2021 – Year in Review
January 1, 2022
TLDR

This past year was a learning experience; the downside was that I only hit 1/4 goals I set, the upside was that I got a lot better at design and landed my dream role at Instagram, moved into my first apartment with my partner, got a dog, and the vaccine! Moving onto 2022, I hope to actually learn to code, 10x my design craft, and have a top 1% work ethic amongst other things.

2021 was interesting, to say the least – on the personal side, got the vaccine, moved into my first apartment, and got a dog! On the professional side, started at CBS, left and joined Almanac, and left a few weeks ago to join Instagram early next year. Quite the whirlwind, huh.

As I look back and reflect on the minutia of the year, it warrants the question…

Did I hit my goals?

The short answer is yes, some of them. At the top level, my goals were relatively simple:

  • Learn to code
  • Find a mentor
  • Start sharing more publicly
  • Get better at design

If I’m being honest those aren’t the best goals. Regardless, let’s still go over them in detail.

Learn to code

I wanted to vaguely “learn to code”, and so I did enough to get by. I wanted to learn SwiftUI, so I built and shipped an app. I wanted to learn React and Next.js, so I built and shipped my personal site (currently in progress).  Looking back, that sounds like I should know how to code! But, in reality, while learning how to code to build those two things; I cut corners, cut scope, and shipped half-finished products that I’m not proud of.

my first custom built website

Find a mentor

Sort of, but not really accomplished this. I found mentors in my positions at CBS & Almanac, but nothing externally, which is what I was really looking for.

Start sharing more publicly

Pretty much a pure fail. I think I tweeted less than 10 times and 1 public blog post.

Get better at design

Like I said, not the best goal. But absolutely accomplished this goal. I got 10 if not 100 times better at design over the past year. I got better in a lot of different aspects and completely raised my baseline, but didn’t spike in any one skill.

2021 Reflection

When I put it like that, it sounds pretty depressing. I got better at design, but because I did for 40+ hours a week. I really don’t have anything else to show for an entire year besides that, which is frustrating.

Regardless of the setbacks, there’s no point in dwelling on 2021, rather should take it as a learning experience to make 2022 better.

Learnings from 2021

  • As I said, I learned a ton about what seems like every aspect of design. I learned how to communicate, collaborate with others, ship products, and create detailed work. Before this year, I’d never had a full-time design job, so when reflecting, it really feels like I went from 0 to 1. With that, there’s still so much more to learn and get better at, which I’ll touch on when setting my 2022 goals.
  • I learned about myself but learned even more about who I want to be and who I don’t want to be. 2021 showed me that there’s a lot of characteristics and traits I want to incorporate into my life, like being nicer, less judgmental, and energetic to name a few.
  • With this being my first full year working, I naturally learned a lot about work. What it means working with other people, what it means to be a designer, and what environments I need to do my best work.
  • As you saw, not hitting my goals taught me a multitude of things, namely how to not set goals for one.

What were my setbacks?

  • When I got my first job at CBS, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction never really faded. I lost motivation to learn new things, I lost the drive and sense of urgency to create things and put myself out there. Since starting work, it’s felt like I’ve been in a limbo where I can’t get things done.
  • Moving into my own apartment. Doing this should be an accomplishment (which it was), but the new environment and stress led to another phase of no motivation. I also moved in with my partner for the first time, so time management naturally became harder as well.
  • Getting a dog! This is constantly the most rewarding decision I made in 2021, but I definitely underestimated the mental energy required to raise a puppy. Whatever energy I was getting back after being down for the better part of the year quickly went to taking care of a dog.

What were my accomplishments?

  • Starting and succeeding at CBS. Sadly, the work still isn’t shipped yet but was still an absolute blast to work in sports after playing in college.
  • Shipping work for Almanac. This was definitely the hardest part of 2021, but seeing my work live so quickly was immensely rewarding. We all worked so hard to design things in 1/3 of the time it should’ve taken and were proud of the outcome.
  • Accepting an offer at Instagram. This was my dream job and a culmination of over a year’s worth of conversations that finally came full circle. If you would’ve told me I’d have landed this role after being self-taught with less than a year of experience I wouldn’t have believed you. For me, this makes the fact I didn’t hit any other goals seem worth it.

Looking back holistically, 2021 wasn’t all bad. Yes, I left a lot on the table, but I learned so much that is going to make 2022 the year that kicks off my domino effect.

2022 Goals

Just typing “2022” doesn’t even feel real, it still feels like 2019. Regardless, learning from the past few years I want to have two types of goals:

  • The tactical, specific goals like building an app with SwiftUI.
  • The lofty-opaque goals that are measurable through reflection and feelings, something more closer to “learn how to build any app”.

I also chose to break them into personal and professional goals to keep those two sides as separated as possible.

Professional goals

Build a foundation for code

Instead of “learning to code” I want to build a foundation that will help me build my ideas, and create things with true detail and craftsmanship. No more cutting corners or scope. As for tactical goals, they’re a bit more straightforward:

  • Build a personal site the way I want it (no tradeoffs, or cut scope)
  • Build a side project with code (e.g. a useful app or site)

10x my design craft

Okay, 10x may be a little unrealistic, but the point is to just again become unrecognizable in my design abilities. From visual product design to prototyping and interactions, as well as strategy and product thinking. The tactical goals are as follows:

  • Work is noticeably polished and shareable (I should be confident going into design reviews, or sharing my work in public)
  • Mastery of my tools, Figma and Principle (Not saying I need to be Joey Banks level good, but be able to take full advantage of my ideas in those tools efficiently)

Change the way I approach my work

I want to have a level of detail and craft that I look up to in senior designers. Absolutely no cutting corners, I want to design things that last. This is a little harder to tactify, but here goes:

  • Detailed File / Artboard organization (Someone should be able to open my Figma at any time and see immensely detailed and organized work even if it’s in progress
  • Fully utilize calendar organization and a to-do list (to help me get into deep work)

Personal Goals

Exude positivity and energy

I’ve always been known as someone who is not energetic, even keel, and it comes across as negativity. I want to change that and be someone who’s energetic – and be the person I want to be.

  • Daily gratitude/affirmation practice
  • Sharing in public (10x tweets & blog posts)

Overcoming anxiety

The past few years of my life have been defined by anxiety. My anxiety manifests itself by worrying so much about what people will think of me, worrying about irrational things like plane crashes, and health scares. I want to be on track to overcome this and not let anxiety define my life.

  • See a therapist regularly
  • Meditation practice

Top 1% work ethic

Again, this may be far-fetched, especially knowing how lazy I can be. But every year, month, and even day, I want to do this. No more excuses, it’s time to go and fall in love with the process along the way.

It’s always fun to look back and write these posts. I always hope the burst of motivation that comes with reflecting on downfalls and planning the future based on learnings lasts, but thankfully one of my goals is to not rely on artificial motivation to get things done.

2020 was truly transformational, and 2021 was more like coasting. I’m going to be by myself, in a new city, with a new job for 2022 so it’s truly time to make the most of it.