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

Ready to start afresh in the new year? Our guide to finishing creative projects, making more money, overcoming self-doubt, and building better habits.

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 Posts by Jocelyn K. Glei

A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. Her latest book is Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. Her previous works include the 99U’s own bestselling book series: Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.

Comments (16)
  • bassamtarazi

    Great stuff, Jocelyn! These are supremely helpful. As I continue to think about why people don’t accomplish as much of the things we hoped to, I think it comes back to who we surround ourselves with.

    I once joked to someone, “People don’t want to accomplish their goals, they just want to be liked by their friends.” For those who constantly sit in the “I should be…” hamster wheel, I ask, “Who are the 5 people outside of work that you spend the most time with? Out of those 5, how many of them give you more energy, and how many suck you dry?” If our social barometer is being dragged down by the people whose respect we crave the most, we are going to have a hard time breaking through the impediments in front of us.

    Our friends and family are in the business of keeping us…us. When we change or want to change, their own insecurities get put in the spotlight, unfortunately.

    I think finding people we can be accountable to (and vice versa) is a tool we could all benefit from more often, myself included.

  • Guy Manningham

    One would be remiss to leave out the endless distractions on social media and smart phones. I’m a believer in the idea that smart phones make dumb people. My new year’s resolution is to cut back on that and hopefully that will free up some time to be more productive.

  • Joe Nicklo

    Great article…that leads to other great articles! One of my resolutions is to actually read through all of the 100+ articles I’ve saved to Pocket.

  • salimen

    Exercise more, eat better, drink less, be more productive, be happy and positive or die.

  • Youngyetwise

    Thank you so much for the great tips!…For more great tips with how to better handle your fiancees you should also check out

  • Lacey Rabidue

    You and me both!

  • steven

    this is great…but instead of reading this I should be finishing my feature script

  • Jae

    Thanks for this … I am such a HUGE – EVERYTHING negative when it comes to being creative, and can’t get motivated to save my life! I am just now starting to get back into the creative flow, created four wallpapers last night for Valentine’s and researching banner tuts, flyer tuts, poster tuts and etc. … Looking for things/idea/ways to help me get into being more creative and become a doer and go getter and less of a sit back in the corner and dream “pipe dreams” that can be REAL dreams (IF I ONLY GET BUSY – CREATING!) But yeah, that neg. self talk is a HUGE thing in me – as well is the procrastination – ANOTHER huge one for me along with the third “STOOGE” self doubt – there ya go the “Three Stooges: Negative Self Talk, Procrastination, and Self Doubt” … HA! GOTCHA! Yeah, I don’t want to be a “stooge” any more – HELP! lol

    I am on here as well – AutumnSunRisingDesigns love the feed back –

    Jae *smiles*

  • Jae

    WOW! THANKS! I REALLY believe in this as well – cause it has been my life – being sucked dry daily, yearly, because I have not had the support around me that I need – NEED – again AND ENCHANCED – NEED!!! I still don’t really, I have my mom and that is it! I have no friends per SE. I just got out of a bad relationship of two years with my ex-gf. and just left home (if you want to call it that) with my daughter and her husband, that also sucked my energy dry – and am now homeless and living at my moms, till this summer when her landlady comes back from Fla. and I get this trailer she has up for rent that I am actually going to buy on land contract, so I think my life is starting to turn around – AGAIN! I am going BACK to school to finish getting my degree this March, with Westwood College Online, in graphic design – an associates and then not sure what I want to pursue next, but am thinking visual communications … So, I am looking to “hook-up” with others of the creative mind set that can help me become more creative and can brainstorm with and “hang” with (even if it’s online in chat or emailing back and forth – lol). I NEED more people that are like me – a creative needing to be around other creatives! We need to be around more like us to get the creative juices flowing – to brainstorm ideas with each other or use each other as sounding boards to bounce ideas off of on projects we are working or want to work on – maybe help keep each other up to date on the newest stuff that is out there that people are looking for (new design ideas and such).

    Thanks for this post – So, does anyone have any “ENERGY Elixir”? lol


  • Ruika Lin

    Lots of great resources within one simple and easy-to-read article. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Eric
  • Phill Adams

    Read up on Tony Robbins to verify this last gem of an observation. You’ve hit on what this guy makes millions$$ telling others. He says that of the 5 people that you most associate with, at least professionally, you should be no. 5 in the pecking order. Mentors. The way forward for all of us! Good luck!

  • bassamtarazi

    Yeah, so true, Phill. A rising tide floats all boats. Surround yourself with people who make you better.

  • Tashka

    I read this as I avoided writing the toughest part of an article…..Now back to work! I agree that there is a BIG difference between useful critique and silly cynicism, something us creatives are all too culpable of. Exercise is a huge help to get those endorphins going and blast negativity out the window. A thought-provoking and inspiring article, thanks!

    “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” – Victor Kiam.


  • Anna Scott

    TY 😀

  • Bud

    I’d really like your articles if you put more effort into the topic rather than creating entire pages of link bait. Too bad, so close.

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