An Actually Fun Way to Do New Year’s Resolutions

Kendra Smoot

I’ve always had mixed feelings about New Year’s Resolutions. They’re fun to make, but two months in, I’m still biting my nails, dressing like a 10-year-old boy, and eating Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered almonds before bed. But! The other day, I stumbled upon illustrator Julia Rothman’s resolutions, and they changed my mind…

New Year's Resolutions by Julia Rothman

Instead of hard-and-fast rules, Julia made a list of things she’d like to do “more” and things she’d like to do “less.” How great is that? “It’s a more relaxed approach than ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” she told me on the phone this morning. “It’s just like, be a little better about it.” I also love how it encourages you to think about what really matters to you in your life.

Julia has done these lists for three years. “In 2017, I hung the list above my computer, but I had a party and got embarrassed and took it down,” she says. “But then I decided not to be embarrassed about it and I posted it on Instagram. This year, I was like, I don’t care, whatever.”

What would you write on your list? I’d LOVE to hear.

Mine would be:

One-on-one time with the boys
Evening walks
Reading in bed
Salads with avocado, parmesan and pine nuts
Flourless chocolate cake
Listening/reading about other people’s experiences
Working vocab words into everyday conversation

White wine
Futzing on my phone
Grouching/complaining about dumb things
Worrying so much at bedtime

And, remember, even your resolutions don’t need to be perfect. “Expectation is on my list twice,” says Julia, with a laugh. “But no one has noticed.”

P.S. Simple pleasures, and the Grand Canyon trick.

(Top photo by Kendra Smoot.)

  1. cilla says...

    I know this is an old post, but anyway: does anyone have a good recipe for a flourless chocolate cake? I need it in my life!

  2. Emily says...

    I did this exercise with my 1st grade students and they were so sweet and thoughtful! Less fighting, getting sick, and hate… and more love, being open-minded, school, and babies (I’m pregnant and some other teachers in our building are as well/recently just gave birth) are just a few of the highlights! Start ’em young :)

  3. haha i love “less bras.” I rarely wear a bra anymore and its
    the best thing ever. i love goals and resolutions and reading others resolutions! i took this first week of the year off to create a healthy routine and write. the end result is an awesome mix of guidelines and resolutions with a laser focus on what i need to do to make my goals reality.

  4. Emily says...

    I actually came up with something like this, before reading this article! I spent the holidays alone in New York, far from my family, and felt kind of bummed out. I wasn’t in the mood to make resolutions, and I’m fairly self-analytical and goal-setting year round anyway. Instead I thought of what I want for this new year. I wrote the following:

    my hopes for 2019: that good things will grow, that i’ll have more time with family and friends, enough time to read all the books in my stack, more walks along the california coast.

    This sums it up! 2018 was a difficult year living far from home (CA) and mulling over questions about where I am in life and where I’m going. I want more of the good, more time to spend on things that make me happy (seeing family and friends and reading endless novels! walks along the most beautiful coastline where I feel at home). Instead of focusing on specific resolutions I’m thinking of the holistic picture and working toward getting closer to that. So far it feels really nice.

  5. Emi says...

    I like this idea too. It’s more like a general reflection on the person you’d like to be. An activity that seems healthy to do every once in a while, say every year ;).

  6. Siga says...

    My resolutions are in three categories of 1) new habits I’d like to adopt (keeping an ongoing picture album of the kids, less coffee, a salad a day, etc), 2) my goals (professional and private), 3) projects I’d like to complete (update the hallway, rearrange the book shelves, etc). These are so much more achievable.

    • SarahN says...

      A salad a day seems super achievable – I reckon I could do that!

  7. Katie says...

    Great idea!! My classmate and I just made a giant “more/less” list in our grad school shared office space. We included more chocolate, tea, speaking up in class and less getting books you don’t need, worry about the future, and self doubt.

  8. Stephanie says...

    I’ve started doing birthday resolutions instead, and typically it’s just a word. One word is so much easier! And it’s all on you to interpret. 29’s word has been purpose (as in doing things on purpose). I’ve gotten bangs, won a grant, and read so many more books. I’m loving purpose!

    • Julie says...

      I’m 29 too and mine is DIGNITY!

  9. rt says...

    These are all great, but I’ve decided not to do any resolutions. Really haven’t done any in a long time, though last year’s goal was to use less plastic bags (jury is out on that one, I tried my best!) There are certainly things I would like to do more of or be better at, cook healthier, read a little more, I could use to exercise more than hauling kids around. I just don’t have that much time or energy left over at the end of the day from taking care of my 3 and 5 year old. I thought maybe I should cut down on the phone scrolling we are all so guilty of but you know I can’t be productive every second of the day. I’m doing a lot already. So maybe the resolution is just to be cool with what I am already doing.

    • Capucine says...

      I just wanted to thank you for your comment. The thought of creating another set of goals atop the perennially grimy light switches, overstuffed toy shelves, and feeling of invisibility I don’t find a way to change year after year…my kids are 6 and 11 now, and the quote that comes to mind (I can’t recall who said it) is always “I have met supermom, and she was tired.”

    • Fiona says...

      You’re a total rockstar. I’ve been thinking about how not to feel so overwhelmed but nudge myself in the direction of changes. I decided I wanted to learn two things FOR ME! (last year was to learn to make pasta from scratch, and the second was to learn to knit). Both are relatively small, giving myself some space over the course of the year to see a progression and an achievement (something concrete I had, that I didn’t last year), but both are so satisfying I loved looking at the world last year and saying to myself “oooh maybe THAT one for next year). I ended up failing horribly on the knitting so its back on the list (I lost a pair of needles, another was confiscated, another was eaten by my dog, and now forgot everything I learned) but even that process of holding the kneedles and de-knotting the wool feels satisfying. I want to learn to make bread this year!

  10. Cecile says...

    Small gestures

    Waiting for validation

    Take time to read
    Ride my bicycle
    Find ways to talk about what really matters to me
    Setting my alarm at the same time each and every day

    • Amy says...

      Pictures! Yes! Thanks for sharing this list. I was waffling about actually writing mine down. After reading yours, I am reaching for my journal.

