See success by becoming a goal-driven designer

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Recently, in a post titled “Defining success as a designer”, I discussed the importance of setting goals and measuring your success based on how well you achieve your goals. Then, Millo published an excellent guest article by Karol K. titled “Avoid web design stress by clearly defining site goals”. Then just yesterday I sent out an article titled “Getting your design business ‘in the groove'” in the Millo newsletter. It also hit hard on being goal-oriented as a designer. It was this morning that I really started to notice the trend. We’ve been talking a lot about being goal-driven, setting good goals, and achieving your goals, but we haven’t tackled the “HOW” of becoming a goal-driven designer. It’s one thing to know you should set goals and work toward them, it’s a whole different story to adopt that practice into your design business.

That’s what we’ll cover today: how to become a goal-driven designer.

Learning the Basics

The first step in becoming a goal-driven designer is to learn the basics of goal setting. Take time to discover why goals are important, how they can help your design business grow, and what it takes to set a good goal. I’ll review a few thoughts below, but take some time today to find a few other good resources on goal setting basics.

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Basil S Walsh, a successful American author, gives this advice: “If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?” He couldn’t be more right. Let’s take, for example, the idea of a soccer game. The very word “Goal” is used to explain what the goal of the game is: get the ball down the field and between the two posts. Imagine the game of soccer for a moment without goals. How would a team know if they are winning or losing? How could a team measure progress? How would a team know when they have won?

They couldn’t.

And so it is with our goals. If we don’t have strong, clear, tangible goals, we won’t know what our progress is like, if we’re “winning” in our design business game, and we won’t be able to celebrate when we reach certain milestones.

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A long time ago, I learned something about goal setting that changed my life. Goals need three aspects to be successful: They need to be (1)achievable, (2)measurable, and (3)in present tense.

Achievable. It would make little sense for me to set a goal to make $1,000,000 next week from my design business. I’m sure there are businesses around the world that could set such a goal, but mine is definitely not one of them. A more reasonable goal for my small design business would be to find two new clients or finish a project early. By setting goals that are achievable, we make sure not to set ourselves up for failure which should drive us to continue to set goals that are achievable, but that push us at the same time.

Measurable. Next, make sure your goals are measurable. Don’t set goals like, “I become a successful designer” or “My design blog becomes popular”, be more specific and use terms of true measurement like “I manage a pool of 12 clients at all times”, “I write 4 blog posts each week”, or “I make $5000 by the end of the month”. Make sure you use constants (like time) to measure your rate of success.

In Present Tense. Lastly, you should write your goals in present tense. I know this one sounds a little strange, but you would not believe the difference it makes. Instead of saying something like “I will write 3 blog posts each week on my design blog”, you change the future tense to present tense and say “I write 3 blog posts each week on my design blog”. This puts you in the frame of mind that it is something you do, not something you will do.

Write your goals as if you are already achieving them and watch your success rate skyrocket.

Avoiding discouragement

After learning the basics of goal setting (don’t forget to go explore on your own), make sure you avoid getting discouraged if your goals aren’t coming to light as well as you had imagined. Shoot for the stars, but when you only reach the moon, be happy you made it that far and readjust your goals to reach the stars next time.

There is nothing worse than getting discouraged when you don’t achieve all your goals. Referring back to the analogy of the Soccer team (Sorry, I’m American. The Football team.), imagine if, after the first goal was attempted and failed, the team simply gave up and never tried to achieve any other goals for the rest of the game or season. Ridiculous, right? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are a failure if all your goals don’t pan out exactly how you had planned.

Keep your goals in the forefront of your mind

Becoming a goal-driven designer (or a goal-driven person for that matter) can be difficult. If you aren’t used to setting solid goals and working toward them, the adjustment in how you work and your lifestyle can be a little daunting. Let me make one suggestion that a mentor of mine made once to me: Keep a notepad and pen near your bed. Each night before you go to sleep, write down your top 5 goals (they can be personal, business-related, etc.). When you wake up the next morning, do the same thing. This will force you to think about your goals at all times. As you write your goals, you will begin to think about them frequently, and they will become more realistic and more reachable.

I’m curious, what are some of the goals you have for your design business? Share them with us by leaving a comment.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Lane, SUBERNOVA, Preston D Lee, Umair Ulhaque, Carlos Estrada and others. Carlos Estrada said: See success by becoming a goal-driven designer: Recently, in a post titled “Defining success as a designer”, I dis… […]


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