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Pursue your dreams! Goals for product designers


Illustration by Mimi

I’m a firm believer that with hard work, determination and some planning, you are capable of so much more than you think. However, to make your dreams come true, you will need to focus on your goals and keep making progress constantly. In this article I will explain why you should set goals and how they can help you maximise your potential.

Why you need goals at the first place

Goals are a great way to determine a clear direction of where we want to go and how we want to spend our time and energy. We are much more likely to get where we want to be if we have a written plan of actions and take regular steps towards achieving what we want to achieve. It does not mean that you won’t accomplish great things without setting up goals but they will definitely help you stay focused.

Ask yourself “What do I really want?” without any limitations or barricades. Following questions could help you determinate what you really want:

  • Why do I want this outcome?
  • What do you gain by getting it?
  • What do I lose by getting it?
  • What if I did nothing?
  • What if I succeed?

How to set goals

Sometimes it can be harder to set goals than to achieve them, at least from my experience. Here are 4 steps that helped me to set clear, actionable goals:

  • Create vision
  • Develop a plan
  • ️ Track your progress
  • Keep it relevant

In this article I will focus on S.M.A.R.T. goals but keep in mind that it actually doesn’t matter if your vision is transformed into S.M.A.R.T. goals or OKRs or if you just keep it in your head. Find whatever works best for you and keep going, keep progressing, learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes along the way.

There are numerous tools that could help you set up goals and track them. Personally I really like Weekdone but depending on your working environment and tools you are already using you might consider Asana, Trello or Leapsome.

Examples of personal development goals for designers

Your personal development goals will highly depend on what you want to be or where you want to be at a certain point in the future. Here I will highlight a few goals that I believe most of us could find very useful for further development:

  • Become a (more) effective communicator
  • Become more effective at work
  • Learn something new
  • Grow your network

If you are working in a team, you will probably consider a few extra goals for design team to make the team stronger or more efficient.

Become a (more) effective communicator

The ability to communicate effectively with stakeholders, users, colleges or clients and advocate for your work is essential. From my perspective it is one of the most important skills, no matter what industry you work in.

Here are 3 more specific goals about this topic:

  • Become a confident presenter
  • Become a better listener
  • Learn to accept criticism

Become a confident presenter

Before deciding on what actions to take to become a confident presenter, it is very important to understand the nature of your fear. You will find many books on this topic. I found very good Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun and Dale Carnegie’s The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking. The key to become a more confident speaker is to practice as much as possible. At the beginning it could help if you present it together with someone or make notes or script for a talk. Schedule and lead brainstorming sessions, host workshops or apply as a speaker to different meetups or webinars.

Become a better listener

Improving your listening skills will help you truly understand what people are saying in conversations and meetings. It is also particularly useful when conducting user interviews. The best way to practice is to pay close attention to what the other person is saying, listen without judging or jumping to conclusions. Asking relevant questions can show that you’ve been listening and help clarify what has been said.

Some of the questions that can help:

  • “So, what you are saying is…”
  • “Did you mean that…”
  • “I’m not sure if I understood what you were saying about…”
  • “How did that make you feel?”
  • “What did you do next?”
  • “What do you think about…”

Next time you conduct user interviews, ask open-ended and clarifying questions and do not interrupt the interviewer. It will also help if you write a short summary at the end.

Learn to accept criticism

Having an ability to accept constructive criticism is something that most of us need to improve on. Without criticism, we hardly grow and become the person we want to become. When receiving a criticism ask for specific examples, try to understand whether this is an isolated case and look for concrete solutions.

Become more effective at work

Your ability to organise yourself and effectively and efficiently use your time, energy or mental capacity has a major impact on your success. Good organisation can also improve your concentration and ability to learn. To manage your time better start making a schedule, create a to-do list, minimise interruptions and learn to delegate.

To improve your projects or files organisation and to make sure that your files or design system is always up-to-date use versioning tools for designers. I could highly recommend Abstract.

Learn something new

To keep up with the evolving industry you need to allocate some time to learn new things. There is always something new to learn, ways to polish your skills, experiment with design styles or work on side projects. Browse through Behance or Dribbble to get inspiration and courage to try something new. Muzli is also a great source of inspiration and it will keep you up-to-date.

Grow your network

Having a great idea is not enough and without sharing it with others no one will ever hear about it. If you have not been actively networking, make an effort to connect with new people. Exchanging ideas and talking about projects or tools with other designers will shape you into a better designer. Start joining webinars, meetups, design festivals or join different slack design communities. Take advantage of digital networking and start growing your network today.

I would highly recommend joining Slack design communities such as Designer Hangout, The Designership or Team Sketch and start sharing ideas with thousands of other designers. You could also consider becoming a mentor or finding a coach to support your development as a designer. If you are considering becoming or finding a mentor, I would recommend checking out Mentoring club.

Key learnings

  • Ask yourself “What do I really want?” without any limitations or barricades.
  • Once you have a vision of what you want to be or where you want to be at a certain point in the future, create a plan and decide what actions are required to reach your dreams. Remember it doesn’t matter if they are written as S.M.A.R.T. goals or OKRs or if you just have vision and plan in your head. Find whatever works best for you and keep going, keep progressing, learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes along the way.  
  • From my perspective soft skills such as communicational or organisational skills are one of the most important skills, no matter what industry you work in. Therefore, setting up one of the goals to become a better communicator or more efficient at work could have a major impact on your career progress.
  • To keep up with the evolving industry you need to allocate some time to learn new things.
  • Your network is your net worth, so keep growing your network as exchanging ideas with others will shape you into a better designer.

References


Pursue your dreams! Goals for product designers was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.