  11. K R B says...

    My New Year’s Resolution started early this year when I hard-locked myself out of Facebook and Instagram last October by following these steps:

    1) Create a new “fake” email address. I created one in Yahoo, which I don’t use for anything else;
    2) Link your social media accounts to the fake email address so that password reset requests are sent to that account rather than your actual email;
    3) Use a strong random password generator to generate new passwords for your social media accounts, and change the passwords;
    4) Write yourself a “future letter” to be sent to your real email account on with the passwords in the body, and set the date you’d like to receive the email (I chose 03-Jan-2019);
    5) Change the password to your new fake email account to be the same as the social media passwords;
    6) Log out of everything and forget the password (not hard because it’s a long string of random characters)

    Consequently, I have been totally locked out of Facebook and Instagram since October with no way to access my accounts, and it has changed my life. I’m SO much happier; I now spend my free time drawing, reading, writing actual letters, sewing, CALLING PEOPLE ON THE PHONE (!), and I have more energy and feel more positive about everything than I have in years.

    Yesterday the email came with the passwords and I didn’t even consider logging in because I didn’t want to at all. When I set this up I thought I would be chomping at the bit to log in once the email with the passwords came; I was so scared of losing the “connectivity” of social media. But letting go of those avenues of communication has allowed me to truly connect with others, and it has been amazing.

    • Ceridwen says...

      This is cool! I accidentally locked myself out of Facebook and have not tried to get back in. It’s been good! I miss invitations sometimes but find if friends really want me to come they’ll actually ask me. Although I needed to let people know that I’m not on Facebook so they know I’m not ignoring them. Some people roll their eyes but most are cool. I like Instagram but need to pull back on that this year because I’ve noticed I want to shop more when I’m on Instagram. Not a good habit!

    • Trish says...

      this is hilarious and amazing and i love it so much!

  12. Alison says...

    I noticed the dual listing of expectations right away because that is such a huge thing I’m trying to let go of this year—and TOTALLY related to her. It’s constantly on my mind.

  13. hali says...

    in general, my 2019 mantra is “don’t dwell!” here’s my list!

    fresh herbs and aromatics.
    using our food processor!
    walking dates with my husband.
    general excitement.
    identifying the good or a positive in everyone i know and meet as a habit.

    processed, packaged food.
    phone scrolling. (shocking)
    night time / bedtime anxiety (what a relief to learn here that this is a thing!)
    dwelling on things- anxiety… frustration… family drama…
    political indifference.

    reading + spin! carried over from 2018 resolutions! i did it!

  14. M says...

    I wrote a list of my goals for 2019 instead of resolutions. My no. 1 is “have sex,” which I haven’t had in 5 years. I’ve been divorced for a year but my marriage became defunct long before that. I’ve no idea how to go about it in ways that fit my personality and values or when to find the time as a single working mother of a 4.5 yo, but there it is, a first step of sorts.

    • H says...

      i love this, m! good for you – naming it is a first step for sure :)

  15. Kristen says...

    I have a trick for stopping night time worry! My anxiety and negative thinking was getting bad at bedtime, but then I realized by morning all that negative thinking went away and what seemed like such a problem really wasn’t bad at all. So now every time I catch myself worrying at night I tell myself, “this is just nighttime anxiety” and every morning I realize that I was right, the worry is no longer there.

    • Brie C says...

      Love this trick!

  16. I love this.. this is so wonderful.. can even see the kids getting involved.

  17. More:
    Dinners exploring Jersey City where I live

    Social Media
    Fuzzy nights from over-drinking

  18. erin says...

    playing with abandon
    meal planning
    keeping in touch
    showing love
    girl time

    speaking without thinking
    thoughtless spending
    f*s given

  19. Tayler says...

    What a cool way to do this! I’ve been noticing the trend of focusing on a word for the year. That’s not really my style, but I keep thinking that my word for 2019 is going to be “survive.” We are expecting our first baby in April! So I’ll focus on “survive” in 2019 and maybe bump up to “thrive” in 2020. ;)

    • Megan says...

      Expecting my first in April too! I think I’ll still make this less but am definitely focusing on giving myself space and grace to enjoy the miracle of new baby human.

    • SFord says...

      Ive had a ‘word of the year’ for about 5 years now. This year’s is GROW and last year’s was CREATE. The words tend to encompass my home, work, relationships, hobbies etc. I don’t think of the word consciously throughout the year unless I feel in a bit of a rut, then I revisit it.

  20. Patrícia says...

    never “less white wine” for me :D however this is an excellent way to think about it and one of the only spaces online where there’s absolutely no pressure.

  21. Allison says...

    I’ve always set resolutions like lose 5lbs or floss more, but this year i went to an “intention setting” yoga class on New Year’s Day. I wasn’t sure what my intentions were or should be, but during the class, which started with a meditation, they just flowed out of the universe to me! It was really cool and inspirational. So now I’m working on holding those intentions and meditating on them (have never done this before) to see how they manifest themselves this year. And i also resolved to put away my clothes each night before bed and give my kids their vitamins each day :-)

  22. Nicole says...

    What a great idea! I’m going to tape mine above my desk, too. :)

    Green vegetables

    Phone-scrolling in bed
    Dwelling on the past
    Expectation (love this one)
    Boxed mac and cheese (just a little less, though)

  23. Working vocab words into everyday conversation is SUCH a good one!! I’m definitely going to be pinching this!


  24. Priyanka says...

    I looove this approach and have been doing so for a couple years. Some for thIs year includes more: cooking, trips to see friends, time with my parents, reading, cuddles with my dog. Less: social media scrolling, checkimg my work email before bed, judgemental comments about myself or others.

    Though, I wonder Julia means by less eating – what is wrong with eating, with the pleasure and nourishment it can provide? I wish enjoying food wasn’t so stigmatized – seems so even in this new resolutions approach :(

    • T says...

      “Less eating” made me sad, too.

    • Melissa Dixon says...

