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How to Write a Personal Development Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide with Templates & Examples

Welcome.

So you want to know how to write a Personal Development Plan (or PDP as it is sometimes abbreviated to)?

In this article I will:

  • Explain what a Personal Development Plan is and its purpose
  • Give you a step-by-step guide to creating your own awesome Personal Development Plan
  • Provide you with templates you can use for your own Personal Development Plan
  • Provide you with examples of completed Personal Development Plans to give you some ideas

NOTE: Although this website is specifically geared towards the UK Health and Social Care sector, the information, templates and examples contained herein may be used or adapted for use for any country or industry.

So, what is a Personal Development Plan?

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin (supposedly!)

Planning is an essential ingredient to achievement and success. The quote above (which is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin although there is little evidence to corroborate it) basically means that without a plan, you are doomed to failure. Although this is not strictly always the case, people that have a plan are much more likely to succeed than those that don’t. And their journey will be easier, too.

Think about some of the things you’ve planned for in your life.

Maybe a holiday, a house move or even just a day out.

You probably did some planning beforehand, right?

For the holiday you may have booked your hotel room and plane tickets and then planned how you would get from the airport to your hotel. For the house move, you might have arranged when the removal truck will arrive and got everything packed up into boxes ready. For the day trip, you may have planned your route and prepared a picnic the night before.

Now think about what could have happened if you didn’t plan ahead.

What if you landed at your holiday destination in the early hours only to find that the next train between airport and your hotel was at 8am the following morning? Or the removal truck for your house move turns up but you haven’t packed your stuff ready to be loaded onto it? Or you go on your day trip and find the food prices extortionate and wish you’d made a picnic?

Plans stop us drifting aimlessly through life. They give us direction and goals to strive towards.

A Personal Development Plan is a written document that gives us a roadmap for our own personal growth and self-improvement. It is used to identify the skills or traits that you would like to develop and provides a clear path from getting where you are now to where you want to be. Not only does it organise your actions but it also organises your thinking as well as giving you confidence and motivation in moving forward.

Personal Development Plan vs Professional Development Plan

Technically, the difference between a Personal Development Plan and a Professional Development Plan is that the former is a plan for your own personal growth and the latter is a plan for your development in your work and career.

However, many organisations (especially in the health and social care sector) use the term Personal Development Plan to refer to formal plans for your growth and development within your work role.

No matter which term you use, your PDP should be relevant to the context in which you are writing it. For example, a PDP that has a goal of quitting your job would be fine for your own personal plan but probably not a good idea for a plan that you are writing at work and your manager will see!

The information and resources in this article can be used for both your own Personal Development Plan and your Professional Development Plan for work. They can also be used by managers to support employees with their personal development.

5-Step Guide to Writing a Personal Development Plan

Creating a great Personal Development Plan consists of these 5 simple steps:

  1. Analyse – where are you now? what are your strengths? what are your weaknesses?
  2. Identify Primary Goal – what do you want to achieve? what do you want to change? SMART goals
  3. Plan – how do you get from where you are now to where you want to be? write it down
  4. Implement – follow your plan
  5. Review – regularly review and update your plan

This is not a one-off process and should be performed regularly so that you can check your progress, add new goals and tick off completed goals.

1. Analyse

Self-analysis is the starting point to creating a Personal Development Plan.

It involves taking a look at yourself and being honest and realistic about your strengths and weaknesses and the aspects of your life or work that you want to improve.

Some questions you may ask are:

  • where am I at the moment?
  • where would I like to be in 3 months? 6 months? a year?
  • what have I achieved so far this year?
  • what do I find difficult?
  • what do I find easy?
  • what are some of the things that I am happy/unhappy with in my life/work?

This step is primarily a thinking process, to give you an overall picture of your current situation. You don’t really need to go into specifics – that will be done in the next step – the important thing here is to spend a bit of time thinking about yourself, your needs and your desires and identifying general areas of your life or work that you would like to change.

It is useful to document your thoughts here, both to give yourself clarity and to refer back to in the future to see how far you have come. The best way I have found to do this is to begin your Personal Development Plan with a personal statement, which is basically just a paragraph or two about where you are currently, what you want to achieve, your current skills and any obstacles that may get in your way.

I’ve provided two examples of personal statements below and will be referring back to them throughout the rest of the article.

Example 1 is a personal development plan for JOHN, an individual that is unhappy in their current career in corporate IT and would like start their own website design business.

Example 2 is a personal development plan for a Support Worker called RANDEEP, who works with individuals with learning disabilities. She would like to increase her leadership skills and earn a promotion to Team Leader.

