None of us enters the corporate world without aims and aspirations. But, as John Lennon said, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. We go from day to day with certain priorities, and before we know it days turn into weeks, months turn into years and our personal development plan can be forgotten.

Think about how you handle most important projects, whether they are in your personal or professional life. On the face of it, a major customer project, the rollout of a new IT system, your daughter’s wedding or the holiday of a lifetime with your significant other might not seem to have much in common. But there is no way you would dive into any of these without a firm plan of action.

The extremely quotable entrepreneur Jim Rohn said: “I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.”

Clearly your career is worthy of a similarly structured approach. Here, we will take a look at the key elements that should be included in a personal development plan.

1) Define your goals 

This can be compared to a mission statement. What goals are really important to you? It might be purely career related, or something to improve your personal life like losing some weight or learning a new language. Think big, and come up with 5-10 goals.

2) Prioritize

Of those 5-10 items which one is most important? This will form your focus. Suddenly, from struggling to come up with goals, you now have the opposite problem of narrowing them down to one starting point.

3) Set a deadline 

This is also a balancing act. Whether you are committed to losing three stone or becoming a millionaire, if you simply aim to do it “some time” then it will never happen. If you aim for next month, you are being unrealistic. Defining a reasonable timeframe is the first step towards making it happen.

4) SWOT Analysis 

For every project, you will assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and this is no different. Understanding your personal strengths and weaknesses is not always easy. That’s when those friends and colleagues with a talent for brutal honesty come in handy, so be brave and ask. Just be prepared to take the answers in the right spirit. 

5) Develop new skills 

You won’t achieve anything by just talking about it. What skills or qualities are you currently lacking in order to reach the next stage in your career? It might be anything from an uncertain knowledge of finance to a lack of management experience.

6) Take action

The previous two steps will have presented a fair sized “things to do” list. Narrow it down to 3-5 realistic action items that fit with your timeframe. 

7) Measure progress 

You will achieve nothing if you work blindly. Constantly monitor your progress and assess what is working and what aspects need adjustment

Help is at hand

Your personal development plan is not something you need to tackle on your own. Don’t be afraid to get some expert help in creating a personal development plan and making sure you follow through on it.

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