GOAL: The first step is to determine your financial goal (reminder: not a mere wish, but a SMART goal). This will determine the type of plans in which you might invest your money and the time frame for the same.
RISK PROFILE: The next step is to shortlist the best plan/plans out of the ones selected above by assessing your risk profile. Some investors may be risk averse for whom low risk fixed income mutual funds would be the best, whereas some might be willing to undertake more risk for capital appreciation.
TIME HORIZON: Finally identify the time horizon for which you would like to invest to achieve your SMART goal.