      Less eating made me sad too. Less snacking wouldn’t have but less eating makes me want to give her a hug and have a talk about thoughts around food.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh i wouldn’t worry! she is totally fine and healthy. she actually mentioned this on the phone when we were chatting because she said she got some kickback on instagram — but really she meant overeating or eating mindlessly. like, she says she snacks on random things, etc., and she wants to be more conscious of what she’s choosing to enjoy and eat. but you’re so kind to think of her! xoxo

  25. Heidi K says...

    Thank you! Just, thank you…

  26. Dana says...

    I make goals rather than resolutions, and make them at random times (I’m working on my list from mid October now). My goals are extremely specific – rather than “more reading” it would be “read 12 books.” I like things that I can check off, and I’m more likely to complete tangible tasks rather than nebulous ideas. Loving everyone’s lists!

    • Libbie Bond says...

      I’m the same way, Dana! I think it’s a mixture of having a Type A personality and learning about SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound).

      Good luck =finishing that October list! :)

  27. I like to map out my year (I call it ME Mapping) and sketch out details of what I’m trying to create in each category.
    But the most useful/simple thing I do is create a “theme” for the year so whenever I get discombobulated I can reorientate myself to how I want to feel.
    For 2019 it’s FRESH: as in… fresh air, fresh foods, fresh perspective.

    • Kate says...

      I love this!! I’m going to work on this over the weekend!

  28. Kim says...

    I totally saw her instagram and fashioned mine after hers. I had smaller lists, though.
    I looove that painting of the sky. What a fun group project that was.

  29. Rez says...

    Love this! I’m doing a version of this for 2019.

    Also, my FAVORITE item on her less list = bras!! Adding it to mine ASAP.

  30. Josie says...

    My approach to resolutions is to choose something that is easily accomplished within the months of January/February that I’ve been meaning to do, putting off, or just need some extra motivation to dive in. Examples of past ones have included: try snowboarding, go to the dentist, tell my father in law “I love you.” This year: visit my friend Aadam’s condo- he’s lived there two years and I have yet to see it!

  31. Liz says...

    I am with her on all things listed especially less bras! :) Love it! Lol

  32. Abetterme says...

    Self care (it promotes self love)
    Seeing my children. And letting them know that I see them
    Sex with my husband
    Self created free time
    Doing just what I want to do
    Sharing my thoughts with my young children. Having real conversations with them. They care! They want to know!
    Putting my family first
    Just being more grounded

    Bluntness (= rudeness)
    Drastic changes
    Impulsive decisions
    Social media
    Multi tasking

  33. Lauren says...

    I have found monthly resolutions to be much better for my short-term mind. Having just 30 odd days to accomplish a goal gets me going more than a yearly “Okay, THIS is the year I stop eating so much chocolate.”
    January’s resolution is to not use my phone in bed. Small, but I’ve already gotten through most of a novel! At the end of the month, I can stop and move on to the next one. However, I’ve found that a month is enough to make something a habit and I often just continue that resolution with the next one!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Love this!

    • Amy says...

      Yes, I’ve been doing monthly resolutions the last 3-4 years as well! It lets me have a whole lot of resolutions and not feel overwhelmed. Some months it’s go to bed at 9pm, or drink 2L of water/day, or spend 15 min reading (which often turns into more). Such a nice way to improve habits – some stick, others I return to another month if I want.

  34. Sara says...

    About 5 years ago, I pledged to travel somewhere I had never been before. It doesn’t need to be a ‘big’ trip – but experiencing a new place is always eye opening. Work trips count, as some of the below was work related (or tucked into work travel).

    2015- Point Pelee (most southern point in Canada)
    2016 – Iceland and Warsaw
    2017 – Chicago, Calgary
    2018 – Banff, the Gaspe Peninsula, Buffalo
    2019 – Turkey (bucket list trip)

  35. Rachel says...

    My best friend and I did this with my 6-year-old daughter and were surprised when she listed things for the world, not just herself. So along with the stuff you would expect like more toys, parks, and coloring, she also wanted more life, believing, light, and warmth. And in addition to less being bossed around, she wanted less death, spikes, and poison (she reads a lot of fairy tales!). After seeing her list, we both added gun violence to our less lists.

    • shannon says...

      Are you into Meyers Briggs? Your daughter sounds like a such an intuitive person according to their definition!

  36. Melanie says...

    I’ve stopped calling these resolutions and just goals. Heading into 2018, my husband, stepkids, and I all set goals for the year. On NYE, we shared them with each other and hung each sheet of paper where we could see them (until we moved). Figured it was a great way to teach the kiddos about goal setting and positive mindset. I loved their goals because from what they came up with and how they wrote them down was so perfectly them!!!

    This year, I gave the kids their goals from last year. I was a little worried they’d roll their eyes (teens/tweens thinking their stepmom was being a weirdo), but they were both so excited to see them and set goals for 2019.

    Sharing this with each other is now one of my favorite holiday activities!!!

  37. Lindsey says...

    When I first read through Julia’s list – I misread “big paintings” to big panties and thought YES, a kindred spirit – someone else who wants to invest in comfortable underwear this year! But love this idea and this community’s comments are golden.

    • Jen says...

      Ok, true story: my snarky goal one year was to replace all of my small, silly underwear with huge panties and just BE OK WITH IT and it is still the best resolution I’ve ever made! My life seriously changed when I bought undies two sizes too big. So comfy! No wedgies! “This must be how men feel EVERY DAY OF THEIR DAMN LIVES!” I am a hardcore big panty evangelist now.

    • Owl says...

      Hahaha! Hahaha! Here’s to big, comfy panties and paintings!

    • Caroline says...

      Haha Lindsey and Jen I love the way you think! Brb going to buy some huge panties.

    • Hahaha! I already wear big panties so I didn’t need to add that!!!

    • Brooke says...

      Oh my gosh Jen, this is the BEST!! I’m laughing so hard about “this is how men must feel every day of THEIR DAMN LIVES!!” What a wonderful way to live equity ???.

  38. A says...

    Positive thinking
    Exercising with hubby
    Time to work on my book
    Acceptance of self and others

    Snowballing worry
    Self shaming

    • Brooke says...

      Copying your Less list! But adding anxiety and doubt.

  39. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do have a couple New Year’s rituals I enjoy: buying new underwear and cleaning out my closets. I highly recommend either/both for anyone who’d like the feeling of a fresh start!

    • Emma says...

      I always change the sheets on New Year’s Eve so you wake up in the new year with new sheets! And the whole week around New Year’s I’m just itching to clean/tidy/organize everything.

