5 New Year’s Resolutions for the Creative Professional

It’s a brand new year, and that means fresh energy, sharper focus, and maybe a new set of creative goals. It’s a great time to take a big picture look at where we’ve been, and where we’re going next. So, in that spirit… here are five resolutions to help creative pros like us rock our careers and be better than ever in 2016.

Resolution #1: Tackle time management woes once and for all

For the creative professional, time is the most valuable resource. It takes time to hone our skills, master our craft, and move forward on challenging projects. It takes time to brainstorm, strategize, and plan. And for those who work by the billable hour, time is money… literally.

So this week, sit down and make a plan for grabbing back your valuable hours in 2016. Find where the procrastination happens — and banish it. Try out different time-management apps and online calendars, or experiment with a paper planner. Install a website-blocking app to render the most distracting websites off-limits (I swear by the Mac app SelfControl).

Take those hours back!

Resolution #2: Say “no” sometimes… even when it’s hard

It’s always good to be receptive to new opportunities. And it feels good to say “yes.” But sometimes, that desire to be accommodating means we get bogged down in commitments that don’t support our core values or our biggest creative goals.

Which means if you want to move ahead with what really matters… you’ve got to clear away the clutter.

Saying no can be really tough. It’s hard to turn down a paying project that isn’t quite right, or step away from volunteer responsibilities that have become too draining. It can be equally hard to put aside busywork that’s served as a distraction from the really challenging stuff. It requires believing deeply yourself and the importance of your own work — that what you’re doing is valuable, and worth putting first.

In 2016, try to say “no” a little more often… so you’ll be able to say “yes” to what matters most.

Resolution #3: Maintain an idea journal

The creative process is just that… a process. Sometimes the most brilliant ideas come along bit by bit, so it’s good to have them down on paper.

Whether you prefer an ornate moleskin notebook adorned with doodles or a virtual note-taking/web-clipping app like Evernote, a long-term record of your brainstorming sessions is one of the most valuable creative assets you can have.

Plus, turning your brainstorming into a practice means you’ll begin to make it a regular habit… and hopefully start generating more brilliant ideas.

Resolution #4: Learn a new skill

Teach yourself a programming language. Master the Adobe Creative Cloud. Take a course in project management. Explore a visual art form like painting, photography, or film. Learn everything there is to know about a topic that interests you.

Your new skill might offer immediate benefits in your career, like a promotion or a raise. But even if it doesn’t, learning new things as an adult is a key part of staying mentally sharp and creatively astute. It’s all about staying at the top of your game.

Plus… if you commit to learning one new skill every year… in five years you just might have the expertise to launch your own business or achieve a major career pivot to something closer to your heart.

Resolution #5: Do one big thing that scares you

Is there a major career milestone you’ve been waiting to accomplish? A challenging project you’ve been planning to do someday… when you’re ready? A goal that always feels just a little out of reach?

Put another way: what could you accomplish creatively today if you weren’t afraid?

That. Whatever it is, do that. You have twelve months. Make a plan. Break it down. And get it done.

Let’s face it… no one’s ever quite ready to do the things they’ve never done before. If we wait until we feel totally confident to take on our biggest challenges? We’ll be waiting forever.

Instead, moving forward often requires feeling around in the dark, unsure, a little bit afraid, not quite knowing if this thing will work… and that’s okay.

Here’s to all the big scary wonderful creative things we’ll accomplish in 2016!