create personal development plan

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
– Mary Oliver

Without even realizing it, the days and years go by so fast. Doesn’t it seem like life is crazy busy all the time?

One way I know to combat this is to create a personal development plan.

A personal development plan is a framework you can use over time and revise as your life changes to create a life you love.

In this post, I outline the basics of how to create a personal development plan that works for you.

I also use Dream Year to create my personal development plan year after year (that’s why I created it!).

If you follow the steps below, you can have more clarity about what you want, live with greater purpose, and have more success and happiness. You can design a life you love. 🙂

So, let’s get started! Up first is understanding why this is even important.


Step 1: Learn why a personal development plan matters

Creating a life plan and setting goals is so important because living a life you love won’t happen by accident.

It happens only by living intentionally. This means designing a life based around your values, hopes, and dreams. Only after you know what you want from your life can you set goals and make it happen.

To create a personal development plan that works for you, I’ll show you how to set visions, goals, weekly action plans, and habits.

Your personal development plan is a tool that enables you to do less of what the outside world wants you to do and more of what you want to do. It’s about saying no to something asked of you because you know that if you say yes, you can’t do what you want most.

When you create a personal development plan, you create a clear path to achieving what you want. This type of clarity allows you to focus. Then, you can prioritize what’s essential and say no to the rest.

The result is greater happiness, contentment, and purpose.

It’s awesome!


Step 2: Set visions

The first part of creating a personal development plan is to create visions. You can read How to Create Life Visions for a more detailed explanation, but the gist is that they’re your “why”.

Your vision includes what you believe in (your core values) and what you want in your future (what you want to be). It’s what you want and it’s the powerful reason why you want it.

The reason you need to set visions is because you need to know what goals to set and in what order of importance you should set them. The only way to do this is to know what you want from your own life. I call this your vision. You can have an overarching vision for your life, and you can have specific visions for each area of your life.

People who go around setting goals and accomplishing them without having a vision are usually unhappy because as soon as a goal is achieved, these people move on to the next goal without having a higher purpose or deeper fulfillment from the goal.

You vision keeps you going when times get tough.

To set visions, look at your overarching life and the 8 life categories.

The 8 life categories are:

  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Finances (money)
  • Career
  • Personal/spiritual development
  • Recreation (fun)
  • Environment (organization)
  • Service (volunteering)

Create a visions document (either digital or handwritten) like this:


  • Life: ________________
  • Health: ________________
  • Relationship: ________________
  • Financial: ________________
  • Career: ________________
  • Personal/spiritual development: ________________
  • Recreation/fun: ________________
  • Environment/organizational: ________________
  • Service/volunteering: ________________

Write out your visions for each area of your life.

Once you have written out your specific visions, you’re ready to move on to setting goals.


Step 3: Set goals

A goal is an achievable aim or target in the future.

To set goals, I recommend using the SMART method. Goals should be:

  • Specific (not vague)
  • Measurable (detailed)
  • Attainable (achievable given where you are now)
  • Realistic (not impossible)
  • Timely (with a definite deadline)

Under the SMART method, goals should be narrowly written, achievable, and have a deadline. You should always write your goals down. Thinking about them is not enough.

I do this daily using the Productivity Planner and Dream Year (I’m obsessed!). Now, it’s time for you to create goals for yourself.

Goals can be long-term goals (over one year) or short-term goals (less than one year). Examples of long-term benchmarks are: 5 years out, 10 years out, and 20 years out. Short-term benchmarks for goals include anything less than 1 year, such as one week or 12 months.

Examples of two bad goals:

  1. Get on track financially this year.
  2. Be more careful with my credit card.

Examples of two good goals:

  1. Create monthly budgets the first of every month for the following month with my husband.
  2. Pay off my credit card every month and stop using it for everything except groceries.

In the bad set of examples, you can see how the goals are vague and do not have deadlines. In the good set of examples, the goals are specific and timely. Both of these goals are written down which is incredibly important, too.

Decide which categories you want to create goals in. You can set goals for as little as one category or as many as all categories. It just depends where you are now and what you want to accomplish in each category.

Keep in mind that the more goals you have at one time, the harder it is to focus on any one goal. It may be more effective for you to focus on 1-4 goals for the first half of the year and the remaining 4 life categories in the second half of the year. Or, if you are only struggling in one area of your life, it may make sense for you to focus on that category for the entire year, setting goals only for that area of your life until it has improved. Use your judgment here.

Only you know where you stand, so create your goals wisely.

Set up your document to look something like this when you’re creating your goals:

Long-term goals (1 year, 5 years, 20+ years)

  • Life: ________________
  • Health: ________________
  • Relationship: ________________
  • Financial: ________________
  • Career: ________________
  • Personal/spiritual development: ________________
  • Recreation/fun: ________________
  • Environment/organizational: ________________
  • Service/volunteering: ________________

Short-term goals (1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months)

  • Life: ________________
  • Health: ________________
  • Relationship: ________________
  • Financial: ________________
  • Career: ________________
  • Personal/spiritual development: ________________
  • Recreation/fun: ________________
  • Environment/organizational: ________________
  • Service/volunteering: ________________

Once you have written out specific long-term and short-term goals using the SMART method, you’re ready to move on to the next step.


Step 4: Create a weekly action plan

Setting goals is fine and dandy, but if you want to achieve them, you need to put a plan in place to make it happen.

To do this, you need to schedule out actions to take on a weekly basis to achieve your goals. If you don’t, other things will steal your time and you won’t achieve your goals.

I do this digitally in a Word doc, and also in my gCalendar, in my Productivity Planner, and in Dream Year.

Create an electronic “weekly action plan” document (e.g.: Word doc).

