Entrepreneurs tend to focus the bulk of their energy on developing and tracking a business plan. This is essential to success for any startup. But when you focus on long term goals for the business, it's easy to forget about something just as important - developing an action plan for yourself personally.  

Following a path of self-improvement can help a business owner build new skills and improve old ones. When you focus on goal setting and learning more about yourself, it can have positive effects on your business as well. By cultivating healthy personal habits like exercise and stress reduction, or work habits like time management or continuing education, your business grows as well in measurable ways. 

It's time to create a personal development plan that will help your company's bottom line. Here are five steps to try:

1. Identify characteristics and values that reflect personal and professional goals.

When starting this personal growth process, don't obsess over what successful people do or try to tackle every element of your personal or professional life. I start by brainstorming and writing down any goals or values I have for myself. Remember, set goals about you as an individual, not profit margins or conversion rates. 

Once you have a wide range of big goals listed, select no more than two for this step. You can select one personal goal and one related to the business, or two personal goals or values. These development needs should provide plenty of work over the course of a quarter or a year, depending on the size of your goal or the level of focus you can commit.

Here are some examples of personal development goals that entrepreneurs and other professionals I know incorporated into their lives.

  • The designer who found an online course on programming and design to help him expand his skills. He convinced his CEO to pay for the course. He used the skills he learned to benefit the startup. 
  • The CEO who reads five business books each quarter. She wants to gain knowledge and make better decisions that she can apply to her company and life. She wants better time management and improved employee relationships.
  • The executive coach who keeps a daily journal to review and reflect on actions and decisions.
  • My meditation practice and yoga routine helps me increase focus, productivity, and patience.

2. Assess what needs to improve with the help of a professional.

If you're having trouble identifying what you should change, or just personal development planning in general, you may want to consider speaking with a mentor, coach, or advisor. Not only will they be able to see things from a more objective standpoint, but they also can leverage their experience and knowledge to guide you on your individual development plan. 

Getting this advice before creating the personal development plan can facilitate writing and launching it. Without an external perspective, you may struggle to go in the right direction.

3. Draft a written personal development plan.

An entrepreneur is their business. Therefore, craft a personal development plan with the same approach and dedication that goes into a traditional business plan or career development. Include short term goals, timeframes, tactics, resources, end-goals, and metrics to test success. 

This provides an ideal framework for filling in specific aspects about you that align with your personal development goals. Each personal development goal should have a purpose, tactics, SWOT analysis, desired outcome, and set of resources. It should have a realistic timeline for achievement based on the entrepreneur's goals, schedule and responsibilities.

4. Execute each personal development goal.

Think of each goal like a marketing campaign or a work project. It may help motivate you more. While your actual plan provides a clear roadmap for the personal development journey, writing down the purpose of the goal, message, benefits, and results can be inspirational. 

It's the difference between following a recipe and tasting it along the way to invoke the senses. This approach can create an emotional connection to the goal, which can add an extra layer of motivation. Creating a campaign around each goal also is an opportunity to make it fun rather than seem like work.

5. Review your personal development plan on a quarterly basis.

Review your goals, values and achievements on a quarterly basis. It's enough time to see changes, but not so long that you lose sight of these goals. Take stock of how you and your business have changed, as well as places where you'd still like to make improvements.

Record the findings for reflection. The process, strategic plan, and campaign can also inform the approach for the next personal development goal on the list.

Personal and professional development can both be a lifelong process. Trying to reach your full potential in both areas simultaneously could become a defining competitive advantage that's well worth the investment.