      The only New Year’s Resolution I’ve stuck to was to write down every book I’ve read — I’ve been doing it since 2007, which for me was mid high school! More than anything else it keeps me honest. And it’s a funny record of my emotions at various points in my life–I can remember what was going on based on what I was reading.

      I think a lot about the “Four Tendencies” ( with resolutions. I’m pretty sure I’m a questioner and my boyfriend is a rebel… he is constantly making and then breaking his own goals and resolutions, whereas I rarely make them and usually stick to them, but it could be any time of year and about anything as long as I actually believe in it (last year I decided to stop using Amazon in June).

  40. Elizabeth says...

    Less: consumerism, instagram, looking up people on the internet that I haven’t seen for 40 years, guilt, TV, wondering how people earn money using words like “branding, curating, and influencing.”

    More: risk, walks in nature (even if it’s in an urban park), gratitude that I will have a pension when I retire, actually trying recipes in my NYT’s recipe box, time for friends.

    • gracesface says...

      Yes no more facebook/google stalking!! I read once in an article that thanks to social media it’s like no one ever goes away! We’re always able to find people and you can observe their lives without ever talking to them. I’m tired of it myself. I de-activated my Facebook account and deleted my Instagram app which I think will help in the short term.

  41. Jacquie says...

    What a great post. I love seeing all of the resolutions and the more of, less of idea feels so much more gentle. This year my resolution is to learn how to ride a bike; I’m 42 years old and think it’s time :)

    • Rose says...

      I love this!! Good luck Jacquie :) I’m Dutch and we bike everywhere. There are even more bikes than people in my country! I bike to school every day and I love it. I have been on Christmas break for two weeks now and even though I always complain about having to cycle an hour every day, I am missing it now! I hope you’ll succed in your resolution and discover the joy in being able to ride a bike!

    • Kamaile says...

      So awesome!

    • GoldenMoon says...

      Go, Jacquie!

  42. thats exactly what i do! im still working on mine for this year but i posted these words (which i cant remember where i read) with one of my favorite pictures i took in thailand here:
    less things. more places.
    less consuming. more creating.
    less hesitating. more leaping.
    i keep them on a post-it in my planner. this is how i approach most of my lists – i write it down to keep track (there’s nothing more satisfying to me than checking off a goal or small task). or i write down how i want certain season (for example: or month to go and then try to abide. i dont really find setting goals discouraging or annoying, if i set it down on paper and dont achieve it, i can always come back around to it or change the idea, to me they are fun challenges and reminders of what i want and how i want to spend my days

  43. Emily says...

    I try to focus less on what I think I SHOULD do (eat healthier, lose weight, etc.), and more on what I’d like to do. For example, this year I’d like to learn how to carve spoons out of wood. I’m choosing to focus on the experience itself, rather than how successful I will be. I don’t know whether it will turn out to be a lasting hobby, or whether I will become a skilled carver or not. Oh, but what fun I’ll have learning something new and interesting!

  44. K says...

    My sister tells me I dress like a little boy too! Glad to see I’m apparently not the only one haha.

    More: self-confidence, courage, healthy eating, volunteering
    Less: sadness, fear, chips for breakfast

    I have a lot to work on, but this looks more doable.

  45. Reg says...

    Being present
    Home cooked meals
    Screen time
    Negative self talk

  46. elizabeth schenck says...

    On NYE 2016, our family made a resolution to use less single-use plastic. The last two years we have assessed where we are and continued to make more changes. It’s been a long road, but ultimately, it has been really inspiring to take ownership of what we consume until companies, etc fall in line and start offering sustainable choices. We are not there yet (I’m looking at you, contact lens solution, deodorant, saxophone reed cases) but we are baking our own bread, making hummus and yogurt, buying things in bulk or wrapped in paper, and feeling like we have an ever so tiny sliver of control over how we want to treat this incredible planet we live on…

    • that’s awesome! im on a similar journey. always looking for ways to make less waste – it’s the least i can do for this beautiful planet and it’s creatures.

    • Somehow, I just heard the term “single use plastic” and it really opened up my awareness of this issue. Single use plastic is EVERYWHERE. I have such a long way to go and am inspired by you! I know it’s pretty socially acceptable to carry around reusable water bottles, but I’ve started carrying around a travel coffee mug, too. I promise: it’s not hard to never get the disposable coffee cups + lids!!

      It’s kind of disappointing when big influencers post pictures of “cute” coffee in a disposable cups, but I know it’s probably just a lack of awareness rather than malicious intent. Shout out to the Cup of Jo team for not doing this. :) Would LOVE a post on ways to reduce single use plastic (and live a zero waste lifestyle in general).

    • Sarah A says...

      I just bought beeswax paper to replace saran wrap, and it is great! I love it – so far I haven’t had any issues.

      I like it so much I got some for my mom’s stocking this Christmas.

    • so happy to read your comment, joyce! there are so many small things we can all do and it makes me so happy when people notice, care and do something about it. i started a blog just about that: making small changes in our lives for our planet, the effect when multiplied is what my dreams are made of – posts on sustainability right this way:
      i hope you can check it out :)

    • elizabeth says...

      we still have a loooong way to go. Once you start noticing how much plastic you consume each day, you can’t UN-notice it. Especially when you live at the beach and you see how much bits of plastic wash up everyday. But we’ve been pretty successful at eliminating kitchen/food plastic and bathroom products wrapped in plastic. We are fortunate to live in SF where we can walk to a local co-op and buy everything in bulk using compostable bags, etc. We’re in this together! Thanks for joining in on the conversation. Happy New Year!

    • Nadine says...

      Yes! This is an ongoing one of mine too. Some changes i have found easy to make (carrying a reusable water bottle EVERYWHERE, always having a baggu bag folded up in my purse for unexpected purchases, keeping reusable grocery bags in the car). Others take some thought (not buying coffee if I don’t have a reusable cup with me). The hardest for me is food packaging! So that is my focus this year. Lots of “zero waste” inspiration available via instagram and pinterest, for me the key is making small changes i can slowly turn into habits :)

  47. Brittany says...

    Last year I kept reminding myself, “More tea less beer.” This year it’s “More hobbies less Instagram. More contentment less spending.”