PERSONAL STATEMENT (Example 1 – John)
I have worked in IT for large organisations for over 20 years and, although it pays very well, it just doesn’t give me any fulfillment any more. A lot of the work is tedious, the hours are long and I always have too many managers to report to.

I recently designed a website for a friend and very much enjoyed the process. I think I would like to do this full time as it gives me the opportunity to express myself creatively, which I feel has been suppressed in my IT career. I would also like to work for myself so that I can choose my own hours (and my own clients). It would be a drop in salary at first but I have plenty of money to fall back on until the business takes off.

I have the technical skills to design websites but do not currently have a lot of business acumen. I also only have one website in my design portfolio and no new clients in the pipeline.

PERSONAL STATEMENT (Example 2 – Randeep)
I have been working as a Support Worker for two years and it is the best job I have ever had. I love every day!

I have been told that I am very good with the clients and manage my day-to-day tasks with ease. I would like to take the next step and become a Team Leader. I do not have any experience in management and leadership but I am eager to learn and work hard to achieve this.

I always find this step to be the most difficult in personal development planning so take your time and think very carefully.

2. Identify Primary Goal

Having completed your analysis, you should have a good general idea of where you are at the moment and where you want to be moving forward.

You will probably already have a very good idea of what your primary goal is and should write it in big and colourful letters on your Personal Development Plan. The reason for making it stand out is because this will be your main focus and should be the first thing you see when you pick up your PDP.

You should also set a specific and realistic timeframe for WHEN you want to achieve this goal by because, without a deadline, you are in danger of putting it off forever.

Let’s take a look at the primary goals in our examples:

MY PRIMARY GOAL (Example 1 – John)
SET UP MY OWN WEB DESIGN AGENCY AND QUIT MY JOB WITHIN 6 MONTHS

MY PRIMARY GOAL (Example 2 – Randeep)
Get promoted to a team leader or other supervisory role within 2 years

Although not necessary, you may also want to pick out one or two secondary goals that affect other aspects of your life. It is not recommended to have more than three goals altogether as this may cause you to become overwhelmed and lose focus. The fewer the better. Some examples of secondary goals are learning to skydive or take on some volunteer work to give back to your community.

Your secondary goals should be in totally different areas of your life to your primary goal so that they do not crossover into action plan objectives which will be covered in the next step. For example, Randeep may wish to participate in leadership training but this would be an objective for her primary goal rather than a goal in itself.

If you are completing a PDP with your manager as part of your work role, you will probably want to skip secondary goals altogether.

In our examples, Randeep does not have any secondary but John does:

MY SECONDARY GOALS (Example 1 – John)
Learn to speak some basic German for my trip to Hamburg with the lads in 3 months.

3. Plan

Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of your plan.

You’ve set your goals and know what you want to achieve but haven’t fleshed out how to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).

This is where your action plan comes into play.

An action plan is a list of objectives and milestones that you need to achieve to reach your goals. For example, if your primary goal is learn to swim within 2 months, you may have objectives of:

  • go to swimming lessons once a week for 8 weeks
  • go to the local pool to practice once a week for 8 weeks
  • swim 1 width of the local pool within 1 month
  • swim 1 length of the local pool within 2 months

You can also set milestones, which can be used to break larger objectives into smaller tasks. So, using the swimming example above you might want to set 8 milestones – one for each of the swimming lessons. Remember, objectives and milestones (like goals) should be realistic, attainable and have a timeframe attached.

The action plan that I like to use has four headers; goals, objectives, milestones and deadline.

Let’s take a look at the action plans for the individuals in our examples:

MY ACTION PLAN (Example 1 – John)

GoalObjectiveMilestoneDeadline
SET UP MY OWN WEB DESIGN AGENCY AND QUIT MY JOB WITHIN 6 MONTHSSpeak to accountant friend about setting up book-keeping/accounts and tax returnAccounts system in place1 month
Create business plan and ensure my idea is financially viable - I don't mind a pay cut but it needs to be profitable!Business plan created1 month
Online and offline research about setting up a business in the UKLegal entity is chosen (sole trader, limited company etc)3 months
Business is established6 months
Aim to get two new clients per month from the second month to develop a portfolio of work, to do part time whilst still working in my IT jobGot first client2 months
Got second client2 months
Got fourth client3 months
Got tenth client6 months
Learn to speak some basic German for my trip to Hamburg with the lads in 3 months.Complete a 3 month online German course I've seen3 months
Listen to German radio whenever I can3 months
Watch 6 German-language films on NetflixFirst film watched1 month
Second film watched1 month
Third film watched2 months
Fourth film watched2 months
Fifth film watched3 months
Sixth film watched3 months

MY ACTION PLAN (Example 2 – Randeep)

GoalObjectiveMilestoneDeadline
Get promoted to a team leader or other supervisory role within 2 yearsComplete my Level 3 Diploma in Adult Care12 mths
Ask manager if I can be involved with tasks that senior staff usually do such as writing support plans and risk assessments1 month
Express my interest to become a Team Leader with my manager1 month
Read 4 books about manager and leadershipRead 1st book3 months
Read 2nd book6 months
Read 3rd book9 months
Read 4th book12 months

4. Implement

Now you know where you are at the moment, where you want to get to and how get there.

