Tips And Guidelines on How To Write a Personal Development Plan

personal development plan

Coming up with a great personal development plan can be both therapeutic and overwhelming. By writing about your goals, skills and the things in life that make you feel fulfilled, you may end up discovering some things about yourself that you never knew before.

This can be bracing. Here are some guidelines and tips on how to write a personal development plan. Remember that your own personal development plan should never be set in stone. By its very nature, the plan should help you grow and develop as an individual.

personal development planPre-writing your personal development plan

  • Before you start writing your plan, ensure you get into a strong state first. That means you need to be in a reasonably positive frame of mind because that mindset will come across in what you create. A quick way to get yourself into a better state of mind is to stand up, clench your fists, turn your head upwards and yell at the top of your voice “Yes! Yes! Yes!” – if you don’t believe that works, try it.
  • Don’t start writing your plan when you are feeling tired, lazy, bored or uninspired. Again, that will come through in your writing. I know that I can tell the frame of mind I was in when I wrote different pieces – partly because I’ve been doing this kind of thing for quite a while and I know where to look for the “tells” in my writing where I slip into negatives or my writing just doesn’t quite sparkle enough.
  • Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. Deep breaths are a very simple way to relax. But don’t be put off by the simplicity – often it’s the simplest ideas that work best and deep breathing is one of those mega-simple ideas that just plain works. A bit like when you were a child and your mother told you to count to ten when you got angry. Except that deep breaths work regardless of your current state.
  • Move around a bit if you need to get your energy flowing, say some words of encouragement to yourself, and make some power gestures and moves in order to get yourself going. Sitting in the same place too long isn’t good for you and the simple act of moving helps a lot. That’s one of the reasons water coolers are popular in the workplace, even ignoring the social aspect. Exercise releases endorphins into your body – they’re our own “feel good” drug that our bodies create quite naturally, especially when we do some exercise.
  • If you like, you can play some classical and soft music and ensure that you won’t be interrupted. The precise style of music is up to you – different people relax to different things although I still don’t understand how teenagers can relax to thrash metal. One classical style that’s said to really help is Baroque music. So if you’ve not got a favourite style then that could be one to experiment with. My own musical preference varies with my moods and sometimes I’ll choose something to brighten me up if I’m not feeling as positive as I’d like to be.
  • Next, have warm positive thoughts. Motivate yourself by acknowledging the fact that you will benefit from this and that it will bring you a step closer to your dreams. Affirmations work well with shifting your thought patterns. If you haven’t got a list of affirmations then it’s worth taking the time to develop one and to repeat the affirmations on a regular basis.
  • You’ll only be able to write a great personal development plan if you are in a calm, effective state. It doesn’t take long to change your state using one or two of the techniques I’ve shown – don’t get bogged down with this. Pick one or two techniques and so long as your mood is more up-beat than it was before you started, you’re good to go.

Summarize Your Life

  • Write down a list of exactly where your life currently is, warts and all. That can be quite a scary thing to do or it can be quite liberating. Quite often, the mere act of putting pen to paper or electrons to screen is enough to lift a weight off your shoulders. It’s a bit like talking to a trusted friend with the knowledge that the trusted friend is actually you.
  • Include summaries of the person you are, how things are going on at your workplace and what your private life is like. The amount of detail is up to you – some people keep it fairly sketchy, bullet point style where an outside observer would be hard pressed to figure anything out. Other people go into a lot of detail – that can work but it can also drag you down if your life isn’t currently at the kind of place you want it to be. Yet others create a mindmap either on paper or with a nifty piece of free software. My personal preference is software but then I’m not the world’s best person with arty stuff.
  • Ensure you include a present schedule of your day to day deeds. This will help you when you’re crafting your new personal development plan. I’d suggest that this is a broad brush schedule rather than a complete diary. Bullet points work nicely with this and allow you to easily spot those things you’ve missed.
  • Your life summary can help you identify areas you need to change in order for you to work efficiently towards and succeed in finishing your personal development plan. Again, fairly broad brush works well. You’ve almost certainly got years of your life to condense into the summary so you can’t go into a day by day account. But if you find large chunks of your life are reduced to a couple of words, maybe you should think about why that’s the case – it could help you to come up with some ideas for the goal setting part of your personal development plan.

