How to Write a Simple, Effective Personal or Professional Development Plan

How to Write a Simple, Effective Personal or Professional Development Plan


4 min read

So let's say you want to make some development progress, either personally or to help a team member, but you don't know how to go about it?

Someone may have suggested you should make a personal or professional development plan. It's a good idea, but how do we do it?

There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this - let's go into it a little and find out more.

What is a Development Plan?

Simply put, it's a review of your aptitude followed by creating a focused set of objectives that if achieved - will help you reach the next level of development.

Personal or Professional Development?


When making an assessment of any person (including yourself), you can sort that person's aptitude into three main areas - Knowledge, Skills or Behaviour (KSBs).

Personal Development - Focuses on making improvements to an individual's behaviour

Professional Development- Aims to improve a learner's skills and knowledge.

Now you know the difference, you know what type of PDP (Personal/Professional Development Plan) you aim to make. The approach will be slightly different depending on what type of PDP you're making, but the overall process is the same.

Writing Your Strategy

Strategy can be an imposing word, but it's quite simple and anyone can do it, follow these 3 Steps:

  1. Ask: Where am I now?
  2. Ask: Where do I want to be?
  3. Ask: How do I get there?

This requires a little self-reflection and honesty, it's also an opportunity to develop your self-awareness.

Consider talking to a colleague who knows you well or a mentor or leader who can objectively look at you and your work.

Good feedback can be a godsend, make sure you receive it well and show appreciation, even if it's something tough to accept.

Where am I now?


Make an honest assessment of where you are in your career or the status of your skills. What are you able to do? What have you achieved so far? What would people say about you if you asked them to describe you? How do you usually solve problems?

This step should describe your KSBs as they are right now.

Where do I want to be?

Think about your goal, do you want to gain a promotion? To diversify your skills? To pivot to a new career entirely?

Or maybe you're writing a more personal plan and decide you want to wipe out behaviour you don't like? You'd like to procrastinate less and achieve more. Or work on your listening skills.

Whatever it is you decide, be clear about what you want to achieve, so you can drive your energies in a focused, useful way towards it.

How do I get there?

This is where the plan starts to really take shape. You will need to find tools to help you seek a path forward.

Maybe you would benefit from coaching or from gaining help from a mentor.

Or if it's a skill you need to gain, is there a training course, Bootcamp or guide you can follow?

This part is all about doing your research and being resourceful, so reach out and see what you can find.

It's not a plan unless you write it down


Document your learning, write down everything that you've found and organise it into a written plan.

Flow from a description of where you are to an aim of where you want to be - finally detail how you're going to get there.

Here's a template if you're not 100% sure.

Accountability, Consistency & Regular Review

Track your progress, maybe you plan to reflect from time to time on your progress, or if you're at work - ask for feedback and see if the changes have been noticed.

It may be helpful to set checkpoints or milestones at key points in your development, then recognise them as you pass them by.


Being consistent - making a little progress, step by step, every day - will do you much more good than trying to cram it in weeks apart.

Write down your reflections in a journal or learning tracker so you can see the progress unfold.

Better yet - share them on social media like Twitter or GitHub, this helps to hold yourself accountable since you're putting your progress out into the world.

Don't forget about the plan, try to be consistent and make small steps towards your goal. When you're done, start the whole process again and aim for the next level!

That's quite a simple but effective approach, the best plans are simple (remember that when you're writing your own!)

There are other more complex systems like the GROW model or CPD - Continuous Personal Development.

Good luck with your planning!

Achieve your goals!