Building Your Personal Development Plan

In order for you to be happy in your job, you need a personal development plan.  Of course your team members are no different; everyone wants to know that they’re making progress in their career.

They need to know they’re working from a plan; that there’s a goal they’re working toward, and that you care about helping them reach that goal.  In this article, I’ll explain the basics of building a personal development plan for you, and for members of your team.

What is a personal development plan?

A personal development plan is a really simple tool.  It’s just a one-page document that shows the steps a person needs to take in order to reach their career goals.

A personal development plan can be as simple as series of bullet points on a piece of paper that is tacked on a bathroom mirror.  Or, it can be as detailed as a strategic plan that you’d build for your business.

Whichever format you choose, all professional development plans contain the same basic features.

Questions to help you determine your goals

Answer these questions to help you decide on your goals.  Your smart goals will naturally emerge from the answers to these questions:

What parts of your work and personal life are you proud of/happy with today?

This is a simple list of all of the things that are going well.  Bright spots.  Begin by building on your foundation of success.  There are lots of things that are going well and that you want more of.  List everything that’s currently working.  These are the building blocks of success.  People get better and better at the things they’re already good at.

Be clear on what those ‘bright spots’ are by making a list.

What are you not happy with?

Answering this question shows you what needs to change.  This list includes items like a lack of training or coaching, and bad habits that hold you back.  Typical bad habits include:

  1. Excessive gaming/eating/wasted time
  2. Not keeping promises
  3. Failing to communicate
  4. Procrastinating
  5. Not delegating
  6. Avoiding conflict
  7. Poor time management

 Which duties energize you?

 This is slightly different than the bright spots list.  Duties that energize you focus on the actual tasks that you enjoy.  When you enjoy a task, it’s a fair sign that it’s a strength for you, and that you should be doing more things like it.

Which duties drain you?

Make a complete list.  Note that you may be really good at the duties that drain you.  Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean it’s a strength for you.  Most of us are good at things that we don’t like doing.

You should restrict your time doing activities that drain your energy.  Feeling drained is a sure sign that you’re not working in an area of strength.

Developing smart goals for your personal development plan

Smart goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Trackable

Here are the goals that your personal development plan covers:

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Great business people don’t think of their lives in weeks or months; they think in ten year blocks.  So the first step is to decide where you want to be in the future.  What does your bigger future look like? Do you want to be a CEO?  Maybe you want to be retired or working part time, or you simply want to get better and better at something you’re already good at?

This is a very important question, because all of your goals are reverse engineered backwards from your 10 year life goals.  Once you’ve decided on these, the rest are much easier to envision.

Divide the 10 year goals into three categories:  Work, health, and personal.  Choose three goals under each category.  This is what goes into the 10 year part of the plan.

What habit do you want to work on?

 Choose one of the many you listed.  Simplicity = focus, and the clearer you are about which habit you want to fix, the more likely you are to achieve your goal.

You will be tempted to choose several habits to work on, but resist that temptation!  Adding one new habit to your life is very significant.  Imagine where you’ll be in ten years is you add a significant new habit every year!

Choose ‘right now’ goals

 What are three goals in each area (health, work, and personal) that you want to achieve this year. Take your cue from the 10 year goals you created, and break them down into one year chunks.  These one year goals will shape how you structure your quarter and your day.

Each day look at your plan and ask, “What am I doing today to make these goals happen?”

The Professional Leadership Institute provides training on goal setting and offers a free preview.

Building accountability into your personal development plan

Now you must ask yourself how you will hold yourself accountable to reaching your personal development goals.

Here are some great accountability tools:

  • Telling friends who will remind you of your goals: When you tell friends, it adds pressure to you to work on those goals.
  • Posting your goals at your workstation or on your bathroom mirror: Looking at your goals regularly ensures you will reach them. Put your goals on the sun visor of your car!  Get creative!
  • Joining a peer accountability group: Find a group of like-minded peers who also want to make life change, and meet regularly to review goals and spur each other on to achieve more!
  • Hiring a professional coach: A personal trainer may be right for you, or an executive coach. Anyone you meet with regularly will help including a coach or mentor (paid or unpaid).

Now make sure that you’re reviewing your plan on a daily basis.  Sticking to it will make all the different in your life and career.



Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:

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