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Plan-Do-Study-Act: 4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Personal and Career Goals

The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle is a tool commonly used to implement and measure changes made within healthcare organizations. Developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the cycle enables practitioners to set actionable goals, evaluate their success, and change their approach as needed through multiple rounds of the PDSA cycle. The tool has been applied successfully to generate change in many healthcare systems, however, it can also be applied to your life and your career. In order to accomplish your goals, it is imperative to create a plan of action and reflect on whether the actions you have initiated are getting you any closer to your objectives.

Plan. Take time to consider where you would like to be in five years. Now, in order to make this more attainable, think of different milestones you need to accomplish in order to get to where you want to be. One at a time, develop a plan for each of these milestones and consider what changes you can make in your everyday life to make these dreams a reality. Your plan should be detailed and leave little room for interpretation. The more detailed you are, the more likely you are to stay on track. Hold yourself accountable by creating visual reminders of your goals.

Do. Now that you have mapped out your pathway to success, it is time to act on it. Planning was the hard part, now it is time to follow your own instructions and stay motivated. No matter how difficult it may be to stick to your plan, remember that you are doing it with an end goal in mind.

Study. Take the time to reflect on the progress you have made and how committed you have been to your plan. After assessing your progress and level of commitment, now consider whether your original plan is actually helping you reach your goal, or whether it requires modifications. The “study” period is a crucial time because it allows you to improve your plan. Just because you need to make modifications to your plan does not mean that you are unsuccessful, it simply means that you know that there is a better way.

Act. This is where you decide what needs to be done in order to generate more progress. Perhaps you just need to make small adaptations to your plan such as holding yourself more accountable. It could also be that you need expand the scope of your current developmental plan by adding other activities or evaluation measures. Alternatively, your original plan just may not work. After reflecting it is okay to scrap your plan and develop a new one where you take past mistakes into consideration, as long as you are not scrapping your goals.

Repeat. Actualize your reflections by creating a new and improved plan and starting the cycle over again until you reach success.

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