By Skills

Everyone needs at least two different types of plans. Actually, I think everyone needs three types of life plans. In fact, most individuals should consider having at least a personal development life plan and a professional development life plan. I also like the idea of having a spiritual development plan. But, that’s another story. For the purposes of this article, let’s talk about that personal development LIFE plan. By the way, notice I added the word LIFE to my plan. These plans can be literally life-changing if you can generate appropriate plans and have the determination and stamina to follow them. Let’s tackle the concept of a life plan before we move on.

What is A Life Plan?

Even though these plans are life plans, they can encompass varying lengths of time. For instance, you can have a plan that lasts a month, six months, a year, the next five years, etc. The idea that this is a plan suggests that 1) you plan to get these done and 2) you have A plan of things needing to be done. Did you notice that play on words? Never mind. You have to be an active participant in your life. You no longer have permission to let things happen to you, as you stand casually by, watching your life pass you by.

Should You Create A 5-Year Plan?

This isn’t an opportunity to simply say, I want to achieve
this particular goal by 2025 only. It would be too easy to jot down a few goals,
walk away, and totally forget your objectives. Rather, I want you to consider, first,
writing down that five-year plan for your life. But, don’t stop there. Write
down the little things you can do THIS month to accomplish those goals. If you
want, you can actually do this on a weekly basis. In fact, I prefer to have a
weekly list as well. This is literally a life focused “to-do” list. If you can
use a to-do list to remind you to pick up milk and eggs, why can’t you use one
for the other details of your life?

Sample Life Plan

Let’s say you want to have a bachelor’s degree by 2025, but
you haven’t started a program yet. Well, you can’t begin a program, until you
have applied for admissions, somewhere. So, my degree aspiration would be on my
5-year plan, potentially. Applying for admission would be on my list of things
to do for the month. But, wait. What if you haven’t made up your mind on a
major, yet? That is definitely going to go on my list of items to complete for
the week. Ideally, by crossing off harmless
little weekly tasks, you reach your monthly goals. And, it follows that by
crossing off monthly items, you eventually reach the longer goals that you want
to accomplish.

Personal versus Professional Life Plan

I do believe I mentioned earlier, that I like life plans for
both my personal and professional life. Both are important. Again, let’s get
into an example. I play the piano. I am not a wonderful piano player. But I am
a piano player. I am NOT a professional piano player. So, my goals of improving
these skills are included on my personal plan. In my real, not nearly as
exciting life, I am also a college professor. In fact, I am an Associate Professor
of Computer Information Systems. My job requires that I make every effort to
stay current in my field, learn new skills, etc. I put those on my professional
life plan. During my summers, I ramp up my activity on both plans.

Personal Development Life Plan Example

I mentioned that I have improving my piano skills on my
personal plan. That is literally a long-term, but continuous plan. It is totally
abstract, also. However, I actually do know when I improve in this area. My
husband recognizes the songs I’m playing and can sing along. He has a pretty
nice voice. But I often break down this long-term abstract goal into shorter
monthly and weekly goals. For a skill like learning to play an instrument,
coming up with weekly goals, isn’t difficult at all. I have weekly practice sessions
that lead to improving a skill I want to better at by the end of the month. Those
weekly practice sessions literally include a list of things I complete and
cross out after I do them. Completed faithfully, weekly lists turn into monthly
goal accomplishments.

What Is A Life Plan?

To be totally honest with you, I have to make a bit of a confession. In order for this personal development plan to work for my personality type (the classically lazy and uninspired), I have to somewhat “trick” myself into following my own plans. I try NOT to think of my 5-year or even my monthly goals. I focus ENTIRELY on each tiny, unintimidating, weekly or even daily goal. To be brutally honest, for the piano, I have even daily goals. Mentally, the physical act of crossing out each item is motivating. However, considering the entire month or especially the longer-term goal is often so daunting, I can easily be intimidated out of pursuing it. It’s simply too big. So, I think only that I need to practice this harmless little scale perfectly a certain number of times today.

Where Did I Get This Personal Development Routine?

On my daily lists of things, I need to accomplish, my individual list items have to be REALLY small and doable. In addition, they have to lead, if finished, to completion of my monthly goals. But my goals work best if I can temporarily put my long term goal out of my mind. As I said, this works for me. Why does this work for me? I have no idea.

This Was Not My Idea

This concept is a spin-off from something I picked up from a couple of my earlier supervisors. As an undergraduate, I spent my summer working as a Girl Scout Camp Counselor. My camp director sympathized with my utter lack of ability to get my girls to clean their tents. Yes, you heard that right. Clean their tents. That is another story. Her admonishment. Don’t tell them to clean the tent. Say What? Tell them to 1) pick up their socks; 2) make the bed; etc. Clearly, I was not helping them pursue their personal development goals.

Tear Up The Book

Believe it or not, this actually worked. For instance, it worked again when as a graduate student I was required to help adult students pursue their GED. We were supposed to give our students these huge books to study. But my supervisor would literally tear the chapters out of the book and hand those to our students in smaller chunks. According to her logic, for some students, the huge book was too intimidating. True enough, when faced with the small stacks of torn out pages, they didn’t seem nearly as challenging. More importantly, they seemed accomplishable. It worked like a charm. In fact, it worked almost 30 years ago, with my girl scouts. It worked with our GED students. It has also worked with my own children over the years. College students prefer that you don’t tear out pages from their very expensive textbooks. It kills the resell value.

Will My Personal Development Plan Work For You?

There is legitimate research as to why this works. Feel free to hunt that down on your own time. Just kidding. Well, then again, not really. This works for me. I believe the ability to develop goals and plans for achieving them is an absolutely necessary skill set. I find it just as important as getting better at public speaking or learning to say no when necessary. I’m not the only person that finds it important. In fact, Tony Robbins, a renowned motivational speaker says that goal setting is the secret to a compelling future. And who doesn’t believe Tony Robbins? Right? Let me know if this works for you. Or, let me know if you have found an even better way to stay on top of your goals.

This content was originally published here.

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