Set Your Personal Development Goals

  • Give yourself a purpose for coming up with the plan, including the reason why you need to improve whatever areas of your life you’re aiming to improve. Your purpose for this plan could be as simple and vague as improving yourself. But it will almost certainly work better if you can narrow it down. A vague plan is a bit like going out for a walk on a lazy Sunday afternoon – you’ll get outside but chances are that you’ll just follow one of the same routes that you’ve always taken. Which is probably counter-productive when your aim is to create a new plan for yourself.
  • You can list goals like improve your communication skills, make more sales, get a promotion, get a new job or maybe spend more time in your house. The thing with goals is that the more detail you go into, the better. I’d go so far as to say that you probably should only have one major goal in your plan. Otherwise you run the risk of it being closer to a bucket list than something you can pin down and aim for.
  • Make your goal so real you could step into it. See what you’ll see when you accomplish your goal. Hear what you’ll hear. Even experience the smells that you’ll encounter – years ago that would probably have been cigar smoke but nowadays that’s a lot less likely. Aim for the equivalent of upwards of one sheet of paper when you’re doing this. Include the people who will be there to help celebrate achieving your goal, any toys and gadgets that will be part of it, the music that will be playing, the food you’ll be eating. The whole experience. You won’t go down to the detail of counting the hairs on the back of people’s hands (or their palms if your taste is a bit gothic) but it should be close.
  • Some people like to use software to help them set their goals. If that’s you, you’ll maybe already have a favorite program. If not, the one I’ve linked is long established and works well for lots of people. But don’t let the excuse of another new toy to play with get in the way of the real reason you’re doing this which is to set your goal for your personal development plan.

Come up With an Action Plan and Set Deadlines 

  • After you have worked out exactly what you want to accomplish, it’s time to plan your actions and set the deadline. Which can be a “yikes” moment because the plan is starting to turn into reality. It’s gone from being some wishy-washy idea that’s been floating around your mind as something that would be nice to have, some day. It’s now staring at you from the screen or the paper. And you’re going to need a series of steps to take you from where you are now to where your plan intends to take you. Depending on how big your goal is, that might be lots of steps or only a few. Take the time to list out the steps you need to take. And make sure that each of those steps is sufficiently small that you can tick one step off as “done” on a daily basis. This has several benefits, the main one being that your mind gets on board with the idea that you’re serious about this particular plan.
  • For instance, the actions you may want to take while you are in search of a new job may include revising your resume, sending out your CV, scheduling interviews and purchasing a new outfit for the interview. Although it sounds a bit laborious at first, the more steps you can add in, the simpler it will be to perform them. The closer you can get to brain-dead simple, the more likely you are to be able to convince yourself to actually carry out the step you’ve listed. The further away you get from that – up to mad scientist level for instance – the more reason you’ll give yourself to procrastinate on carrying out the tasks involved to reach your goal.
  • Alternatively if you are seeking a promotion, your actions may include being more involved with the projects or taking up on more duties at work. Take the time to work out the steps that are likely to be involved. If you later find out that you need to add a step or remove one, that’s OK but it’s a lot easier to do if you’ve already got the steps written down somewhere rather than just lurking in your mind with all the other distractions that our minds latch onto.
  • For every action, set a practical time limit and hold yourself responsible for it. Deadlines work. Sometimes not totally but even if they slip slightly it’s better to have a deadline for the various sections of your plan than not. Otherwise you’ll convince yourself that tomorrow or next week or next year is part of your plan. Time flies by far too fast as we get older and before you know it, you’ll have a different figure at the start of your age but won’t have achieved anything towards your goal. That happens far too often in far too many areas of most people’s lives.

