attaining goal incrementalism stairs
We all need to grow our skills to further our careers. But sometimes we can get a little overwhelmed with the number of software applications and techniques that are required to get the job done. So how do we know what to learn, and how do we learn it?

Being a technical illustrator, I get excited by new software features and the work I see being produced by my peers using new tools. Instead of getting intimidated by the options and the amount of time I think it might take to master a new skill, I get motivated. I ask myself what skills would I like to apply to a current project? Future projects? Maybe some time-consuming technique I use a lot has been facilitated by a new software feature. Or maybe I’d like to simply stay current with the software I use so I don’t feel “left behind”.

In any case, once you know what you’d like to learn, it’s important to break the process of learning into manageable chunks. I like to call this incrementalism. Realize that you won’t learn something overnight, but rather with small, baby steps. It’s only when we get overwhelmed by the idea of how difficult some technique or application might appear, or have been dazzled by someone’s skills, that we can get deflated or sidetracked in our learning process. Worse, we get burned out trying to stuff large amounts of information into our heads in a short period of time. Try to consistently devote 30 minutes a day to online tutorials, books, software menu help systems, or any preferred method of learning. It can take some discipline and time-management skills to do this, especially if your work-schedule is even modestly busy, but the effort will be worth it.

Popular self-help advice tells us that we overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but underestimate what we can accomplish in five. Weave a steady, systematic approach into a daily schedule of learning, correcting and adapting to an evolving career path and goal, and you’ll become an expert before you know it.

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