It’s that time of year where many people start to doubt they’ll succeed with their New Year’s resolutions and soon they will give up altogether. They might convince themselves it’s not the right time, or it’s too hard, or it’s just not a priority at the moment. The gym attendance numbers will fall, the healthy eating will erode and after all, dry January was only meant for January.
I’ve read so many articles describing which habits successful people have and they’re a great source of inspiration for me. But, I find myself wondering how those great habits become habitual successful behaviours and what can we do to develop new habits into our daily lives?
So here are 10 tips for making personal development plans effective that we use as part of our executive coaching and management training programmes:
- The business leader sets the tone for successful personal development – if the leader has a personal development focus, the team are more likely to follow suit, so what kind of example are you and your senior management team setting?
- Have one or two big development goals by all means, but plan small, regular activities into your usual routines and identify measures that will tell you whether you’re on track. And on this point, plan for 30, 60 or 90 days at a time. That assists re-direction throughout the year to check your plans will deliver your overall personal/business focus
- Be clear about why you’re focusing on developing something, as well as what and how you’ll achieve it. Do you really need to study so you can be promoted? Or would you be more committed to a pragmatic, experiential route? Find your ‘why’ and you’re more likely to commit to your choice. You could also look at how you choose to spend your time when there’s an option about learning something and that might guide your decisions
- After you’ve set your goals and activities, think about what is the best time of day for you to learn? Morning, evening, lunchtime, afternoon? Create small windows of time in the diary for reading, exploring. We have met many people who treat their development activity as the thing to do at the end of the day and then struggle to do the reading or concentrate when they’re tired
- Find your balance. Rather than the image of balancing scales, we use the analogy of the graphic equaliser. Dependent on what you’re listening to, you’ll need to adjust the volume, base, treble etc.
- Create the criteria for your equaliser using opposing pairs of behaviours. Work – Rest, Self – Others, Social – Solitude, Health – Indulgence, Spend – Invest, Planned – Evolving, then work out what you need more or less of to be successful – this way you can look at how making incremental changes affects other parts of your work and personal life. For example, if you want to be healthier, do you need to plan more (meals, exercise) or allow more time for evolution in your approach (schedule less, create space)?
- Identify a support network. It might be an online group, a networking organisation or simply someone you trust to update regularly. Base it on your preferences. Maybe you could use a mentor or coach to help you?
- Look at the tensions between competing parts of your life. People often set off on a development plan with gusto only to realise that it conflicts with the family or wider business schedule. If you’re really going to focus on your development, you’ll need to have some time aside to focus on it
- Take time to reflect on your progress. Use a journal to capture your understanding, or set some time aside each week or month to notice what’s working and what might be getting in your way. It’s a journey, so accept that there will be times when you have made progress and times when you haven’t. By reflecting you can notice patterns and then plan to overcome obstacles that you couldn’t have identified at the start.
- Understand how you learn best. Do you prefer testing things out, visual information or written? Time on your own or in a group? We believe that whilst learning should be stretching, it also needs to be enjoyable, so work with effective methods for you, and build these into your plans.
New habits and skills are both learned and refined over time. For some reason, we often expect to have it all in place, no blips, almost immediately!
We use the above principles and more in our learning and development programmes, working on a range of personal development programmes for individuals and teams in Berkshire and the Thames Valley. We find through the plan – do – review process we can make incremental changes that lead to larger benefits for business and people performance.
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