Building a personal development plan
A personal development plan is a place where you summarise your aspirations, goals, strengths and development needs in a structured way. Depending on the type of outcome you are seeking, it might not be limited to just these things. It might also describe your skills, job ambitions, values and dreams!
A personal development plan tends to be quite structured, to help you break down goals into manageable chunks. It’s also a great way to prioritise where you might start with your learning and development. You might like to create your personal development plan in a blank notebook or journal – absolutely great! Perhaps you’re required to fill in a more formal document for work purposes. Maybe you’re a list writer and have decided to use this type of notepad for development purposes. It really doesn’t matter – get creative, go formal, be informal – go with your energy and with what floats your boat. If you’re forced down a certain route because of work, still try and have fun with it!
What follows is an example of what we consider to be some useful basics. You don’t have to include all these things, but we think answering these questions is a good place to start:
- Your name, job title (if this is for work) and the date – that way, when you look back you can track progress across a time period.
- Your key development goals. So what is it you want to focus on? This could be building on a strength (something you are already good at), closing a gap (improving your knowledge, learning a new skill, getting better at managing people, becoming a more accomplished gardener). It really doesn’t matter how small or big the goal is – as long as it’s important to you and you want to focus on doing something about it!
Notebook Mentor A5 Career Journal – Becoming a 1st-time manager
- Key activities that you need to undertake to achieve your goals. This might include anything from simply listening to a Podcast on the topic you are interested in, to undertaking an academic qualification or improving a relationship. It’s often good to break big goals down into smaller goals so you can track progress and feel a sense of accomplishment. Goals that feel impossible to achieve are often demotivating and overwhelming. It doesn’t mean you can’t hit them but start by breaking them down into smaller micro goals.
- The outcome of your development. It’s a good idea to start your personal development plan by describing what ‘good’ would look like if you were to achieve your goal. How would you feel? What would you be thinking? What might have happened? Describing the outcome is a great motivator for keeping you on track.
- Any support you may need. All too often people feel that a personal development plan is exactly that – personal. They think that no matter what, they have to soldier on alone, fail alone and re-set alone. This doesn’t have to be the case. Most people need support to develop. So, if you need moral support (for example, from your partner) or financial support (for example, from your employer) then be sure to note it down. You’ll develop best when there’s support around you. Think about where it might come from.
- When stuff should be done by. Most personal development plans are structured around time. It goes like this – if my goal in a year is to be in X place, then in the first quarter I need to have achieved Y. By the second quarter I need to have achieved Z. There is nothing wrong with bringing this focus to your plan, but also remember not every goal needs to be tied down quite so fiercely.
Be kind to yourself
As you move forward and work on your development plan, it’s worth remembering two things:
1. It’s much easier to build on a strength. Trying to reverse or change something you’re not so good at requires huge reserves of energy and consistent, sustained focus. Most people struggle with that (think New Year’s resolutions!).
2. Your energy to chase after a goal may ebb and wane. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens – simply reassess, break down your big goals into micro goals and take baby steps forward!
All our Notebook Mentor journals have space to start work on a personal development plan or you can download a standard proforma, free from one from our website.