Ilustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

Overcoming Procrastination, Money Problems, Self-Doubt & Other Creative Distractions

As we turn the corner on the new year, it’s the natural time to start afresh. To make resolutions for things we will do differently, creative projects we will finally complete, old habits that we will shed. And yet, we rarely make good on these changes. Why?

Casting about for an answer, I stumbled onto this line from Chuck Palahniuk’s book Survivor: “People don’t want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved. Their dramas. Their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.” Sure, it’s sounds a little ominous, but it’s worth thinking about. What if we really did clear out the clutter this year, so that we could face the incredible unknown of doing our greatest work? It’s a heady prospect.

As you contemplate your 2013 goals, we’ve rounded up some of the top challenges and distractions creatives regularly face — e.g. procrastination, self-doubt, money problems, bad habits, etc — and pointed you to some of our best tips on conquering them.

Creative Projects: Overcoming Procrastination and FINISHING!

How many years in a row have you resolved to “finally!” finish a big creative project? If you’re anything like me, the answer is “a few too many.” With any project — and particularly with side projects — the pull of our paying jobs, the pull of procrastination, the pull of playing it safe (by keeping our work to ourselves) is extremely strong.

To combat these alluring distractions, check out our piece on the ever-growing procrastination problem and tricks for combatting it, a look at the mental games we play that keep us spinning our wheels, and finally a step-by-step approach to finishing your labor of love.

Critics & Haters: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Self-Doubt

Ever had someone tell you that you just need to “get out of your own way”? Even the greatest creative thinkers are always battling their own Inner Critic, not to mention dealing with the doubts of all the naysayers around them.

First, you’ll want to identify if an inner argument is impeding your creative output. After you’ve done that, the work is to get that Inner Critic back on your side. Once you’ve conquered the internal voices, it’s easier to manage your (external) critics, and learn to distinguish between valuable critiques and silly cynicism.

And, lest you think everything should be positive all of the time, research shows that negative thinking isn’t all bad.

Self-Marketing: Creating a Better Bio, Resume, or Portfolio

Creatives are sensitive about self-promotion. In fact, most of us hate it. Thus, like other distasteful tasks, it goes on the new year’s resolution list, where we shove all the things we’ve been putting off: Update portfolio, rewrite bio, design new business cards, etc.

To ease into the task, try this tip sheet on how to get motivated about self-promotion. Then, we have tips on how to transform your bio into a compelling story, how to create an unorthodox (and highly visual) resume, and how to build a knock-out web portfolio for your work.

Money: Budgeting Better & Making More

The only thing creatives like less than self-promotion might be engaging in the uncomfortable art of money management. For some reason, asking for what we’re worth — or, better yet, negotiating for it — is particularly difficult for creative egos. Not to mention the challenges of finding time to take care of basic (but detestable) bookkeeping tasks like invoicing.

To start planning for improved finances this year, check pieces on how to identify the difference between busy work and money work, how to budget for irregular income, and how to treat your freelance portfolio like a stock portfolio.

Then dig into advice on the psychology behind becoming a better negotiator, how to reframe the RFP process to charge for your expertise, why staying on top of your accounts can actually give you a creative boost.

Decisions: Being More Decisive, With Less Regret

In this always-on world, where a million messages, pings and inquiries are coming at us every day, the ability to make swift decisions is a key competitive advantage. And if your natural disposition is to hem and haw, you’re probably having a hard time keeping up. But can you really resolve to be more decisive?

I think you can. A good place to start is by gaining a better understanding of the science behind how we make decisions. There are also stopgaps that we can put in place to help us avoid making decisions that we’ll regret. And even if we do make crappy decisions, the good news is we often forget the huge role that perseverance plays in helping us turn bad decisions into good ones.

Habits: Exercising More, Eating Smarter, Working Better

Every year, me, you, and everyone else resolve to make or break certain habits. Exercise more, eat better, drink less, be more productive. The problem is, it remains a mystery how to really make these new behaviors stick.

For some insight on how habits work, I’d suggest digging into the science of habit loops, and then moving onto a detailed breakdown of how to build better habits from an obsessive lifehacker.

Good luck in the new year!

More insights on: Achievement, Skill Development

Jocelyn K. Glei

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As Editor-in-Chief and Director of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei leads the 99U in its mission to provide the “missing curriculum” on making ideas happen. She oversees the Webby Award-winning 99u.com website, curates the popular 99U Conference, and is the editor of the 99U books, Manage Your Day-to-Day and Maximize Your Potential.
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