Practical Steps to Personal Development

See also: Personal Development Top Tips

There are a number of things that are vital in supporting your personal development, including developing a vision of where you want to be, and planning how you are going to get there.

But alongside these, it is also helpful to take some simple but practical steps to change how you organise your life.

These changes, outlined on this page, will help to give you more time and space to manage your personal development activities. Without that, you may struggle to find the time and energy to improve your skills or study.

Practical steps can be taken to enhance personal development, including:

  • Organising your time.
  • Producing a personal CV or résumé.
  • Overcoming barriers to learning a new skill.

Organising Your Time

If you are considering making changes in your life, finding additional time often poses a problem.

It could be that the changes you are thinking of making are to ensure you have extra time to:

  • Spend with your family.
  • Spend on things you enjoy doing.
  • Devote to your work.
  • Devote to your education.

Whatever the reason, looking at how you spend your time will encourage you to think of ways your time could be managed more effectively.

Our pages: Time Management and Minimising Distractions give further information about how you may manage your time more effectively.

These include:

  • Learning to say 'no' to jobs or requests that you feel are not your responsibility (and see our pages on Assertiveness for more about this).
  • Learning to delegate – sharing jobs can be fun and will leave you with more time. See our page, Delegation Skills.
  • Making a ’to do’ list of tasks you need to do each day/week, ticking off tasks that you complete.
  • Giving up things you do not really want or need to do.
  • Identifying your high and low times of the day. Everyone has a time when he/she feels more or less energetic. Try to do the most demanding tasks when you have the greatest energy as you will do them more quickly, thereby releasing more time to spend on other things.

For many people their personal development will involve setting goals. These might be to change behaviour — such as looking at time management — learning new skills or advancing their career.

Many employers are looking for the same sorts of skills. These include good communication skills, the ability to work as part of a team and the ability to learn – these are often termed ‘Soft Skills’ and are the sorts of skills that SkillsYouNeed writes about. Beyond that the skills required will depend on the particular job.

See our pages: Employability Skills and Study Skills for more.


Personal Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resumé

Drawing up a CV or résumé is not only necessary when applying for jobs, it can also be very useful for your own benefit and will help you appraise the skills you have gained through education, training, employment, voluntary work, leisure and other activities.

In turn, a personal CV, will help to highlight skills that you should work on developing.

There are numerous different ways of setting out and presenting a CV or résumé for the purpose of applying for a job – you should be very careful to include all relevant information and make sure your document is well written and well presented. There is more about this on our page: Preparing a CV or Resumé.

However, for the purpose of a personal CV or resume, for your own reference and as a way to access your skills, a simple format is all that is needed.

Quick guide to preparing your personal CV or resumé:


  1. Split your document with headings and include Education, Training, Past Experience, Skills etc.
  2. Use dates to establish when each item on your personal résumé was achieved, i.e. when did you graduate, when did you learn a particular skill.
  3. Keep your personal CV or résumé concise: the aim is to list your skills and abilities, not write an essay about them.

Many skills that you have learnt and developed either through work, education or your personal life can be successfully applied to other areas of your life. For example, good listening skills are important in many aspects of life. Such skills are known as ‘Transferable Skills’, a term which is usually associated with a skill set that can be easily transferred from one job to another.

Analysing your existing skills will help you to identify both skills and personal qualities that could be used in another field. Further examples of transferable skills are IT skills, interpersonal skills, communication (verbal and written), organisational skills, literacy and numeracy, problem-solving and understanding the needs of others or emotional intelligence.

See our page: Transferable Skills for more information. You may also find our page on Identifying Areas for Improvement is useful.

Overcoming Barriers to Learning a New Skill

Learning a new skill will broaden the opportunities open to you, at the same time as empowering you as an individual.

There are many things that prevent people from learning new skills, but these barriers may be overcome with some thought. These might include:

Lack of Confidence or Self-Esteem:

This is one of the greatest obstacles facing many individuals. However, if this is a problem, ask yourself if there is anyone who would support and help you to take the first steps towards learning a new skill. Often, once the first move is made then the greatest hurdle is overcome. Confidence increases as you develop new skills.

See our pages: Building Confidence and Improving Self-Esteem for more.

Economic Situation:

You may see your financial situation as a barrier to developing new skills, but this need not be the case.

The internet has lots of free pages and tools and resources that can help you develop specific skills, browse our pages for a comprehensive guide.

There may be courses offered in local schools, colleges or universities which are free or offered at a reduced rate for people on a low income. Distance-learning courses allow you to study at home, which can help to reduce the cost of learning. There may also be trust funds or charities that offer grants for people developing new skills in your area. It is even possible to learn a new skill with the aid of books from the local library.

Voluntary work can also provide an excellent opportunity for learning and developing new skills, as can being a member of a local group or society.

Family Commitments:

If you have family commitments that prevent you from having the time to learn a new skill, it may be possible for you to enlist the help of a friend or family member to give you a few free hours each week. Colleges and universities offering vocational training courses may also have free or subsidised crèche places.

Lack of Time:

See our pages: Time Management and Minimising Distractions and consider how you could reorganise your time to fit in the development of a new skill.

Barriers or Excuses?


Many of these barriers may be more excuses than fundamental blockages. If you are using any of these as reasons for avoiding development, it may be worth looking deeper to see if there are reasons for your thinking, perhaps deeply-held values that may be in conflict with personal development.

You may find our page on Dilts’ Logical Levels helpful here.


The first step is often the hardest…

Barriers to personal development are often more in the mind than anywhere else.

The first step — whether it is signing up for a course, getting some books from the library, or finding a website that can help — is often the hardest. As you take that first step, remember that the process is described as ‘lifelong’ for a reason: you are always learning, it is only the level of formality that changes.

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