Advice on creating an effective Personal Development Plan

Advice from the desk of Managing Director Martin Hutchins.

No matter how old, experienced, wise you are, or even what stage of your career you are at, to achieve all that that wish for both on a personal and professional level, planning for your future is central to your success. As Anatole France, the famous French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature back in 1921 once quoted “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

Those who are successful whether in business, sport or for personal aspirations all identify what they wish to achieve, believe they can realise their goals and formulate a plan so they know how they are going to achieve them and by when.

Whilst you may already have a few goals, desires, or aspirations, they can often be a bit woolly, lacking definition or a strategy on how to go about moving forward. So, you may be asking “How do I translate my ideas into a clear plan of action?” This is when your own individual ‘Personal Development Plan’ (PDP) is ideal.

What is a Personal Development Plan?

A PDP is a structured process that reflects on your current learning and performance which is then developed into a plan for your future personal, educational and career development. By undertaking your own PDP, you will naturally consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and enable you to create a plan that identifies how best to meet your development needs through planned formal and informal activities.

Benefits of PDP

Once you have gone through the process you will probably find that the PDP benefits you in more ways than you may expect both in your professional life and your personal life such as having clearer ideas about the kind of life and work you want, greater confidence and a more positive attitude in the skills, qualities and attributes you bring to your position and the choices you make and be in a better position to compete for jobs.

What a PDP covers

A PDP focuses and develops four key areas of your development:

1. Where are you now?

You start by assessing your current situation by considering:

  • What are you good at?
  • What do you need to work on?
  • What help you may need?
  • What might stop you?

2. Where do you want to be?

The next stage of the plan is to have a vision of where you are going in the future, your aspirations and goals, such as the life you want to lead as well as the levels of personal investment you are prepared and able to make. When doing this you should:

  • know what drives your goals
  • be honest with yourself and your capabilities
  • define milestones along the way
  • set short, medium and long term objectives

3. How will you get there?

Setting goals is not enough on its own; in addition you should set yourself a development plan focusing on:

  • the actions needed to achieve these goals
  • the success criteria by which to tell whether you have achieved your goals
  • any necessary resources required e.g. time, finances
  • feasible timescales to achieve the objectives

4. How well did you do?

Upon reflection, often reality turns out to be different from your initial expectations and helps you to decide whether the activities met your expectations and requirements as planned. Personal development is on-going and changing so you need to keep reviewing and updating your goals, vision and plan by reflecting on what you have achieved and thought about.


A personal development plan is all well and good in principle, but to really make the most of it you must whole heartedly embrace both yours and the PDP’s potential, as it will only be as useful as the amount of effort and dedication you put into it.

If you still need a little help creating your PDP then we want to help you. You can download our free template which will help you in achieving your personal and professional aspirations.