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Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all creatures of habit. We fall into comfortable routines that make us feel uneasy if disrupted. Our routines could be as small as how we make our morning coffee or use our keyboard shortcuts to design. But the creative industry is continuously growing and evolving, so failure to break out of your routine or try something new could be detrimental to your career. Knowing how hard it is to start working in a new program, we’ve put together some useful advice to encourage you to stop procrastinating.

Make the time

It always comes down to “finding the time”, or finding the right time to learn a new program. When a last-minute deadline crosses your desk, the last thing you want to be doing is fiddling around with software you’re not comfortable with. The stress of getting client work done will always demotivate you from trying something new. So if you can’t find the time, make the time. We have a company-wide policy called “Get Shit Done Wednesdays” so that we have the time and space for things like this. If projects and clients are taking over your day, schedule a learning session with yourself and stick to it!

Do your research

Before you jump into learning a new program, do some research on it. Find out whether its purpose and capabilities match your needs. Once you’ve decided it’s for you, play around in it to look for familiar features. A lot of programs have basic features and shortcuts in common, and recognizing this might make the transition easier. Try doing simple actions you do often when designing, like making clipping masks or editing shapes. Then begin to dig into some online resources like videos, tutorials, and blogs. Find a variety of resources that are informative yet engaging enough to keep you motivated.

Practise your workflow

In my second year of design school, we had a project to recreate a candy package in Adobe Illustrator to get us familiar with the program. The assignment was only worth a completion mark and didn’t seem to hold much value to me or my grades. At the time, I didn’t realize that recreating something that already existed allowed me to focus solely on learning how to use the program. I didn’t need to worry about being creative. This approach can be applied to your career as well. Take something you’ve already designed in your preferred program and recreate it in a new one. Use a project where the process of design is still fresh in your mind so that you’re replicating your workflow. This will allow you to learn in context without the pressure of a tight deadline. You can focus on learning the functionality of a program and not the work itself.

Give it a go

Once you’ve become more familiar with the program, try working on something from scratch. Start with something small with a reasonable timeline so you have the flexibility to explore. For example, if you’re aiming to learn a program that claims to be faster for web design, try starting with a landing page before tackling a website. You won’t know all the ins and outs of the program after these tips, but that’s the beauty of design software – the possibilities are endless. You’ll always be learning as you go. You just need to get over that first hurdle.