How To Make A Personal Development Plan That Actually Works

With only a month left in 2018, my thoughts are turning to the year ahead and how I plan to grow my business in 2019. And with so many new skills to be learnt and ways in which I need to develop my knowledge, making a personal development plan that actually works is top of my list of priorities.

I’ve always thrived on learning new things – whether it was teaching myself HTML in my 20s, taking a post-grad in my 30s or a recent marketing e-course in my 40s. I love the thrill of the new.

But with so many great courses, coaches and resources out there – how can we be sure we’re targeting our personal development plan in the areas that count ?

Here’s how you can you develop a Personal Development Plan that focuses on what matters for your business or side-hustle. A plan full of intentional, targeted development that will allow you to personalise your learning to meet what you need, when you need it.

“My journey is the journey of always continually evolving. There is never the point at which you arrive at a thing. And if you do, that’s kinda sad. If you think that there is a point where you stop growing and stop evolving? Because if you do, what else is left?”

–Michelle Obama

I’m going to cover the planning process is greater depth as we approach the New Year. I’ll be showing you a step by step approach to creating robust personal development plans that dig deep into what your business needs, and how you can target your learning to get you there.

If that sounds of interest be sure to drop your email in the signup box at the end of this post and I’ll let you know when it goes live. But for now here’s a few tips to get you started, along with a downloadable template that I use to track my 12 month development goals.

Know Yourself

Self-awareness is key to self-development. If you don’t know where you are now, it’s nigh on impossible to create any realistic plan that is going to develop you in the right direction for your business. The first step to any personal growth is taking a good hard look at your own strengths and weaknesses.

I love a quick personality test as much as the next person. But if you want genuine insights into your personality it’s important to make sure the test is grounded in sound, well-researched science. The Myers-Briggs test has been used for decades and is probably one of the most well-known personality classification systems.

There are 16 different ‘types’, each indicated for a four-letter code which denotes where your preferences lies. There is no one right personality type and as with everything in life, each one has its’ strengths and weaknesses.

In my case I’m an INTJ. The strengths of that type are: quick, imaginative and strategic mind; high self-confidence; independent and decisive; hard-working and determined; and a jack-of-all-trades. So far, so fantastic but of course there are weaknesses too: arrogance; judgemental; overly analytical; hate highly structured environments and just to cap it all of – clueless in romance. Ouch!

Of course there are nuances to all of our personalities and not all INTJ’s will identify with every aspect of the ‘typical’ profile. But if I’m being honest with myself I can certainly recognises a lot of these characteristics in myself. And knowing my weaknesses as well as my strengths gives me a starting point for some skills I need to work on. To find out your own Myers-Briggs personality type you can go to to take the test for free and find out what it means for you.

Know Where You Need to Get To

The second thing you need to understand is where you want to get to. What does the future hold for your business in the next 12 months and what skills will you need to deliver that? Perhaps you’re expanding a product range, increasing your marketing efforts, negotiating contracts, landing your first client?

Don’t worry about whether you already have the necessary skills or not. That will be teased out in the next stage. I like to brainstorm what skills my business will need under 4 categories:

  1. Managing myself
    What skills do I need to manage myself and my time effectively so that I can achieve this future state of my business?
  2. Communications
    What marketing and communication skills does my business need to achieve this? For me it’s writing for my blog, photography for Instagram/Pinterest, public speaking for promoting my business on podcasts etc.
  3. Business skills
    What practical business skills do I need to make my business function effectively? I’m generally quite comfortable with IT but I need to learn how digital downloads work, how to use Tailwind and less excitingly reacquaint myself with accounting systems.
  4. Core business
    What skills to I need to develop or maintain to deliver the day-to-day core business. If I was a potter and I wanted to develop a new product line, I might need to learn a new technique? For me, it’s making sure I stay up-to-date with the latest research in HR and explore how it can be relevant for the self-employed.

Identify the Gap

Now that you know where you need to get to, you can evaluate how your current skills match up. Identify the gaps and then plan what development activities will help you grow in the right direction. Be really clear on how each activity is going to help you meet your goal. Sometimes a course can catch our eye because it sounds fun but if money is tight and it’s not contributing to meeting your goals, give it a miss this time.

Keep your strengths and weaknesses in mind when you plan your activities. As an analytical INTJ I’ve always found it easy to go out and research a topic for myself. But the down side is that I can get too analytical and so get stuck in the research stage. This means I find courses with some level of structure helpful. There are fellow learners, and more importantly the course leader, to keep me on track and accountable for delivering my homework.

Identify what success criteria for each development goal will look like. If your goal is to improve your writing, your success criteria might be posting a blog post once a week. Also make sure you set a target date. Not only does this help you schedule in activities alongside your other work, it will also flag up if you are setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Maybe taking a course at your most busy time of year won’t be helpful for keeping your work/life balance in check!

Creating a personal development plan

Write It Down

We all know that if we put a development plan in writing, we’re more likely to achieve it. Don’t skip this step or all your hard work so far will get forgotten as soon as the orders or clients start coming in. You can write it in a journal, pin it on your fridge or keep in a spreadsheet, whatever works for you. It doesn’t matter where you write it, as long as it’s somewhere you access regularly.

I’ve included the template I use below which you can download for free. I’ve printed mine out and it will be going on the wall above my desk. But don’t let this mean that it’s set in stone. Things change in business so I review my plan every month to check not only my progress, but also adapt it if necessary.

Download free template

If you interested in the other personal development resources coming over the next few months, drop your email in the signup box at the bottom of the page and I’ll make sure to let you know when they’re live.

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How to write a personal development plan that works in 4 easy steps

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