    • My resolution this year is to buy no new clothes or shoes in 2019. In 2018, I realized that I already have everything I need (on so many levels). Thought I’d share with you, Brittany, in case you wanted to join in. I see it as a physical expression of internal contentment. :)

      (With one exception: I will buy a dress for my sister’s wedding, haha)

    • AJ says...

      In response to Joyce: You don’t even have to buy a dress for a wedding! Use Rent the Runway and borrow an awesome dress for the event. I tried it this year and it was great.

    • Joanna, thank you SO much for sharing. Reading that gave me chills!! It really broadened my view of my own resolution. I loved this quote:

      “If you stop thinking about what you might want, it’s a whole lot easier to see what other people don’t have.”

      I’m beginning Yoga Teacher Training Monday, and one of the yamas (ethical guidelines) of yoga is Asteya, or non-stealing, but it’s more than simply not shoplifting or robbing. One interpretation I read said if, for example, you have 20 sweaters, and your neighbor has none, then you are stealing from your neighbor.

      So I’m telling my dad (super Conservative Christian) about this, and he’s all: “Well, of course, that’s the true interpretation of the 8th commandment, ‘Thou Shall Not Steal.'” (I never realized that AT ALL, despite endless hours in Church.)

      It’s interesting for me to see threads of sameness through different religious traditions, and, as Ann Patchett pointed out in the article, how nearly all spiritual traditions advise letting go of our desire for possessions as a path to peace (or heaven or nirvana or enlightenment or whatever). :) Thanks again for sharing!!

      p.s. I just love Ann Patchett. I think “Bel Canto” was my favorite novel I read in 2018!

    • Amy Gustafson says...

      I didn’t buy clothes in 2017! It was SO MUCH EASIER than I thought it would be, and in 2018 I really only bought some black high waisted jeans and a few fun vintage pieces! Best challenge I ever did!

    • Thanks, AJ! I love the Rent the Runway idea :)

  48. Lauren E. says...

    Salad with avocado, parmesan and pine nuts just made me salivate. Thanks for the dinner idea!

  49. Christie says...

    Great idea! My son asked me just at breakfast what my grammar pet peeves were, and I told him I hated when people misspelled the word Judgment. As a lawyer, I have to type that word a lot, and it drives me crazy that everywhere online it is written incorrectly. Including on this post. I also told him that I really hate it when people misuse the words “fewer” and “less” (like nails on a chalkboard). So many things that I hate, right here on this blog post! But perhaps my true goal in 2019 should be less judgment because clearly I have a grammar-stickler problem.

    • Cazmina says...

      To be fair, it is spelled ‘judgement’ in British English, which is used in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, most Commonwealth countries and much of Europe, so perhaps the reason you see it spelled that way so much online is because a large portion of the world spells it that way. The internet has spread a lot of vocabulary and spelling around the world, for example now many non-Americans spell words like “organise” or “criticise” with a z more and more, which no doubt annoys some British grammar and spelling sticklers! ;)

    • Christie says...

      Could be, Cazmina, but I think most people I’m referring to speak standard American-English and just don’t know how to spell it. But I like that you give so many people the benefit of the doubt! I need to do that more this year, too. :-)

  50. Katrina says...

    Farmers market produce
    Board games
    Early morning walks
    Phone calls to my grandparents

    Overthinking gifts for people
    Being a poor sport when I lose
    Mindless phone scrolling
    Bra (This was already on my mind as a New Year’s Resolution before I saw this post! Kinda glad I’m not the only one.)

    • Meredith Jones says...

      I second less overthinking gifts for people!!! I spend way too much time and energy trying to do very personalized, thoughtful gifts that remind me of the recipient. But when I think about it, the gifts I have cherished most over the years as a recipient are the ones that are quintessentially reminiscent of the giver.

  51. Katherine says...

    I adore Julia! When I read “on the phone” with her I may have fangirl sighed a little bit. I follow her on Instagram, have a few of her books, and it’s my goal to one day own one of her nude overlapping line drawings. You’re friends with her and Jenny and I am so very jealous.

    Also: less bras is something I am actively participating in, because as a stay at home breastfeeding mama, I don’t have time for bras, haha! Nursing tanks all the way.

  52. Claire says...

    Ahhhhh, I love this idea! Every year on or around New Year’s I write down things I’d like to make happen the next year. It’s never been a hard & fast thing, more a wishlist to dream about the possibilities. I like the relaxed flexibility of this idea.

  53. Carrie says...

    Fun physical activities (tennis, hiking, volleyball, etc.)
    Getting preggy

    Family drama

    • Andrea says...

      Preggy!!!! ???????

  54. maryann says...

    Less bras – ha! I just added that to my list.

    I’m trying to do less Instagram. It is a giant black hole on which I spend far too much time looking at shiny happy beautiful people. I took it off my phone 2 weeks ago. Honestly, I miss it. But I have read 1 book and knitted almost 2 socks, so I’m sticking without it…for now.

    • Rez says...

      Yes! To all of this.
      Instagram is a black hole. I just deleted it on the 1st. Since then I started a scarf, I’ve cooked two homemade soups, and roasted chickpeas and veggies. Amazing what eliminating Instagram will do (but I also miss it).

    • gracesface says...

      I deleted the Instagram app and I really don’t miss it! I took a short break from it in December too. Scrolling through complete strangers lives started to just get old and it made me depressed to compare myself to others SO much. I’m also reading a lot more and watching regular ol’ movies.

  55. RF says...

    reading the comments, i’m noticing how almost everyone (myself included) wants to have less screen time/phone time/social media this year…does anyone have any realistic ideas of how to do so? it just sucks you in and can be such a waste of time, but also makes me feel connected to friends and family. I’d love to cut back on the useless phone scrolling in 2019.

    • Allie says...

      This is a resolution of mine, as well! I’m only 3 days in, but at midnight on New Year’s, I simply deleted my Facebook and Instagram apps (after many unsuccessful attempts at cutting back). Remember – there’s ONE of you trying to cut back, and HUNDREDS of smart, well paid people whose job it is to make you use these apps more! For what it’s worth, I actually feel more connected, since I’m using the time (let’s be realistic – HOURS!) that I used to mindlessly scroll through these apps to actually text and *gasp* call family and friends during moments of downtime. It’s refreshing not to have these distractions :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Allie, I love that: “Remember – there’s ONE of you trying to cut back, and HUNDREDS of smart, well paid people whose job it is to make you use these apps more!”