The penultimate step is to put your plan into action and start working towards your goals, objectives and milestones.

5. Review

After completing your Personal Development Plan, it is vital that you keep referring back to it to review your progress, maintain your focus and keep it up to date.

I try to review my Personal Development Plan at least once a month and preferably more frequently. Even if it is to just have a quick look to remind yourself what you should be working on. You should decide for yourself how often you will review your PDP when you first create it and ensure your write it down on the plan itself. It is also advisable to make a note in your diary of the date when your next review is or set a reminder on your phone.

A lot of people (myself included) find that the things they spend the most time on are the things that are at the forefront of their mind. The grind of daily life can often get in the way of long-term plans because it is what is happening right now in front of your eyes. By regularly reading through your Personal Development Plan, you keep it fresh in your memory and are more likely to set aside time to work towards your goals.

You should also regularly update your PDP to record your progress.

To do this I use a review page that I append to the PDP that has a space for the date and any comments that I wish to make.

I also tick off each goal, objective and milestone on the action plan with a green highlighter plan when they are complete or cross them out with a red highlighter plan if they are no longer necessary. Then write the details of how it was completed or why it was removed on the review sheet.

Let’s take one last look at our examples. John and Randeep are one month into their PDP and have filled in their first review form:

PDP 1-MONTHLY REVIEW (Example 1 – John)
1. I got my first website design client but he was an absolute nightmare! He kept changing his mind about what he wanted and didn’t pay on time. In the end I had to terminate the agreement – I hope all clients aren’t like him!

2. I completed my business plan and it all looks financially viable.

3. My friend has offered to set me up with an accounting system and do my tax return at a good rate.

4. I have done a little research online and think I would set up as a ‘sole trader’ if I decide to continue with working for myself.

5. I’ve started my online German course and am really enjoying it.

6. I have also watched a couple of German speaking films although I had to switch to subtitles as I had no idea what they were saying!

7. I have added the objective to draw up a contract agreement that limits website design revisions and ensure I get 50% of my fee up front before taking on any more clients to prevent the issues I had with my first client.

PDP 1-MONTHLY REVIEW (Example 2 – Randeep)
I spoke to my manager and she has given me the opportunity to take on extra responsibility and learn more senior tasks.

She said that she thinks I would make a great Team Leader and also offered to mentor me in management as well as giving me some suggestions for books to read. I have already started reading my first book.

In addition, my manager has booked me on a short Leadership and Management which I will be starting next month. I have added the completion of this as an objective on my action plan.

I have enrolled on my Level 3 Diploma in Care and completed 2 units, so far.

As you can see, everything is going great for Randeep. A new opportunity to help her towards her goal became available and she incorporated it into her action plan.

John, however, has had an obstacle thrown in his way in the form of an awkward client so he has added an objective to hopefully prevent it happening again. Everything else seems to be on schedule.

A Word of Warning

It is possible to get so hung up on the planning part that you never actually get around to the doing.

This is usually due to one of the following reasons:

  • You never feel like you have finished your plan
  • You feel that your plan is not perfect

It is paramount that you do not get stuck into this way of thinking. A Personal Development Plan is a working document that is constantly reviewed and updated. It will never be finished because it adapts and changes with you, so don’t worry about it being unfinished. Similarly, your plan will never be perfect. There will always be things you never thought of (John in our example didn’t foresee working with a difficult client a possibility until it happened) but you cannot let this stifle you from surging ahead.

Yes, planning is important, but if you do not actually DO anything, you won’t achieve anything either.

My advice: get your plan done quickly and start implementing it. You can always go back and change things as acquire more knowledge.

Personal Development Plan Templates

You can download my own Personal Development Plan templates for free below:

Personal Development Plan Blank Template (docx format)

Personal Development Plan Blank Template (PDF format)

John Personal Development Plan Example

Randeep Personal Development Plan Example

Care Certificate & Diploma

This article is a supporting document for the following Care Certificate and Care Diploma answers:

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