Personal Development Plan: 5 Steps To Mastery (Example + Template)

Personal Development Plan

If you’re reading this, you probably learn a lot about personal development. An article here, a YouTube video there, and an Instagram quote to top it all off.

The internet has opened up doors to loads of information for good. But it has a downside.

With more access to information, comes great responsibility.

There are two types of learning.

Passive learning: Lazy learning that keeps you mediocre.

Active learning: Intentional learning based on a learning plan (or a personal development plan) that sets you apart and makes you a master.

High achievers know the value of active learning, so they learn on purpose. If you don’t treat learning as a project, you may get the feeling that you’re improving but it may be a delusion.

What Is A Personal Development Plan

A personal development plan (PDP) is a learning and action plan for self-improvement, career growth or a learning project. The goal of a personal development plan is to grow in the desired area(s) as a result of learning, taking action, tracking and making improvements.

People have different names for it: self development plan, personal growth plan, personal action plan, etc. No matter what you call it, It has the following 5 steps that run in a cycle continuously or until you achieve the desired outcome or when you meet the deadline:

Step 1: Identify The Areas Or Skills You Want To Improve
Step 2: Define The Desired Outcome And Goals
Step 3: Gather Your Materials And Resources
Step 4: Write A Clear Plan Of Action
Step 5: Take Action And Make Adjustments

It may seem tedious to create such a plan, but trust me, this system will make your efforts much more efficient and effective than learning without a plan.

So before we dive in, let’s understand the importance of personal development planning.

Why You Need A Personal Development Plan

So why should you even care about having a personal development plan?

A Personal development plan is important because of multiple reasons:

1. They create a spark

When you treat learning like a project. Instead of wandering aimlessly on the internet, you go on a mission to improve yourself in the desired area.

2. They turn life into a game

You perform, fail, keep score, beat the enemies of personal growth and most importantly level up!

3. They force you to grow

They push you to get out of your comfort zone because you purposely design a plan of action. And I’m sure you’ve heard it before — growth lies outside of your comfort zone.

4. They help you prioritize

So often, we get distracted because of the busyness of life and useless agendas on social media or on the news. But a personal development plan helps you prioritize what’s important in life.

5. They get you focused

When you have dedicated time for learning and practicing, your brain becomes primed to be focused. It not only trains your willpower, but it helps you invest your hours wisely.

6. They give you a structure

When life is chaotic, everything seems like a chore because you feel overwhelmed. But with a structure, you take everyday decision-making out of the equation so your mind can use that energy to spend on learning.

7. They help you practice deliberately

When you self-evaluate or get feedback from peers or a coach, you improve much faster and move in the right direction as you learn intentionally.

So let’s stop messing around and get started, shall we? Grab your personal development plan template below and go along!

How To Create A Personal Development Plan

Step 1: How To Identify The Areas Or Skills You Want To Improve

The first step is to get clear about what you want to improve and why it’s important to you. Personal development is a huge topic, and it’s easy to get lost in the age of information. 

You may believe you’re always making improvements, but you may be wrong. So the best thing you can do is pick some area(s) and prioritize them more than other areas before you shift your focus on to another area. Let’s look at some examples of personal development ideas for personal planning:

Health

  • Building and following a workout plan
  • Learning about nutrition and changing your diet
  • Engaging in meditation and mindfulness

Wealth

  • Increasing your income
  • Increasing your savings
  • Learning to invest

Relationships

  • Making new friends or meeting new people
  • Getting a girlfriend or a boyfriend
  • Improving the relationships you already have

Career

Personal

  • Increasing self-awareness and emotional intelligence
  • Improving or learning a new skill, a subject or a hobby
  • Changing your habits or mindset

Under these categories and sub-categories, there are multiple possibilities of the areas you can improve. But only you’d be the best judge for deciding which area(s) you should focus on first. Once you’ve picked 1–5 areas, our next step is to define clear goals.

Step 2: How To Define The Desired Outcome And Goals

This is the fun part. It’s time to be super specific about your goals or outcome. You can be specific about the level of competence or you could aim to reach a milestone within a time frame.

Let’s say you want to improve your writing skills. You can set a goal to score a grade at college, or you may want to write 15,000 words in a month for practicing the skill. Both these outcomes have a clear target, and that’s ultimately what you want.

Have a good reason to pursue your goals to add a driving force that will keep pushing you towards your goals even when it gets boring or challenging.

Lastly, you want to rate yourself or ask a mentor or a peer to rate you on a scale of 10 (0 being absolutely worst and 10 being super awesome) before you start. Pair that with a comment on where you’re at and where you want to be at the end of the deadline or next milestone. The self-assessment (or assessment by a peer or a coach) will give you a way to track your progress as the weeks and months go by.

If you’re learning for a casual purpose, rating yourself is good enough. But when you’re aiming for mastery, it’s better to get a mentor who can give you instant feedback for deliberate practice and faster growth.

You can also divide your skill into sub-skills to get a better overview of the things you need to pay attention to. Like for writing, you can evaluate yourself on clarity, reasoning, grammar, and whatever other criteria you want to improve upon.

Step 3: How To Gather Your Materials And Resources

Now, it’s time to hoard the resources and learning materials to have a single focus. It’s easy to get distracted with so many options to learn from today. That’s why this step is crucial so you don’t get lost in the sea of information later.

Based on your desired outcome, you want to have a learning or practicing path for yourself. The path can be self-made, recommended by people or designed by an expert. 

