Individual Development Plan: Create Yours in 5 Easy Steps

Last Updated on June 15, 2022 by Milton Campbell

What is an Individual Development Plan?

An individual development plan or IDP is a tool used by people to advance their personal and professional skills. It is used to map out your future and guide you in achieving your goals. It allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses, furthering your career development and reaching your career development goals.

IDPs enhance your development by keeping you focused and on the right path toward achieving the development to reach your personal and professional goals. Instead of not knowing what your next step will be, the plan keeps you moving forward.

Who Are They For?

Everyone can benefit from an IDP. If you are a manager, business owner, or a person starting in the corporate chain, you will grow with the right plan. This is your plan to go from where you are to where you want to be.

What is Personal Growth?

Personal growth is a process of becoming more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as what motivates you. It’s about learning to become the best version of yourself, both in terms of your personal life and your professional life.

The key to personal growth is learning to recognize when there are things that need changing in your life and then taking steps to change those things. You can’t expect yourself to grow if you don’t take steps toward making it happen!

When you’re working on personal growth, it’s important to have a plan in place. This is where an individual development plan comes into play. It can help you stay focused, keep track of your progress, and know when it’s time to make changes, enhancing your overal personal growth.

Steps For Writing an Individual Development Plan

Step 1: Access Your Goals

Image of the word goals for the first step in the individual development plan.

Goals are the foundation of an effective personal development plan. List out your long-term career goals and/or any other personal goals. These goals should focus on the next 3-5 years or more in some cases. This will be what guides the rest of the plan. 

For this, you should be using the SMART goal format. That means your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

For example, you may have a goal to be a nurse. The SMART goal may look something like “I will be a nurse working for a hospital in 6 years.”

Career Goals Examples

Below are some example career goals for inspiration.

  • Complete all the required training courses to acquire a leadership role in my organization in a year.
  • Perform excellent on the tasks given to me at work. To put myself in a position to ask for a raise in the next 3 months.
  • Take an internship in the career I want to pursue in the next 6 months. To build the experience I need for my dream job.
  • Fix my LinkedIn profile within 3 weeks to give me the best shot at finding a new career.
  • Make at least 4 new professional connections in my field in the next 2 weeks to build my network.
  • Rewrite and rework processes to increase efficiency in my shop in the next 2 months.

Personal Development Goals Examples

Here are some examples of personal development goals.

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  • Take a course to improve my time management skills in the next 3 months.
  • Take 10 minutes each day to meditate and reflect on the day.
  • Have a conversation with at least 1 new person each day for the next 3 weeks to build my communication skills.
  • Read at least 20 minutes each day to improve my personal growth.

Step 2: Identify Skills and Education Required

Make a list of the skills and education that will make you successful in your path. 

If your goal is to be a nurse, what skills and education do you need? You know you need the formal education required to be a nurse, but many other skills lead to success. For instance, a good nurse is compassionate, good with other people, and is also a good communicator.

Step 3: Evaluate Yourself

In this step, you need to take a good look at your current knowledge and skills. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Match these up with the skills and knowledge required for your goals. List development opportunities related to your goals and your needs.

Back to our nursing example, you may reflect and realize you are compassionate but may not be the best communicator. This tells you that work needs to be done in the communication area. This will be one of the items on this person’s development plan.

Step 4: The Road Map

Image of a roadmap.

In this step, you create an action plan to lead you to your long-term goals. Create your short (within a year) and mid-term (1-3 years) goals. Again, you want to use the SMART goal format to ensure these have a time frame and are achievable. 

All your short and mid-term goals should get you to your long-term goal. For example, if one of your weaknesses is communication. You may make a goal of taking an improv class within the next year to improve your skills.

Once you’ve identified your action items to reach your long-term goal, reorder them in chronological order of when you will start them. This will act as your individual development plan checklist or roadmap.

Step 5: Monitor Your Progress

The final step is to monitor your progress. You want to look over and reevaluate your development plan frequently. This will ensure you are on track with your plan and remind you of your goals.

Once you start down a path you may find other items or skills that you need to reach your goal. That is fine as long as they get added to your personal development plan.

Continuous self-assessment and improvement are crucial to an effective individual development plan. 

Individual Development Plan Template

  1. Goals: what you want to accomplish.
  2. Objectives: how you’re going to achieve your goals.
  3. Strategies: what you’ll do to achieve your objectives (the steps).
  4. Actions: specific things you will do or say that will lead to accomplishing the strategy steps (the details).

Tips for Success

Set the Deadline

Gif image of an animated clock.

Giving yourself a set amount of time to complete your goals is crucial. Without a deadline, many of us will procrastinate. Especially if they are tasks that we don’t enjoy.

A timeline is also helpful in monitoring your progress. For example, you may have given yourself 2 years to get certain tasks done. But you were able to knock them out in 1 year. This tells you that you are ahead of your timeline.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Remember why you are doing the things you are doing. Look for every opportunity to remind yourself of your long-term goals. 

A vision board is a great way to do this. Vision boards are simple and effective ways to visually represent your goals and vision of your future. All you need to do is put some pictures that represent your long-term goals on a board. Then post the board somewhere that you see often.

Be Realistic

As with any goal, they need to be realistic and achievable. Set your goals high but not impossible. If you choose impossible goals, you are setting yourself up for failure from the start.

Track Your Progress

Progress leads to more progress. When you see how far you’ve come, it motivates you to keep going. Without tracking it you may not realize the progress you are making. 

Journaling is a great way to keep track of your progress. But if you don’t want to invest that much effort, a simple checklist or timeline will work just fine.

Understand Your Vision

Your vision of your future and where you want to be is the heart of an individual development plan. The plan will be your guide to get there. If you choose the wrong vision, it will likely lead to disappointment and the chances of failing are high. With the right vision, success and happiness will come a lot easier.

A great way to determine your vision is by making a personal vision statement. Investing a short amount of time will provide massive benefits. It is a 1 to 2 sentence statement describing your vision of where you want yourself to be in the future.

Focus on What You Control

Image of a person shackled at the feet.

All of us have times when we get caught up worrying about things outside our control. This can be self-destructive and demotivating. That’s why we need to catch ourselves when this happens and focus on what we can control. 

For example, we can’t control whether our boss gives us a promotion at work. What we can control is our quality of work, building our leadership skills, and ensuring the company benefits from having us. 

Focusing on the things you can control, will save you a lot of headaches and make you a more beneficial asset.

Seek Feedback

Feedback is a wonderful resource. Most people are happy to give you their opinion and advice. Some are more useful than others but don’t pass up an opportunity to discuss your personal development goals with others. Family, peers, and people that have done it before are all great resources. 

These people will provide an outside perspective on what you are trying to do. They may also provide information and guidance on areas that you missed in your IDP. This information can be invaluable or at least eye-opening.

Practice Flexibility and Resilience

Things rarely go like we planned them in real life. That’s where flexibility and resilience are key. 

To the best extent possible, you need to be ready for setbacks and minimize their effects. When setbacks do happen, realize it’s just a hurdle to jump over and not the end of the race. Focus on finding a solution and a way forward instead of feeling sorry for yourself.

I know this is easier said than done but with the right mindset, you will achieve great things.

Final Thoughts

An IDP can be useful for both your personal and professional growth. Now that you know how to make your own, it’s time to get to work and unlock more of your true potential. 

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