In your weekly action plan, put the following items:

  1. The date or week you’re planning for
  2. Your visions
  3. Your goals (long-term and short-term)
  4. The actions you will take that week to move you closer to your goals

Here’s what your weekly action should look like:

  • Date: ________________
  • Vision: ________________
  • Long-term goal: ________________
  • Short-term goal: ________________
  • Actions I will take this week:
  1. ________________
  2. ________________
  3. ________________

Create this template for each area you plan to focus on that week. So, if you are focusing on health, money, and service, list out the format above for each category. This way, you keep your visions and goals in front of you every week. By doing this you’ll have much more focus.

Create a weekly action plan every Sunday (or whatever day you prefer during the week).

Schedule time on your calendar to create a new weekly action plan every week. Your weekly action plan will keep you focused on your goals and ensure you prioritize them every week.

The weekly action plan is a framework to help you get done what you need to every week to achieve your goals. Having this should help you prioritize your commitments and enable you to say no to everything else. Saying no is key to achieving your goals.

By completing an action plan every week, you’ll intentionally plan your life and create the habit of “checking-in” on your plans and goals weekly.


Step 5: Implement supportive habits

Beyond the goals and actions you take are the habits that will enable you succeed.

Habits will have a huge impact on your success. Why? Because habits become second nature and make it easy for you to do whatever it is you’re trying to do.

Habits don’t require a lot of motivation. Instead, the right habits put discipline in your life that become second nature.

The more supportive habits you have in place, the less motivation you need to do something.

For example, if you’re in the habit of going to the gym, you go because you’re in the habit of going every day. When you fall out of that habit, it takes a lot of motivation to get back there.

The right habits make accomplishing your goals easier and more likely because you won’t need as much effort to do them. Habits take the decision-making out of the equation. Instead, habits create repetition and lessen the need for willpower.

The right habits will support your goals and your visions. They will help you get from where you are now to where you want to be more effortlessly than anything else.

To create the right habits, decide what habits will help you the most. You can’t wander into the right habits, so I’ve created a few steps that you can use to help you put the best habits in place for your goals and visions.

To create habits that support your visions and goals, do the following steps.

  1. Make a list of new, supportive habits that will help you achieve your goals (roughly 1-3 new habits for each goal). Ask yourself, “what daily actions will help me achieve my goal?” Use your answer to help you come up with a list of supportive habits.
  2. Make a list of the bad habits you currently have that do not support your goals. Ask yourself, “what daily actions are stalling me from reaching my goals?” Make a list and decide to cut these habits out of your life.
  3. Brainstorm how often and for how long each of your new habits will take (e.g.: 20 minutes every morning, 1 hour at night, etc.). Every habit is different, so start small and be as precise as possible when it comes to how long habits will take.
  4. Put your new habits on your calendar, with the time slots that you’ll do them. If you put your habits on your calendar, you’re more likely to do them. Then, look at your calendar daily to make sure you are following through.

When you have narrowed down which habits you want to implement for each category, create a document that looks like this:

  • Life habits: ________________
  • Health habits: ________________
  • Relationship habits: ________________
  • Financial habits: ________________
  • Career habits: ________________
  • Personal/spiritual development habits: ________________
  • Recreation/fun habits: ________________
  • Environment/organizational habits: ________________
  • Service/volunteering habits: ________________

The more supportive habits you have, the more likely you are to achieve your goals because they will be easier to accomplish.


Step 6: The 4 R’s – Reward, Reflect, Revise, & Repeat

Up to this point, you basically learned how to create a framework that will help you to design a life you love (eeek this is so exciting and powerful if you use it!). 🙂

But this framework only works if you do the work. That’s where this final step comes in.

You need to reward yourself for your progress, reflect on how your plan is going, revise your plan as your life changes, and repeat the process over time.

As your life changes, it’s so important to rework your plan. What you thought was a perfectly, well-thought out plan may be totally unreasonable in 1-3 years from now.

As much as you plan, life will throw things at you that you never could’ve planned for. So, use this step to accommodate for that fact.

To create a plan where you reward, reflect, revise, and repeat, do the following steps.

First, get in the habit of rewarding yourself immediately after accomplishing your goals. Even the small wins deserve rewarding. This will give you positive reinforcement and make the process more enjoyment.

Second, put time on your calendar to reflect on how your visions, goals, and habits are going. Do this every so often, maybe after a month or two. Also, do this when you have big life events that can potentially change your visions (e.g.: getting married, having a baby, buying a home, getting a new job, etc.).

When you reflect on your visions, goals, and habits, ask questions like, “Are you more fulfilled?” or “Is your life better?” or “Are you taking massive action and prioritize what you want over what everyone else is telling you to do?” or “Are you getting results?” or “Are you happier?” You get the idea!

These questions will help you understand whether your plan is working for you as your life changes. Always prioritize this step. Without it, you could follow a plan that no longer makes sense for you. That’s why it’s important to take time to think and evaluate your plan.

Third, revise your visions, goals, weekly action plans, and habits based on how you evaluated them in step two. It makes no sense to keep going toward a goal that no longer is what you want. That’s why you need to take the time to reflect and revise. Consider revising your plan every time you have a big life change and once a year.

Finally, repeat this process over time. This action plan is a framework that you should continue to repeat.


A Final Note!

This personal development plan is a framework that can help you design a life you love. I use it and it’s proven to help me sooo much, which is why I wanted to share it with you.

Even if you feel like you don’t have time for it, I say that you can’t afford not to do it if you want to create the life you want for yourself.

And if you liked this post, you may want to check out How To Plan Your Best Year Ever.

By doing the work and revising your plan over time, you can live with greater purpose, have fewer regrets, and ultimately be happier. Yay to that!

For more on designing your dream life, sign up for my free course below!