    • m says...

      I started with putting a facebook alarm on my phone (settings & privacy > Your time on facebook). So after I’ve been on Facebook for 25 minutes a pop-up appears. I can still continue my scrolling if I want, but I am WAY more aware of how much time I spend on the app and I tend to scroll through faster. I figured I had to start somewhere. I also prioritize happy birthday wishes first, then start scrolling through.

    • Renee says...

      …does anyone have any realistic ideas of how to do so? >>>>>

      I don’t know if this would work for you but this is what I plan on doing regarding social media. I only have instagram, so I will check it while i’m on my work lunch break and that will be it for the day. This requires willpower and dedication.

    • Gill F. says...

      I give myself a time at night where I’m done! So maybe I’m not great during the day and I’m scrolling, but come 8pm (for example) I chuck it on my bed and don’t look at it. I take the time to be with my girlfriend in whatever way works for us and get myself ready for bed. I sleep better too when I manage to do this. Also, leave it at home here and there! There are days I go out and I leave my phone behind and it’s so nice! I’m not scrolling social media or snapping pictures for Instagram.

    • RF says...

      Great idea, M…thanks! I’ve just set alarms on my facebook and instagram, for half of my daily averages–hopefully will help me be more mindful of the time i am spending on them!

    • Erika says...

      The newest iOS update includes a Screen Time app, which calculates not just the amount of time your phone screen is on, but also how many times a day you pick up your phone, and how much time is spent in each app. It’s alarmingly useful for me to get an alert each week (I think you can make it more frequent) that says “your screen time is up xx% from last week, to 5h47m a day” or whatever it is. It’s a reality check, for sure.

    • Heather says...

      I have been preaching the *delete Instagram Monday through Friday* life for about a year now. It is a life changer. And absolutely, positively NO screens in the bedroom ever. Buy that real alarm clock, and ditch the phone in the kitchen.

    • Hani says...

      So, this was one of two intentions at the start of 2018, and we did these things to Follow Through:
      -Bought a cute clock radio for bedroom instead of relying on phones. I also bought a set of slim notebooks and nice pens to have around the house, since I used to constantly pick up my phone to make a quick list or write a note to myself. PSA, your kids will take every pen. So. Have a pen hoard in the cupboard up high.
      -put the official charging station in the kitchen instead of bedroom.
      -Rotate a few articles or books in the bathroom. Lol honestly, the squat&scroll was a major time suck for both my husband and myself. This tweak alone prob saved us a day of scrolling over the course of 2018 ? We started printing out articles for each other to read in the bathroom, and that was actually really fun, very ‘You’ve Got Mail’ lol

      Like anything, I think you need to have your WHY front and center….plus zero shame and plenty of grace for implementing any kind of change. Honoring why we reach for our phones, the wholesome and not so wholesome reasons, and honoring the immense value technology brings to our lives- I thank my phone! And then kindly tuck it away. Idk, it worked and I have what I feel is finally a nice and neutral relationship w/ my phone.

    • Marie says...

      Tech journalist Kara swisher recommends turning your phone to black and white – makes it much less tantalizing! Haven’t tried it yet but keep meaning to . . .

    • Emily says...

      I went cold turkey and deleted all social apps off my phone in August and haven’t looked back! It has truly only enhanced my life in a million ways.

      I told all my closest friends/family and now we text more/send photos to one another and I feel more connected than before. It made me realize how much social media is just super targeted ads that make me feel like I need to consume; influencers that make me feel insecure; and wedding/baby/engagement announcements of people I haven’t seen in years! It brought out my fears and insecurities, and after a really rough mental health year, I didn’t want anything else negative shaping my life (that I could prevent, at least!).

      Best news of all…I used my newly found social media-free time to search for a foster dog, adopted him in August, and now use what was once social media time to cuddle/walk/play with my pup. I read more. I write in my journal more. Listen to Fresh Air and other wise podcasting women more. My mental and physical half has really transformed. Go for it, you won’t regret it!

    • Greta says...

      I just started using ZenScreen (if I’m being honest, my partner downloaded it to both of our phones while I whined about it) and really like that it kicks me off all my apps periodically throughout the day. I’ll echo what someone else said about leaving the phone in the kitchen and using a real alarm clock. I set my phone alarm for ten minutes later than my clock so I have that little snooze built in, but know I have to get up to turn it off (this works on a small apartment). We’ll see how long these resolutions last this year — it might not be the first time I’ve tried!

    • Colleen says...

      I deleted my Instagram in September. It was the last tie I had to social media. I don’t regret it. The first two weeks were kind of hard (i.e. reaching for my phone to browse while at work or on the couch). I deleted it during a time when I was really busy though, which seemed to make it easier. My anxiety has dropped substantially.

      I also did what another reader wrote- I texted a handful of friends that I wanted to keep in contact with. Something like, now that we can’t keep in touch on IG we should see each other more in-person!

      Being off social media has also made me less interested in trying to constantly keep up with the news, which has been such a relief. I check NYT and a few other sites throughout the day, but I no longer feel bombarded by stress-inducing news.

      In the past three months I’ve spent time baking, reading, exercising, walking outside with full attention to my surroundings, fostering two dogs. I feel WAY more productive.

      In the end, social media is just another way to expand consumerism. We have enough of that already.

      I recommend putting down the phone and picking up a pen. I think most people will get more joy out of a handwritten note than a “like” anyway. :)

      Good luck!

  56. Chloe says...

    more: unconditional love, travel, gardening

    less: drama, indifference, road rage

  57. justyna says...

