How Can I Use the PDCA Method to Achieve My Goals?

PDCA is a four-step system used in businesses for product and process management. It is increasingly used as a model for encouraging critical thinking, continuous learning, and problem-solving.

With the use of a personal PDCA cycle, we can make use of this management system to create a structured workflow for ourselves and improve our productivity.

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What is Personal PDCA?

PDCA includes four key steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Adjust. These four steps are closely connected and each step is an important cornerstone for attaining your goals.

Personal PDCA includes four key steps: Plan, Do, Check and Adjust.

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What are the Four Steps of Personal PDCA?

Now that you are aware of the four key steps of a Personal PDCA cycle, let’s look at the actions required in each step.

Stage 1: Plan

Identify problem

Before making your plan, you should first identify the problems you have faced. This will help you identify your area for improvement and the things you need to work on.

Set a realistic goal

Before starting your workflow, you need to be clear with your end goal. This will be the key which your work will be focusing on.

Your goal should be as clear and as specific as possible. For a personal goal, the time frame should be around 1 to 3 months.

Convert your goal into a key performance indicator (KPI)

To make your goal specific and to help you devise an effective plan, using a key performance indicator will help you set specific measurable values for your objectives.

You should, therefore, quantify your actions and intended results when setting your goal.

Devise a plan

You have to first analyze your goal before devising a plan. This includes asking yourself questions like:

  • (1) what are the factors that may affect your goal; and
  • (2) what are the things that need to be completed to attain your goal?

These are the parameters for devising your plan. They will help you:

  • (1) work out the stages and phases required in your plan; and
  • (2) monitor the progress when you are implementing your plan.

Also, you should be prepared and devise a backup plan in case things do not work out.

Make your plan visible

Making your goal and plan visible can help with your implementation. This can be done by making notes in your notebook regarding your plan, using habit-tracking apps like Momentum, Habitica, Productive Habit Tracker, and Streaks, or sticking your plan on your desk.

Stage 2: Do

Implement the plan

Implement the plan that you have previously devised as described in the first stage.

When implementing your plan, you should identify the small tasks that you need to complete every day and prioritize your tasks.

Track your progress

While implementing your plan, you should record the process by taking note of:

  • Tasks completed;
  • Any problems faced when implementing your plan; and
  • Any factors that positively/negatively affected your plan.

Stage 3: Check

Assess the outcome

At this point, your plan implementation should have come to an end. You will now enter a phase of inspection and analysis.

It would help if you asked the following questions:

  • What is the outcome of your work?
  • Have you reached your goal?
  • What is your progress?
  • What are the reasons that result in your success/failure in implementing your plan/reaching your goal?

Analyze your plan

Upon reviewing the outcome of your plan, you should then consider:

  • Whether your plan was feasible;
  • Whether you can stick to your plan;
  • How you could have improved or adjusted your plan to maximize your output;
  • How you could minimize the negative influence of external factors.

Questions we need to ask at the "Check" stage in personal PDCA model.

Stage 4: Act / Adjust

Adjust your goal

Adjusting your goal includes three steps: “stop”, “change” and “add”.


After reviewing your plan, if you think that your plan has failed/is doomed to fail and you have to give up your ultimate goal, this will end the PDCA cycle.


Instead of terminating your plan, you may instead adjust your plan by changing the key performance indicator or deadline/time frame of your end goal. For example, you can lower the grade aimed for an exam, or you can consider taking the exam next year instead of this year.


If you have faced external circumstances or factors when implementing your plan, you may have to add a new PDCA cycle to face the new challenges.

Three actions to think about when adjusting your goals under the personal PDCA

Improvement measures

Based on your analysis, you should come up with suggestions for improvement and improve your plan for your next steps.

Prevention mechanisms

In the last stage, you should have identified any external factors that have affected your plan. You should consider if any strategies can prevent the interruption of such external factors in your future implementation.

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The Characteristics of Personal PDCA

#1: Continuous cycle

Personal PDCA is not just a single loop, but a continuous cycle. Once a cycle ends, the adjustment step will lead to another cycle to resolve the problems arising from the previous cycle.

#2: Improvement process

Your PDCA should be a process of improvement, with each cycle reaching a higher level compared to your previous one.

#3: Progress review tool

In addition to a workflow mechanism, the Personal PDCA cycle acts as an important review tool to help you assess your result of each action, each stage, and each cycle.

In other words, each stage should also include a PDCA cycle within it and you should constantly bear the mindset of reviewing your progress and outcome in all your actions.

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What is Personal PDCA all about?

To sum up, PDCA, just like our Personal Growth Model,  is all about continuous self-evaluation and improvement. It encourages self-discipline and repeated assessment of one’s goals, progress, and results. With regular evaluation, one can identify areas for improvement, make adjustments, and develop new measures accordingly to improve oneself, hence reaching our ultimate goals.

A mindmap demonstrating each stage of a personal PDCA cycle

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