How to Write a Personal Development Plan for 2016 – and Beyond

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If you haven’t heard of a personal development plan before, then bend a knee as this is important. This form of self-evaluation is used from universities to blue chip organisations – not to mention by the most self-starting, eager and driven people.

We could all do with a little self-improvement from time to time – so this year, invest in YOU with a PDP.

What Is it?

A personal development plan is a procedure where you reflect on yourself and your past achievements and plan for the future. It’s used to map self-development and career or academic progression. The method allows you to take time to contemplate on any successes, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities you might have. It’s a pretty cool process all round which, if used properly, helps you with motivation, confidence, clarity of direction and efficiency.

Why Is it Important?

Taken as a human resources ‘must do’ which you visit once a year as part of a review process at uni or at work isn’t the way to approach your PDP. The modern working and learning environment is changing at a rate which we have never experienced before. If you don’t develop you simply will be left behind. New learning is imperative to everyday life and if we don’t approach this learning in a structured way we most likely won’t get the most out of our time.

Tips for How to Create a Great PDP

The SMART criteria is a great place to start - to write a good personal development plan you need to focus on making sure it is:

  • Specific – target a specific area in your life that you want to improve
  • Measurable – specify how you want to measure progress
  • Assignable – which development milestone is progressing which life goal?
  • Realistic – sets goals that can realistically be achieved
  • Time-related – specify when you want to accomplish the goal
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s called a ‘personal’ development plan it’s only about you looking inwards on yourself as an individual. The best PDPs include how the person will make a positive impact on their environment around them as well as themselves.

    It must be continuous, visited regularly, updated and amended, this could be weekly, bimonthly, and monthly – whatever works for you. Just don’t let it sit on your notebook or hard drive for a year without engagement. Use it to state self-reflections, be curious about possible new learnings, get feedback, be realistic and don’t get bogged down.

    A good personal development plan should be quickly compiled and updated. This is something you should spend an hour a month on: do it on the train, in bed, at the end of a training session, with friends, waiting for an appointment, anytime that’s easily used, basically.

    Here’s a quick infographic to see the main necessary elements:

    how to write pdp infographic


    The actual physical structures of PDPs vary quite a lot and you might change your format – or your goals and objectives for growth and improvement – throughout your development to suit your life stage. However, the important thing is you get what you need from it in a way that’s suited to you – here are some examples.


    By giving yourself the time and resources to develop you will see the benefits in your studies, career and general wellbeing. Yes some people are self-motivated enough to do a PDP in their head and develop it, but others – most, in fact – need to dedicate some time and organisation towards it. A little bit of effort goes a long way.

    Ultimately once you’ve become accustomed to working to a PDP you’ll be putting yourself in a position to achieve that job you’re after, that health objective, that university place, or whatever other personal growth objectives you might have.

    Found our guide to how to write a personal development plan useful? Check out a few of our top courses for self-development.