As a product designer, you should have yearly goals. Living life without a goal is the same thing as traveling to an unknown destination without a GPS or any form of guide; while you might miraculously get to your destination, there’s no doubt that you’ll waste time and miss your route a number of times. Goals give us what to focus on. The product design industry is a dynamic one, with a lot of new technologies, trends, and ways of doing things — you need goals to stay abreast of all of these.

When it comes to making goals, there are many areas you need to consider. While you will need to improve your skills and learn new technologies, you also have to go out there and meet new people. At Plant, we encourage our product designers to come up with achievable goals for the year. Below are some of the goals you should set for yourself this year — 2020.

Network More with People

If you have not been actively networking, this year should be the year you network. Cease giving yourself excuses and make an effort to meet new people. Just in case you do not know, your network can shape you into a better product designer. Not only in the aspect of design but also in communication. This can also open up ways for you. One will think just having a design skill is OK, but the truth is, you need much more than just a design skill. You need to know how to network and communicate.

If you are a freelance designer, this becomes even more important to you. While Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and their likes can create opportunities for you, if you are really serious with your business, you need to sell yourself out to people, and only through networking can you achieve that.

Making Use of State of the Art Tools

You need to review your tools and make sure they are optimized for the kind of work you are doing. Gone are the days when you have to stick to a particular tool because it is the only available option. The market now is proliferated with a good number of tools you can use. As a designer, if you are not making use of Sketch, you should make it part of your goal to start using it. It is one of the best software you can use for design work on Mac.

If you have not been making use of a version control system, it is high time you start making use of one. For the uninitiated, a version control system is a software that helps you keep versions of your work so that if you need to revert changes back to an earlier version, it is easy to do so. For designers, I will recommend you make use of Plant, a version control system that works best with Sketch.

Learn Common Mistakes

Except you are a rocky in product design, you need to learn about the common mistakes made during product design and learn how to avoid them. One thing about some mistakes is that they are subtle, silly, and easily get overlooked. If care is not taken, they can mess up your work. Interestingly, most of these mistakes are avoidable. Learn from experts and those more experienced than you. By doing this, you improve over time, and you work more efficiently.

However, while this is trying to gear you toward perfection, you need to know that in most cases, you cannot be perfect as a beginner — perfection comes with years of experience and improved skills. You need to know when to stop in your quest for perfection.

Attend Seminars and Conferences

And who told you that you could not be a better designer without attending seminars and conferences — tell that person I said it is a lie. However, as a designer, you will be doing yourself some level of good by attending seminars and conferences. Some of the design conference and seminars you should attend in 2020 includes Experience Design 2020, The UX Conference, South by Southwest 2020, and many others. It is not possible to attend all of these. Choose a few and attend.

If you cannot afford international conferences because of the cost, there are national conferences or even the one at the state level. Also, very important is attending seminars and meetups around you so you can get to meet other product designers like yourself.

Revisit Your Old Project

If your previous works are in paper format, I am sure they must have gathered dust; but because they reside in your hard drive, they still look neat. But believe me when I say they must have gathered dust too. I believe you must have improved your skill, and as such, if you go back to your old projects, you will observe the need to get them improved. Get that done and make sure your portfolio is at par with your current skillset. Don’t leave your portfolio behind you — make sure it incorporates 2020 projects with 2020 trends.

Learn to Accept Criticism

If your work has never been criticized in your current workplace, you need to be wary of that place; they might not be telling you the truth about your work except if you are the best they have got there. The truth is, without criticism, we hardly grow and become the person we actually want to become. However, we also have to learn how to differentiate between constructive criticism and their destructive counterparts. Make use of the constructive ones and ask the person criticizing your work to provide you guidance on how to make them better. For the negative ones, learn to shove them off — they do not matter.

As a way of concluding this article, I would like you to know that an unexamined life is not worth living, and goals can help provide us with a gauge with which we can examine how close or far we are to become better designers.