    THANK YOU FOR THIS! also for the grand canyon bit, game changer.
    more: “do it today”, diary writing, pilates and yoga, mailing postcards, hard no’s, music, konmari, books in bed at 9pm.
    less: red wine

  58. Kara says...

    Nature walks
    Spontaneous ferry boat rides

    Disposable coffee cups
    House envy

  59. Chelsey N says...

    Speaking up
    Meal Prep
    Listening to my body

    Social media

  60. Gill F. says...

    I love this! I like to pick a word for my year (mine is patience!) but I adore this idea so here we go:

    Books before bed
    Moving my body
    Body love
    Video chatting the people too far away to visit
    Speaking out
    Time in the kitchen

    Pressure (on myself)
    Staying silent
    Endless phone scrolling
    Ordering food
    Staying still
    Keeping it bottled up

    Same (I love this category):
    Kitty cuddles
    Girlfriend cuddles
    Netflix marathons
    Fully belly laughs
    Bowls of saucy pasta and red wine
    Long candlelit baths and taking time for myself
    Telling myself ‘you are a badass lady who is gonna take on the world’ when the going gets tough (I’m looking at you grad school!)—more believing this!

  61. Emily says...

    i usually try to focus on a single concept (the year i met my husband it was “being less prideful/more open” which worked out swimmingly, for that year at least).

    this year, i want to focus on being more careful, which started as an intention about how i eat (not what i eat, but rather, how much i spill on my lovely clothes…), but the more i dwell on it, it particularly extends to how i listen and treat others. so, in the more/less way, i guess i would say “more care/less thoughtlessness”

  62. Lisa says...

    More: joy, sex, walking, vegetables, home cooked dinners

    Less: worrying, arguing, needless stress, phone, crappy snacks

    I heard the phrase “Nothing without joy” recently and it has really stuck with me. Happy 2019, all.

  63. Courtney S. says...

    More laughing, less crying (unless it’s from laughing!); More trips to the movies, less trips to Starbucks (and/or Dunkin); More real life, less social media.

    Happy New Year!

  64. Lori says...

    More: laughing, walks with dog, game nights with kids, cooking, sleep
    Less: nagging, phone futzing, moving clutter around the house, saying yes to every volunteer opportunity in front of me.

    Wow! That sure feels good! And it just might work…

  65. Christina Swigart says...

    more: effort, homecooked, moving!, listening
    less: spending, instagram, anxiety

    wow, really loved this.

  66. liz says...

    More: compassion, cooking and meal prepping at home, reaching out to friends (especially those who seem like they’re going through a rough time), rest, reading, moisturizing and sunscreen, making things instead of buying them

    Less: complaining, envying, competition, snacking (I’m not anti-snacking per se but I’m a grazer in a bad way (read: ruins my appetite for real good meals)), procrastination, running, clutter, spending, anger, judgment

    Similar concept, but I’ve always loved the idea of choosing a theme/word to aspire to for the year instead of a formal resolution/plan. I decided that the word for me this year is going to be “compassion”, and try to think of how best to embody “compassion” in my decisions/actions/relationships/purchases

    • Kim says...

      Love this take on resolutions.
      Reading through the comments, “expectation Grudges” made me stop and think – totally a thing, here’s to less expectation grudges in 2019!

      Having friends over
      Putting myself out there
      Art and experiments
      Leisurely dog walks
      Spending time with people I love

      Procrastination and perfectionism
      High expectations
      Running behind and apologizing

  67. Hanna says...

    I’ll have to sit down and do this exercise for real after work, but my first thought was:

    Less: Lyme disease

    Ha! Still too scared to put “gardening” in the more category this year!

    • Sarah says...

      I’m a gardener on Martha’s Vineyard, and I hear every word of this <3

  68. M says...

    I love the phrase’futzing on my phone’. The word ‘futzing’ just beautifully describes what I do too (and am determined to do less of).
    That’s a new word I learnt today. Also, ‘busted’. You use them so nicely Joanna…I love the usage. ‘XYZ busted out this pasta’ just beautifully captures what really happened. Okay I’m going so off track.
    Coming to the post, I love the idea of writing things down and the point of being kinder to yourself by saying ‘Less’, ‘More’ vs. ‘Do this or that’.

  69. Caitlin says...


    Screen time (for myself)

    Walks with my dog
    Time with family
    Baby snuggles

  70. LESS


    (We have a two-year-old.)

    • Liz says...



  71. Laura says...

    moving my body
    trying out new recipes
    early bedtimes

    getting mad about my job

  72. Val says...

    -Acceptance of others
    -Healthy foods
    -Clutter in my house, car, and mind

  73. riye says...

    I’ve always prided myself on getting the things that “have” to get done finished and letting slide the non-essentials (a.k.a. fun stuff). I’ve finally realized that many times if (fill in the blank) doesn’t get done, the world really doesn’t end. Really. So yes to more pleasures and no to thoughtless “asshattery” (e.g., being joyless, humorless, grouchy, and judgmental).

    More: kindness, vegetables, books, friends, art, Japan, UK, NYC

    Less: thoughtless asshattery, housework

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha, i don’t know you but i love you, riye. :)

    • Amanda says...

      thoughtless asshattery… I have no words to describe how poetic and beautiful this is.

  74. Annie says...

    YES! I was just taking this approach myself :)
    Indian buffet dates with mom
    After dinner walks with husband and dog
    Quick chores/projects on weeknights

    Marathon cleaning weekends
    Ambitious to-do lists

  75. Meg says...

    Phone scrolling
    Eating random desserts people bring to work that aren’t even good

    Saying no if you don’t actually want to go
    Kindness to strangers

    I’m adding a third category to celebrate things I’m already doing the perfect amount :)

    Cat snuggling

    • Meg says...

      And two of our “The sames” are the same! (If you sub out kids for cat hahaha) :)

    • julie says...

      ohmigod the desserts at work. why? whyyyyy do i inhale them? and then i bring crappy donuts or cookies too and am just part of the problem. a colleague once brought in a huge bowl of peaches to share and the office was in heaven. it was the best week. actually thank you for reminding me of it!!

  76. katie says...

    This is so easy for me this year… More friends and family. Less work.

    For the past several years, I worked hard to get ahead. My efforts came to fruition in late 2016 and I was finally where I wanted to be in my career. In 2018 I took on more large projects and more responsibility. In September, a reorg happened and I was demoted. I missed out on friend and family time because of those big projects despite working hard and canceling trips. This year, eff it. YES TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY!

  77. Rose says...

    That’s wild, I just did something similar even before seeing this!

