How to Create an Actionable Personal Development Plan

Updated 11 September 2023

A practical personal development plan is a useful technique that helps you achieve your lifetime goals. A personal development plan is a good way of building up your job skills and staying relevant in the workplace. Think of it as a roadmap that guides your efforts in successfully reaching your goals. With it, you can achieve a lot in your career, education and other spheres of your life.

However, having a personal development plan is different from creating an actionable plan. A good plan should highlight your strengths and demonstrate how you can use them to mitigate challenges lying on your path to success. In this article, we look at different categories of personal development and how to craft an effective personal development plan.

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What are the personal development plan categories?

Generally, personal development categories form the foundation of an individual's development plan. You can use the following four categories to create your personal goals:

Personal skills

A personal development plan can be tied to steering the growth of your skills. For instance, you may want to improve your public speaking skills. You could develop a plan stipulating how you can hone your skills. It could be enrolling in public speaking classes or practising public speaking to build your confidence.

Related: How to Develop Your Career Skill Set

Personal improvement

Personal improvement refers to building good habits to enhance your effectiveness in the workplace. For example, think of enhancing your communication skills or self-confidence so you can accomplish more. In this case, your development plan will detail which course or training you should undertake, ways to better yourself and even how to be assertive.

Personal growth

Personal growth entails improving yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone. It can be anything from starting a new business, providing leadership in times of crisis, or taking decisive actions when solving problems.

Related: How To Be a Learner for Life in 9 Steps

Personal empowerment

Personal empowerment is mainly about seeking new knowledge and building on what you already know. For instance, you could plan on learning a new language to widen the scope of your career. You could also start learning about financial markets or new technologies that align with your field of work.

Related: What are goals in life and how to set them?

How to create a good personal development plan

Below are five simple steps you should follow when creating a personal development plan:

1) Analyse your situation

Examining your current status of life is a good starting point when creating a practical personal development plan. It involves evaluating yourself and being realistic about your strengths, weaknesses and other aspects of your life you want to improve. You may also consider highlighting your achievements and the future you want to create. The idea is to form a clear picture of your current situation and integrate it with your aspirations.

Self-analysis is primarily a thinking process that helps to document your thoughts for clarity purposes. Moreover, writing down your thoughts will serve as a future reference to measure your progress.

Related: A guide to self-awareness (with examples)

2) Define your goals

Once you evaluate yourself, you will have a good idea of what you want to accomplish. Your achievements should align with what makes you happier. Consider using the personal development categories discussed above. You can tweak these categories by incorporating certain aspects of your life, such as professional relationships, health, career and financial goals.

While it is possible to have a long list of goals, prioritise only a few of them, starting with the most important ones. Prioritisation reduces your pressure and frees you up to focus on your secondary goals. Remember to set attainable goals based on your capabilities. For instance, aiming at getting a job promotion is dependent on delivering consistent results and improving your skills. Aiming high can be useful to maintain motivation. However, unrealistic goals can be hard to achieve because they may create additional resistance and undermine your efforts.

Once you have a clear list of realistic goals, remember to set a reasonable timeframe to achieve each one of them. Having time-bound goals will help keep your priorities in check and tasks on track.

Related: What are personal objectives? (Plus benefits and examples)

3) Action plan

After you define your goals, you probably know exactly what you want to achieve. So, how do you accomplish those goals? This is where the concept of an action plan comes into play. You need to commit yourself and complete your tasks with consistency. If your primary goal is to learn how to make presentations within a certain period, you can devote one hour of your day to attend public speaking classes.

Breaking your action plan into smaller milestones will ensure that you stay motivated in pursuit of your goals. Using the example mentioned above, you could break it into smaller milestones such as learning active listening before moving to more complex ones. Keep in mind that you can set realistic objectives and have a timeframe attached to them just like your goals.

Related: Top Tips for Successful Career Progression

Also, be sure to research the necessary practices required to achieve your goal. People tend to succeed more when they realise the increased amount of work involved in turning aspirations into reality. This clarity of vision is especially true for fitness-related goals where research is essential in developing a customised training routine.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan To Help You Achieve Your Goals

4) Actualisation

The actualisation stage entails completing specific tasks to achieve your goals. This activity can be quite challenging, and it depends on your daily routine. For this reason, we advise you to build habits that put you on a trajectory to achieving your goals.

Building habits involve planning and organising your tasks throughout the day. Planning activities require effort, but it ensures that your tasks align with your goals. Try to estimate the time it takes to complete a specific task. Be realistic about what you can achieve or complete. Spend the rest of the time carrying out activities or accomplishing work that will bring you closer to your goals.

To mitigate the challenges in the schedule, you need to have a clear understanding of the time you can commit to performing a particular activity. If your goal is to learn how to meditate, you could dedicate 30 minutes before bed and attend an online meditation class. Also, it's a good practice to organise your environment in a way that prompts you to honour your commitments. For example, if your goal is to get more organised, you can create a to-do list that captures your day's activities. Tick off each activity that you complete before you go into the next one.

While most goals can perfectly fit into your existing daily routine, other goals may require you to restructure it. Let's say you want to start a new business while working a full-time job. In this case, you may need to wake up earlier than usual to save enough time and work on your business before reporting to your full-time job.

Related: How To Mindfully Improve Your Personal Development

5) Monitor your progress

Finally, review your work progress to help you get back on course if you deviate from your goals. There is no timeline for checking your progress. However, the rule of thumb is that you should review short-term goals more regularly than long-term goals.

When reviewing your progress, you need to understand that there are different metrics for evaluating each goal. If you are starting an online business, key metrics may include conversion rate, email subscribers and revenue growth. If your goal is exercising or keeping fit, the key metrics might be the number of minutes you exercise or your weight. For long-term goals such as buying a house or paying off your mortgage, the review process may be as simple as checking the objectives to remind yourself of your monthly loan repayments.

Remember to update your goals anytime you review your progress. An easy way to do this is by ticking off any goal or milestone you have accomplished on your action plan. Check if your action plan is getting you the kind of results you desire. If the results are unsuitable, change your strategy. The important thing to note is that you should be flexible enough to adjust your action plan.

Related: How To Be Successful and Achieve Your Personal Goals

Sample personal development plan

Date: 9 November 2020

Long-Term Goal: Secure a job as a Digital Marketing Manager

Objective: Enroll for an MSc in digital marketing so I can secure a well-paying managerial role.

Year One

Step 1: Start saving for tuition fees and books
Step 2: Research accredited colleges
Step 3: Enroll in four classes
Step 4: Plan my daily study time
Step 5: Pass continuous assessments and exams

Year Two

Step 6: Enroll for the final year classes
Step 8: Complete my thesis
Step 9: Apply for graduation.

Short-Term Goal: Reduce my TV hours

Objective: Avoid watching series on Netflix so I can have enough time to study and work

Step 1: Cancel my Netflix subscription
Step 2: Switch off the TV when in the house
Step 3: Keep the remote out of reach

Tools and resources: Laptop and hardcopy books

Measurement: Did I spend any time watching TV?

Related: 36 learning and development interview questions with answers

Get ahead with a personal development plan

Having a clear roadmap helps to accomplish your goals in life more effectively. A personal development plan will guide you to achieve whatever you set out to do. It can be quite challenging to create a functional development plan. However, if you follow the guidelines mentioned above, the entire process can be a hassle-free experience.

Related: Employee development plan: definition, types and examples

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