List down the Things You’d Like to Learn

  • Pinpoint the things that will help you accomplish your personal development plan’s goals, like taking new classes, reading books, completing online training or attending training seminars. Some of them will be really obvious. Others will be sitting on the sidelines, wondering whether or not you’re going to notice them. If it works for you, split the things up into must-haves, should-haves and nice-to-haves. That gives you some degree of priority for them and helps you decide where your priorities lie. It’s far too easy to try to run in all directions at once but the end result is almost always that you get nowhere if you do that.
  • You can choose to add these items to your action list with deadlines. That’s a good idea because it means you can make sure that they’re covered in the list of things you’re doing to reach the goals in your personal development plan. Otherwise you run the risk of missing things. Sometimes there are also delays between ordering something you need and it arriving in the post. If you don’t take a few minutes to figure out what you’re going to need, you run the risk that you’ll be waiting anxiously for the delivery driver before you can complete the next part of your plan. Or, if it’s a class you need to take to boost your skill levels, there may be a delay of several months before the next class starts. It’s best to find out where these potential road blocks are sooner rather than later.

Seek Assistance

  • Certain local employment agencies, and even your own workplace, offer support groups, training classes or other forms of support that can help you in effecting your action plan. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. So long as you don’t ask really dumb questions then you shouldn’t get a negative reaction.
  • If you’re employed, talk to your boss about the plans you have and inquire if they can help you but obviously make sure that you follow through any help offered. A lot of workplaces encourage you to better yourself and some even have financial assistance.
  • Check out your library or Amazon. There are books available on almost every conceivable subject. Lots of books are written by experts in their field and this is a way that you can tap into their expertise at a very affordable price. Naturally you should take the time to check out the reviews and to browse the book using the Look Inside feature if you’re checking it online.

Put Your Personal Development Plan into Action

  • Now that you already know the areas you want to focus on, why you need to focus on them and how you are going to go about them, it’s time you take action. Because if you don’t take action, the whole thing is just a dream. You’ve made a list of things you need to do in order to accomplish your plan. Now’s the time to tick off the items as soon as you complete them.
  • Start working towards your goals by concentrating on the action list you’ve made. The universe likes speed. So the faster you start on your plan, the better. Today would be ideal, tomorrow is still pretty good. But next week or month or year really isn’t the right attitude. It sends the wrong signals to your conscious and subconscious mind – they will think that it’s just another one of your scatter brained ideas rather than something you really want to accomplish. Our minds are completists. We like things to be finished and complete. Which means that starting something automatically helps get our mind into the thought pattern of I’ve started so I’ll finish which was famously used by the question master in the TV show Mastermind. Use that to your advantage!

After Writing Your Personal Development Plan

  • You need to review your progress to determine whether you are on track or whether you need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan you can handle better. Hopefully you’ve created a plan that stretches you a bit – in my view, there’s no real point in one that doesn’t – and hopefully you’re making some progress towards it,
  • Don’t wait for too long to do this because you need to check it regularly to make sure you are on track. How often regularly is will depend on the timescale for your plan. If it’s a few days then a daily check up would be sensible. Anything longer I’d suggest needs at least a weekly check up. Because if you leave things much longer than a week, life gets in the way and you run the risk of this being another project that seemed a good idea at the time but turns into a damp squib. It’s daft to put the effort into creating a personal development plan for yourself only to let it get neglected.
  • Diarize to check things regularly. This is easy to do at first but as the project gets longer, other things crop up in your life and it’s far too easy to wake up one day and be a year older but no further forward. Yes, there is some discipline involved in this but it’s not too much. And simply setting a diary note and an alarm once a week in your phone can make the difference between achieving what you’ve set out in your plan or not. Make sure that this time you follow through with your plans – you’ll be a lot happier when you do that.

Featured download: Download your free personal development plan. (Click to download)