new year's resolutions

I’m Done Resolving to Be More Productive

Photo: Nastasic/Getty Images

I’ve always been superstitious about the power of New Year’s. Normally, I spend the final weeks of each year carefully crafting a list of resolutions designed to transform myself into the human embodiment of a vision board. My past resolutions have included learning to do the splits, monthly book quotas, weekly meditation quotas, volunteer hours, and improving my foraging skills. (Specifically, in 2022 I aimed to be able to “identify ten fungi and ten trees on sight.” I was trying to prepare for the climate apocalypse.)

This year, I achieved more of my hopeful, productive resolutions than ever: I read the books, I visited the cities, I went for my daily walks. Yet I’m closing out 2023 recovering from heartbreak and feeling more lost than ever. I’m definitely not thinking about self-improvement or productivity. Still, I can’t quite fathom skipping resolutions entirely. Instead, I’ve decided my resolutions will be totally useless, at least in any measurable way. This year, I’m resolving to lean into my most unproductive hobbies.

For example, I’ve always loved painting. But thanks to my dismal spatial reasoning and severe lack of precision, my paintings are objectively bad — and as a result, I’ve largely avoided making any for the past decade. But lately, as a writer, I’ve been yearning for a nonverbal form of expression and craving the physical action of a brush on canvas. I’ve decided that in January, I’m going to take myself to Blick for a set of brushes and some paints and turn on the Bob Ross. I’m not going to worry about the end result. Giving myself time to play with color and form, for no one’s pleasure but my own, is the only achievement I need.

Similarly, when I think back on 2023, the activity that most consistently brought me joy is karaoke. I’m a karaoke fiend. There are few highs as powerful as getting a room of strangers to passionately sing along to an Avril Lavigne song together. Part of the reason I love it is that you don’t have to be a good singer to be a good karaoke performer. I know I don’t have a natural talent for singing, but I enjoy it and want to spend more time doing it. Luckily, there’s a rich catalogue of online vocal lessons available via YouTube, so I think I’ll start there.

There are other hobbies I’d like to lean into, too. Browsing at a fancy yarn store recently, I couldn’t resist buying a skein of gorgeous purple yarn. It made me want to pick up a pair of knitting needles again, or maybe even properly learn to crochet — both hobbies I tried in my tween years to minimal success. I can’t hit a tennis ball to save my life, but I do love running around in a skort while trying to. Thinking about my resolutions for this year, I realized that I’ve never really pursued anything I was initially or persistently bad at: geography, applying makeup, using video editing software, pottery, choreography. Like many children of immigrants, I felt from a young age that it was pragmatic to focus on the skills and activities that came naturally. Even though I’ve never been a “rise ’n’ grind” type, the drive to achieve is more deeply embedded in my subconscious than I realized. In 2024, I want to worry less about what grade I’m gonna get on every aspect of my life. If I’m not trying to achieve any of my New Year’s resolutions, I think I might actually enjoy them — and hopefully my year, too.

I’m Done Resolving to Be More Productive