What Is a Personal Development Plan? With Template

Updated 21 July 2022

There are many reasons to create and use a personal development plan, which is a document that can help you organise and accomplish your career goals. You may need to develop one of these plans at work for your annual reviews or you may write one simply to have a better understanding of your own aspirations. Creating a clear, actionable plan can help you identify what your goals are, how to accomplish them and how to stay motivated when working towards them.

In this article, we define what a personal development plan is and explore how to create an effective one, followed by a template and example.

Related: How To Create an Individual Development Plan (With Template)

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What is a personal development plan?

A personal development plan is a document that outlines your personal goals and the steps you plan to take to achieve them. These types of plans can contain a variety of goals that may relate to each other but can also stand alone. This can include goals like learning a new language, developing new workplace skills, practising a healthy lifestyle or joining an organisation that teaches how to enjoy public speaking. You can also continually update the plan you create. Once you complete all the goals in your plan, you can create new goals or make the original goals more challenging.

Elements of a plan for self-development

Here are the elements you can include in one of these plans:

  • Date: the date on which you create the plan can appear at the top of the page. This can help you track your progress by identifying when you start setting your goals so that you can look back and determine how much time has passed with each step.

  • Long-term goal: a long-term goal is a goal that may take time and multiple steps to complete. These can be especially important, as they can guide the steps and smaller goals in your plan.

  • Objectives: objectives are smaller goals that can contribute to the larger goal you want to reach.

  • Timelines: timelines or deadlines can refer to the length of time you plan to spend on each goal or stage in your plan.

  • Steps: the steps in one of these plans are specific actions you can take to achieve each objective and goal. Most plans contain multiple steps of steps.

  • Tools and resources: the tools and resources that you need can appear at the bottom of each goal's section. This can include physical materials, information sources and people you might use as resources.

  • Measurement: measurement refers to the method you plan to use to track your progress. For example, you can use spreadsheets, guiding questions, checklists and more to measure the progress you make.

How to create a plan for self-development

Here are some steps you can use to write a plan for self-development:

1. Establish your goals

First, you can identify and list your goals. It can be helpful here to consider all aspects of your personal growth and choose a range of goals that may be most important to your current career. This is because you may have a better chance of meeting your goals if you outline them clearly. It can also be beneficial to think about both short-term and long-term goals, as you can set long-term goals that take time to complete but use short-term goals to track progress more frequently.

Another detail to consider is making sure that your goals are attainable. Attainable goals can be divided into smaller, more actionable steps, which can be more motivating to work on. While it's great to be ambitious with your goals since it can encourage you to achieve more, setting goals that are too challenging to meet may lead to a loss of motivation or stop you from working on your plan.

Related: How To Write SMART Goals For Your Career (With Examples)

2. Identify skills to learn

Another important step in writing an effective plan is to identify the skills you want to master and the skills you need to achieve your goals. For example, if your goal is to compete in a triathlon but you only usually swim for fun, you may improve your swimming skills to enhance your speed and stamina. There are many different ways to learn new skills, such as researching online and attending sessions at local training centres in your area. However, it can be most important to continue learning and improving over time, regardless of the method you use.

Related: Important Soft Skills Employers in Hong Kong Look For

3. Create a step-by-step plan with a deadline

One of the most effective aspects of a detailed development plan is that it compartmentalises each goal into actionable steps that you can easily track the progress of. After identifying your goals and the necessary skills, you can make a step-by-step plan that is actionable and achievable. For example, if you want to live debt-free, your plan might look like this:

  1. Make a list of all existing debt, including loans and credit cards

  2. Create a budget in order to set money aside towards debt repayment

  3. Identify dates that can act as deadlines for when you want to have paid off each debts

  4. Pay off each debt, starting with the smallest and moving up to the highest amount

  5. Start an emergency fund to save money and reduce future debt

4. Find ways to measure progress

To effectively use your new development plan, it can be crucial for your goals to be measurable, ideally using objective metrics. For example, if your goal is to increase your sales, creating a plan to increase sales by 25% over the next quarter is a measurable and achievable plan that you can track, as opposed to a general goal of increasing sales. To track your progress, you may consider using spreadsheets, calendars, performance metrics or any other tool that can help you organise your efforts.

Plan for self-development template

Here's a template you can use to create your own plan:

Date: [Date you create the plan]

Long-Term Goal: [Your long-term goal]

Objective: [Objective that can help you reach the long-term goal]
[Timeline for the first objective]
Step 1: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]
Step 2: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]
Step 3: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]

Objective: [Objective that can help you reach the long-term goal]
[Timeline for the second objective]
Step 1: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]
Step 2: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]
Step 3: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]

Short-Term Goal: [Your short-term goal]

Objective: [Objective that can help you reach the short-term goal]
[Timeline for objective]
Step 1: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]
Step 2: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]
Step 3: [Actionable step you can take towards the objective]

Tools and resources: [Tools or resources you need]

Measurement: [Methods you plan to use to track progress]

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Plan for self-development example

Consider this example:

Date: June 15, 2021

Long-Term Goal: Become a manager at an office

Objective 1: Find an office job
June-July 2021
Step 1: Revise my CV and cover letter
Step 2: Look for job openings in my area
Step 3: Apply to open positions that interest me
Step 4: Continue applying until I receive an interview
Step 5: Perform well in any interviews
Step 6: Start work at the new job

Objective 2: Advance to a managerial position
July 2021-July 2023
Step 1: Perform well at work consistently
Step 2: Build lasting professional relationships with coworkers
Step 3: Meet with my manager to discuss how I may improve my skills and expertise
Step 4: Continue improving at work
Step 5: Meet with high-level management to ask about opportunities for advancement

Tools and resources: Computer, CV, office supplies, coworkers and managers

Measurement: Spreadsheet and checklist

Short-Term Goal: Learn a new word processing program

Objective: Identify the computer program the new job uses and download it
June-July 2021
Step 1: Ask the hiring manager what word processing program the company uses
Step 2: Download the program
Step 3: Follow the tutorial included in the program to learn all the elements and features of the program
Step 4: Practise using the program to create different types of documents

Tools and resources: Personal computer, program software, access to HR manager

Measurement: Successfully created documents

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