For our writing example, if your goal is to simply practice for certain days, you may not need an additional resource unless you’re following a practice path. But if you want to learn more, you can buy a few recommended books on writing or get a writing course.

It’s important to remember that collecting more learning material is not always better. You want to find the quality resources that you can follow through completely while still leaving room for practice. It’s great when a curriculum includes a practice path along with a learning path.

Don’t spend too much energy on deciding which material to purchase or follow. You don’t want decision fatigue before even starting your personal development plan. Instead of overthinking, pick something good enough and start

Related: Life Designer’s Toolkit — Top Learning Tools

Step 4: How To Write A Personal Development Plan (A Clear Plan Of Action)

Writing a plan of action is simple. First, you need to give your learning plan a deadline or a milestone and write what you want to accomplish within that time frame.

Keeping soft deadlines trains your self-discipline and provides urgency for growth and learning. They also teach you how to prioritize when you treat your own soft deadlines as hard deadlines.

Next, you’d break the goal down into a week-by-week and day-by-day basis.

For example, if your writing goal is to write 8 articles in 30 days, it will break down to 2 articles in 7 days and about 1/3rd of an article every day. But if you wanted to learn how to write better and decided to pick up a few books, your goals break down could look like: 

Monthly: Finish reading 2 books on writing by the end of the month 

Weekly: Read 70 pages per week (if those 2 books combined are 300 pages) 

Daily: Read 10 pages per day

For many skills, it’s best to combine learning and practicing so maybe you can set a goal to dedicate 30 minutes to practicing and 30 minutes to learning every day. And to go even further, you can schedule a specific time for when you’ll do it every day (e.g. 7 am after waking up, 8:30 pm after dinner, etc.).

You can be flexible with your approach, but it’s good to have a clear plan to follow so you don’t have to use your decision-making power just to get started. Most people completely skip this part and end up getting mediocre results because they don’t have a system in place. But you won’t be one of them now.

Step 5: How To Take Action And Make Adjustments

The last step is the real deal. Nothing matters unless you take consistent action even when you don’t feel like it, when you get off track, when it seems hard, when it gets boring, and so on.

Expect these things to happen and be determined from the start. When you notice yourself slacking off or not following your plan, dig deeper into the real problem to fix it.

Are you finding it too difficult? If so, adjust the difficulty of your practice.

Are you finding it overwhelmingly stressful? Adjust your goal and reduce your daily commitment to something you can sustain.

Are you finding it boring? Ramp up the difficulty or add your own mix to it to make it more interesting.

Are you feeling less motivated? Bring motivation triggers or use rewards and punishment.

Are you unable to focus while learning? Then upgrade your mental state.

When you’re stuck and you need help, you can either get a habit coach or a mentor who will force you to grow in the area you want to grow in.

The last important thing to do in this step is to measure your progress because what gets measured gets managed.

Do you remember you rated yourself or asked someone to rate you on a scale of 0 to 10 in step 2? When you reach a milestone or a deadline, do it again and reflect on how you’ve improved. This will not only make you feel proud of yourself, but you’ll notice the effectiveness of your plan.

Personal Development Planning Example

Okay, so now you have the step-by-step process of how to turn vague information or practice into a solid learning and growth plan. So let’s take an example to make it more concrete.

Let’s say you wanted to improve your social skills to improve your personal and professional relationships (like I did a few months ago). You could create a 4-week personal development plan for that like so:

Desired outcome: I want to improve my people skills to connect with people and form deeper connections with them. For that, I want to meet at least 30 new people and form 3 close relationships with like-minded people in the next 4 weeks.

Rating: I rate myself 6/10 for social skills and by the end of this action plan, I want to be at 8 (based on my own judgment).

Learning Material: Since the plan has a short timeline, you pick up one book, How To Talk To Anyone (you may also pick up several book summaries or get a course on it).

Plan of action: Since the book has 336 pages, you decide to read 12 pages a day. Along with that, you commit to meeting 1–2 people per day on average for practice. The rapid implementation method is best for improving in a short time.

You also schedule reading time at 7 am and decide your go-to places to meet people in advance to reduce friction and decision-making. Your list includes — the gym, parks, bars, clubs, sports, yoga classes, coffee shops, meetups, shopping malls, volunteering events, professional events, seminars, and organizing social events where you ask people to invite new people.

Taking action and making adjustments: As you take action on your plan, you realize it’s harder than you expected. It’s pushing you out of your comfort zone. So you adjust the difficulty and make it easier for yourself in the first 2 weeks. You then and add more difficulty later in week 3 and 4 as you get used to meeting new people.

After 4 weeks, you rate yourself on social skills (again), reflect on your improvements and how you will use this life skill moving forward.

Conclusion

The key to thriving as a high-achiever is to never stop learning. Becoming a lifelong learner is a must if you want to accomplish more in life. But lifelong learning is not enough. To gain an unfair advantage, you must be strategic about how you learn and grow.

Being scattered and disorganized won’t set you apart. With a personal development plan, you’ll take your attention in your hands and direct it towards what is important now.

So grab your personal development plan template below and begin your learning journey now.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you buy something through my link, I get a commission. Thanks for your support!

Prakhar Verma

Prakhar is the creator of Design Epic Life. His mission is to help ambitious people design their epic lives so more people can truly live before they die. Sign up to the DesignEpicLife newsletter to stay up to date!
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