    Mine was:

    More rest
    Less shame

    I think I’ll add to my list!

  78. Emily says...

    Water (drinking, swimming, sitting by, visiting)
    Time without a device
    Weekend adventures
    Positive inner dialogue

    Negative thoughts into words
    Overextending myself to fill in empty space around me
    Screen time

  79. Caitlin says...

    I love this! I’m going to make my list tonight.

    Less: Phone/social media
    More: In-person friend and family connections/dates/get-togethers

  80. Veronica says...

    This is a nice way to do resolutions!


    -time spent staring at my infant son
    -seducing my husband
    -reading good books
    -connecting with friends
    -time spent on productive change in politics
    Physical photos of my family

    -time spent on time sucks like my phone/the internet
    -worrying about my body
    -ranting about Trump/politics unproductively (I.e. without ideas for change)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “time spent staring at my infant son” = sweetest :)

    • jillian bedell says...

      there was that notorious! Ayelet Waldman statement years ago (the backlash = misogyny) about loving her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon more than their kids, or something like that, that I have thought about often, even now that I’m no longer married. I love the idea of seducing your husband. Seducing anything. Or flirting. Or going after. Being sexy/provocative/curious/sex positive. I like it! I loved looking deeply at my newborn daughters, and I am so glad I spent so much time on that project. I love that resolution, too, for the record!

  81. Robin says...

    Less: Alcohol, clutter. More: Staying home on weekends, socializing, flossing. I usually make task lists and fitness goals in Google Docs. It seems that if I write them down and check on them whenever I remember (every few weeks or so), I accomplish a lot! I started writing “done” beside completed tasks instead of erasing them… the “done” list eventually gets longer than the “to do” list, which makes me feel like I’m reaching my goals.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great idea, robin. i’ve heard that writing goals down makes you stick to them so, so much more.

  82. Colleen says...

    I thought I was too busy to make a resolution. But I’ll play. More running, walking, swimming, more self care, trying new recipes. Less impatience, lateness, yelling at kids.

  83. Yes to less complaining. If it’s not necessary to say and it’s not helpful I’d like to work on not saying it at all.

    And more time playing with my kids.

    More travel!

  84. Caitlin says...

    What a great idea! Feels like there’s more room for real life ;-)

  85. Melissa says...

    Haha, I thought “Expectation Grudges” were a thing, and I was like, yeah, I need less of those too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha good point!

    • Emily says...

      Expectation grudges are legit, I know this is one I need less of this year. Enjoy the small things, see the positive, let go of what didnt happen or didnt go well, etc.

  86. Anon says...


    Chia seeds

    Yep! I think I definitely got this

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha YES! love this.

  87. Julie says...

    Dates with my mom
    Happy hours with friends
    Reading wrapped in a blanket
    Long walks at lunchtime
    Weekends away with my husband

    Reading news stories that I know will upset me
    Berating myself for being imperfect
    Forcing myself to finish books that don’t interest me, life is too short and there are too many amazing books

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      reading wrapped in a blanket sounds perfect right about now :)

  88. Cara says...

    I love the word “futzing.” Very perfect for what usually happens on a phone.

  89. Kate says...

    One of my resolves this year is to take more nudes :) I spent 2018 getting to love my body a lot and I think it’ll be nice in 40 years to have some snaps of my 30-something super cute boobs and super strong shoulders! Aside from that, I want to follow my urges more and out of my comfort zone (aka reading on the couch), be better at thinking before I speak, and reach out more to friends and family.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, kate. <3

    • Katie Larissa says...

      Kate, can I ask a genuine question? If you’re taking nudes with a digital device, are you not concerned about privacy/security? Even if you aren’t sending them to people, I am afraid of my phone being stolen or hacked (or my iCloud account which is synced up with my real camera) and the nudes being “out there.” I would love to take some of my body at this stage too, but I’m nervous. What is your solution? (Or maybe I just worry too much?)

    • Danielle says...

      Several years ago my husband and I did a two month bike tour down the west coast. I’d say we were in pretty great shape by the end. Someone told us that we should get nude photos taken because we would want to look back on what our bodies were able to do. I laughed it off because while I was incredibly strong I still felt like I somehow fell short of some ideal in my head.
      Of course five years later I think, “Dang. We really should’ve done that”

    • Kate says...

      Katie, sure! I keep fitness progress photos in an app called KeepSafe and I feel secure with it. As for more professional-ish photos, I’m going to have my husband take some with his nice digital camera, but I am going to do some research online and also ask photographer friends if they have any recommendations for getting personal photos printed. I’ll be careful, but honestly I’m not too worried about it!

    • Kate B says...

      Katie Larissa– I’d say go for it and don’t worry about it! I think we all should be more sharing and open with tasteful nudes! Sometimes I get tasteful nudes ordered through print shops and I laugh at what the people on the other end are probably thinking. Though I do have concerns about the handful of “spicy” photos that my husband and I have made over the years. I need a self-destructing folder on my computer so my kids don’t inherit them when i die ;)

  90. lesley says...

    more outside time, swimming in the ocean, hammocking, quality time with freinds and husband. less stress, work, sugar. this was fun!

  91. Ellen says...

    I seriously JUST did this exercise before I read the post! Stretching is a great one. Here are mine:

    -Buying things

    -Reaching out to friends
    -Cooking & prepping
    -Applying myself
    -Quick cleaning
    -Moving slowly & deliberately

  92. lili cohen says...

    Yes! Since 2016 I’ve been making a ‘Things To Do in 2016,17,18,19’ list. Not a new years resolution per say but something to think about during the coming year. The list always includes ‘go somewhere I’ve never been before’ or sometimes ‘chill harder’ and usually some pledge to doing more yoga. I check in with the list usually mid year and then again in December and find the things have a way of getting themselves taken care of.

  93. I LOVE this idea so much. I saw her post also and I’ve been meaning to make my list (ha, see my “less!”)

    More: Laughter
    Less: Procrastination

    • Laura C. says...

      May I copy your list? The simpler the better.

  94. Lillie says...

    Yes! This! So much less judgey and more self-kind!

  95. Allegra says...

    I love this! Such a great way to set aspirations rather than goals (which can feel like too much pressure).