No one I know seems to make New Year's resolutions any more. When I ask, people usually shake their heads and say that they don't think these resolutions are practical or helpful.
WebMD agrees. Rather than saddling yourself with a list of intimidating resolutions, it's better to make small, consistent, and measurable changes over time, writes Neil Osterweil ("In One Year, Out the Other").
I'm a list-maker myself, and I tend to write long lists of things to do. But staring at a multi-page to-do list is not motivating, especially first thing in the morning. Earlier this year, I read that it's better to just pick a few things to do each day. One life coach even suggests limiting your to-do list to a three-inch-square sticky note each morning, and not adding anything to your daily list once it's written ("If It Won't Fit on a Post-It, It Won't Fit in Your Day").
So I decided to write a short to-do list each day. I try to make my tasks concrete and make sure each one moves me toward my professional or personal goals. As a result, I have found that it's easier for me to cross everything off the list, which makes me feel and become more productive. With a shorter list, it's also easier for me to figure out how to divide up my time each day.
A list of ambitious New Year's resolutions is an extreme version of a long list of tasks to do; often, it will just make you miserable. Perhaps the recession has taught us to rethink our expectations, focus on smaller, more achievable goals, and enjoy a sense of accomplishment more often.