What Is Personal Planning? (With Tips for Creating a Plan)

Updated October 17, 2022

Many workplaces value employees who take the initiative, look to the future, and make short- and long-term plans. Personal planning is about setting professional goals and outlining the steps needed to achieve them. This type of planning can help you advance your career by allowing you to examine your career goals, set the timeline in which you want to complete them, and learn what motivates you to complete your goals. In this article, we define personal planning, explore its benefits, and provide tips on how to create a successful plan.

What is personal planning?

Personal planning involves thinking about the future, deciding what you want to achieve, and considering steps you can take to reach your goals. Setting goals is a major part of personal planning. When you prepare a personal plan, you can start by taking a moment for self-reflection. Examine what your strengths and weaknesses are. It's helpful to write them down so that you can refer to them later. Some workplaces may request that you do a personal development plan. If this is the case, you can keep your self-reflection focused on professional topics.

After passing through the self-reflection stage of your personal planning, you can begin developing goals using the SMART method. This acronym is a five-part framework to help you set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, if you want to get a promotion at work in the next year, make sure you set goals that can help you prepare for the role and advance to this position. You can also update your personal plan as time passes. Once you have completed one goal, you can update your plan and set a new goal for yourself, which can help you stay motivated.

Related: What Are Sample Goals for Employees? (And How to Set Them)

Benefits of personal planning

Listed below are several benefits of creating a personal development plan for your career:

Boosts motivation

Motivation is an enormous factor in success and personal growth. It can help you overcome challenges, inspire you to continue working hard, and ultimately help you achieve your career goals. Creating a personal development plan can make you feel more motivated, as it streamlines your goals and focuses your energy on specific paths or tasks. By prioritizing the most important goal, you can become more motivated to work toward it. A personal development plan can also be used to monitor progress, which can improve motivation as well.

Increases chance of promotion

Managers look for a few characteristics when deciding who to promote. They may consider an employee's work ethic, initiative, motivation to succeed, and many other job-specific categories. Creating a personal plan illustrates many of these qualities. It shows that you want to put in the work to succeed and that you take initiative to figure out how to succeed. It also demonstrates strong organizational skills and proves that you want to improve yourself and your role within the company.

Encourages a healthy mental well-being

Creating a personal plan helps you develop a path to completing your goals. This can lead to healthier mental well-being. Completing goals can improve confidence and self-esteem. Having clearly defined goals and plans can improve your organizational skills and increase your chances of success. This can all lead to a more positive attitude and increased happiness.

Helps to identify strengths and weaknesses

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses is an important step in the process of creating a personal development plan, so it can be an excellent time to perform self-reflection. Knowing what areas you can improve upon can help you create more specific and relevant goals. This can also lead to more satisfaction when you complete your goals, because you've learned and developed new skills.

Allows you to track your progress

Keeping track of how you're progressing is very important in reaching your goals. Making and continually updating a personal plan is a great way to track your progress. It allows you to focus on your current goals while adjusting the path you've set to complete them. Tracking your progress with a personal plan can also help you stay motivated.

Gives you a sense of purpose

Having a sense of purpose is an important part of maintaining a good work–life balance. Creating an actionable personal development plan can help give you a sense of purpose. It focuses your energy and gives you something to work toward. Having a strong sense of purpose may help improve multiple areas of your life.

Offers you the chance to learn new skills

Having a personal development plan can help encourage learning, because expanding your knowledge and skills may contribute to achieving your goals. Personal planning allows you to assess the resources you have and how you can best apply them to learning new skills. This can make you more employable and provide more professional and rewarding challenges in your life.


  • How to Improve Your Learning Skills

  • How to Create a Career Plan in Nine Steps

  • Interview Question: "What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?"

Tips for successful personal planning

Here are some tips to help you succeed when making your personal development plan:

Identify your goals

When setting your personal planning goals, make sure they are as clearly defined as possible. It's best to identify a larger overall goal and some smaller goals that support you in working toward the larger goal. Breaking down the plan into smaller, more manageable goals can increase your chances of success. Identifying your goals may help you narrow your focus and create a more realistic and achievable plan.

Keep expectations realistic

Since most plans take time and effort to be successful, it's essential to be sure your goals are realistic. Having realistic expectations can help you maintain momentum and motivation. To keep yourself on track, you can regularly assess whether the goals you have set for yourself are realistic. It may also be helpful to get feedback from others to help determine whether your expectations for what you can accomplish are reasonable.

Establish a reasonable timeline

When developing a personal plan, include a timeline for completing your plan. This helps to prevent procrastination and encourages you to keep working on your goals. Having a specific end date in mind can also motivate you to follow the steps of your plan and stay on track. As with goals, it is important to keep your timeline realistic. For example, you aren't likely to be promoted within a month, so make a plan that gets you a promotion within one year instead.

Related: 53 Long-Term Goals Examples (With Definition and Tips)

Prioritize your plan

Making your personal development plan a priority is a crucial component of being successful. Setting aside time each day to work toward your goal can be very helpful. This fosters progress and affirms how important your personal development is to you.

Spot obstacles and opportunities

When you create your personal development plan, it's helpful to look at both potential obstacles and opportunities in reaching your goals. Try to think of ways you could overcome potential obstacles if they do arise. If you know of opportunities that can help you complete your goals, incorporate them into the plan from the beginning.

Related: 6 Workplace Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Use your support system

A support system is a great resource for putting a personal plan into action. A support system can include an accountability partner. This can be one person or multiple people who check in with you to see if you're making progress. Having someone hold you accountable for your plan can help increase your motivation, improve your chances of success, and reduce the likelihood of you quitting. A support system can also provide helpful insight and feedback on your progress. Having a different perspective can reveal new challenges and provide further motivation.

Related: How to Find an Accountability Partner to Reach Your Goals

Measure your progress

When setting up your personal planning program, it's important to make sure your goals are measurable. This is important for a few reasons. First, it allows you to see if you might want to make any changes to your plan. If you aren't making as much progress as you like, it may be time to change your approach. Being able to measure your progress is also a great way to stay motivated. Having a tangible measurement of progress helps show you that your hard work is creating positive results.

Related articles

Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

Explore more articles

  • PR vs. Marketing (Similarities, Differences, and Job List)
  • What Is Customer Acquisition? (Definition and Tips)
  • What is Microeconomics? (With 11 Key Concepts and Terms)
  • Types of Business Attire for Men (With Professional Tips)
  • How to Take a Business Profile Picture (With Tips and Types)
  • Understanding and Using a Risk Breakdown Structure
  • 5 Building Construction Types Defined (With Career Options)
  • 10 Reporting Tools (With Tips for Effective Data Reporting)
  • How To Write an Email To Reschedule a Meeting (With Tips)
  • How To Problem-Solve in the Workplace
  • 7 Ways to Communicate Effectively (Plus Benefits and Tips)
  • 9 Ways to Gain Business Knowledge (With Business Skills)