How to write a personal development plan

If you haven’t already, take a look at this post explaining what a personal development plan is.

When looking at personal development, most people go straight to looking at the things that they’re not good at and want to improve on to add to their list. This is fine, and sometimes you will have weaknesses that if you don’t work on them will hamper your ability to do your job. If you don’t value building strong relationships and people don’t really like you then you will struggle to get people to do what you want them to do. This sort of thing should go on your development plan.

However people often forget about their strengths. There are some things that you’re naturally good at or that you enjoy. These are the things that got you where you are today and that people value from you. They are the things that you’re uniquely good at. Maybe you are a straight talker and feel comfortable in conflict situations – how can you help others to feel the same way that you do? How can you build on your ability to handle conflict and make sure that everyone leaves the conversation feeling good? Maybe you’re an extrovert and love rallying people around an idea? Maybe you’re an introvert and you’re great at deep thinking. Recognise your strengths and make a plan to build on them.

So what should be on it?

My recommendation for your personal development plan is to pick three things: One that you need to improve on, it’s a weakness and you need to upskill yourself so that it doesn’t hold you back. Two that you are already good at and you want to learn how to really excel at, these should be things that you know you’re good at and that you enjoy and that people give you feedback on.

Make it SMART

It’s really easy when thinking about personal development to be really vague. Saying something like “build better relationships” is fine to be on your development plan, but you need to be more specific and think about the steps you’ll put in place to get there. SMART is a commonly used acronym that you’ve probably heard of, but if not, it stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

So if you want to build better relationships, break it down further

Specific: Who do you want to build the relationships with? Why?

Measurable: How will you know when you’ve achieved it? Through feedback? Through being sought out for your opinion?

Achievable: You’re not going to become everyone’s best friend in the next two weeks. Focus on a couple of relationships that you want to build and how you’re going to step them on

Relevant: Don’t go around making great relationships with the HR team if you work all day with the IT team. Make them relevant to your job

Time-Bound: Set yourself a deadline

Define the actions

Now that you know what is on the plan, define what actions you’re going to take to get the results that you want. If you don’t yet know what actions to take, step 1 might simply be to do some reading, get some feedback, or find a mentor. If you do know the actions then set aside the time to work on them. Maybe it’s establishing a weekly one to one with a person that you’re trying to work more productively with. Or perhaps it’s setting aside time to learn more about their job so that you can understand why they aren’t always very receptive to your suggestions.

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