. These often come right after an annual performance review or as teams undertake large projects. Work plans can also be the result of strategic planning sessions your organization holds at the beginning of a new calendar or fiscal year.
- In the academic world, work plans can help students create a schedule for a large project. They can also help teachers plan their course material for the semester.
- For a personal project, work plans will help you delineate what you intend to do, how you intend to do it, and by what date you intend to have it done. Personal work plans, while not strictly necessary, will help the individual keep track of his/her goals and progress.
Write the introduction and background. For professional work plans, you may have to write an introduction and background. These provide your supervisor or manager with the information they need to put your work plan into context. Writing an introduction and background is often unnecessary for an academic work plan.
- The introduction should be short and engaging. Remind your superiors why you are creating this work plan. Introduce the specific project(s) you will be working on during this time period.
- The background should highlight the reasons you are creating this work plan. For example, recite details or statistics from recent reports, identify problems that need to be addressed, or build off of recommendations or feedback you received during previous work projects.
Determine your goal(s) and objectives. Goals and objectives are related in that they both point to things you hope to accomplish through your work plan. However, remember the differences, too; goals are general and objectives are more specific.
- Goals should focus on the big picture of your project. List the desired ultimate outcome of your work plan. Keep it broad; for example, make your goal be to complete a research paper or to learn more about writing.
- Objectives should be specific and tangible. In other words, you should be able to check these off your list when you accomplish them. For example, finding people to interview for your research paper would make a good objective.
- Many work plans break down objectives into short-, middle-, and long-term objectives if they vary significantly. For example, a company's short-term goal to increase viewership 30% in three months may vary significantly from its long-term goal to strengthen brand visibility in social media outlets over the next year.
- Objectives are generally written in the active voice and use action verbs with specific meanings (e.g. "plan," "write," "increase," and "measure") instead of verbs with vaguer meanings (e.g. "examine," "understand," "know," etc.).
Consider ordering your work plan by "SMART" objectives. SMART is an acronym used by individuals searching for more tangible, actionable outcomes in work plans.
- Specific. What exactly are we going to do for whom? Lay out what population you are going to serve and any specific actions you will use to help that population.
Measurable. Is it quantifiable and can we measure it? Can you count the results? Did you
structure the work plan so that "health in South Africa would increase in 2020?" or did you structure it so that "cases of HIV/AIDS in newborn South African babies would decrease 20% by 2020?"
- Remember that a baseline number needs to be established to quantify change. If you don't know the incidence rate of HIV/AIDS among South African newborns, it's going to be impossible to reliably say that you decreased incidence rates by 20%.
Achievable. Can we get it done in the time allotted with the resources we have available? The objective needs to be realistic given the constraints. Increasing sales by 500% is reasonable only if you're a small company. Increasing sales by 500% if you dominate the market is near impossible.
- In some cases, an expert or authority may need to be consulted to figure out if your work plan objectives are achievable.
- Relevant. Will this objective have an effect on the desired goal or strategy? Although it's probably important for overall health, does measuring the height and weight of high-schoolers directly lead to change in mental health procedures? Make sure your objectives and methods have a clear, intuitive relationship.
- Time bound. When will this objective be accomplished, and/or when will we know we are done? Specify a hard end date for the project. Stipulate which, if any, outcomes would cause your project to come to a premature end, with all outcomes having been achieved.
List your resources. Include anything that will be necessary for you to achieve your goals and objectives. Resources will vary, depending on the purpose of your work plan.
- At the workplace, resources can include things like financial budget, personnel, consultants, buildings or rooms, and books. A detailed budget may appear in an appendix if your work plan is more formal.
- In the academic arena, resources may include access to different libraries; research materials like books, newspapers, and journals; computer and Internet access; and professors or other individuals who can help you if you have questions.
Identify any constraints. Constraints are obstacles that may get in the way of achieving your goals and objectives. For example, if you are working on a research paper for school, you may find that your schedule is too crowded to allow you to research and write properly. Therefore, a constraint would be your overwhelming schedule, and you would need to cut something out during the semester in order to complete your work plan effectively. (Planning is needed if you are taking more than one hard class per-semester.)
Who is accountable. Accountability is essential for a good plan. Who is responsible for completing each task? There can be a team of people working on a task (see resources) but one person has to be answerable to a task being completed on time.
Write your strategy. Look over your work plan and decide how you will use your resources and overcome your constraints in order to reach your goals and objectives.
- List specific action steps. Identify what needs to happen each day or week for you to complete your objectives. Also, list steps other people on your team will need to take. Consider using project management software or a personal calendar to keep this information organized.
- Create a schedule. Though you can create a tentative work schedule, realize that unexpected things happen and you need to build space into your schedule to prevent falling behind.
Category: Research proposal