Seriously, don’t worry about New Year’s resolutions for 2021

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This year was brutal. You should feel proud just for getting through it, so please: feel free to skip making any 2021 resolutions. I, a professional internet productivity person, hereby liberate you.

If you already have resolutions and are excited about them, please don’t let me discourage you. That’s amazing. Everyone is coping with things in their own way, and for some people, that means self-improvement projects.

But I’d like to talk to the rest of you—the people who are on autopilot, or just barely getting by. I think you’re doing great, and I think you should give yourself more credit for that. Getting as much done now as you did a year ago isn’t just good enough—it’s a freaking miracle. Don’t worry about doing more right now.

Things aren’t ok (and that’s ok)

All 300+ Zapier employees write aweekly Friday update. These posts outline progress we made on our priorities, outline priorities for the week to come, and typically also include a few personal notes. I skim all of these internal site posts so I can find any content that might work here, on our public site.

It’s honestly inspiring to me how much we got done under these circumstances—together,we helped small businesses survive and thrive. But it wasn’t all productivity and success. People here struggled this year, in all kinds of ways, and these posts made that clear.

Some of us lost family or friends to the virus. Some are separated from them. We’re a remote company, but even so, everyone struggled with a new context and new routines—parents in particular.

Many of us expressed how terrible we felt, and how guilty we felt for feeling bad because other people were going through worse and shouldn’t we just be grateful? That’s not how happiness works, of course, but that’s how we felt.

A lot of us also felt guilty for how little work we got done—I saw that expressed again and again, and I felt that way myself. And yet, objectively, the company accomplished a lot this year. We all felt bad about our productivity despite being very productive overall.

The title of the internal site post Justin wrote about this
I first wrote about this on our internal site. Here’s the very insightful title I gave it.

I bet your situation is similar—that you accomplished way more than you’re giving yourself credit for. It’s very easy to feel bad right now, to feel as though you’re not getting anything done and that it’s your fault. You might think that guilt will motivate you, but it’s mostly just paralyzing.

So try not to obsess over what you didn’t accomplish this year, and try not to think of next year as a chance to correct for that. Instead, look at what you managed to get done under terrible circumstances. Give yourself permission to celebrate that. You probably didn’t live up to your personal goals—but you set those goals in very different circumstances. Functioning at all right now is remarkable.

If you make resolutions, make them manageable

Which brings us back to resolutions. If you’re feeling up to it, great—give yourself some ambitious goals. But just getting by right now is a miracle, and there will be time for self-improvement later. Consider skipping the ritual entirely this year.

Or, if you want to set resolutions, make them easily achievable. That way you’ll actually make a change, and actually feel good about it. A few ideas:

  • Take a walk. Not a long one—maybe just around the block—and not every day—maybe once a week.

  • Text someone, every day, just to say hi.

  • Empty your inbox (occasionally).

Justin's cat, Mira
You could also resolve to get a cat. This is Mira, and she is my 2021 resolution.

Or maybe you should resolve to do less work next year. Find some small task that doesn’t need to be done and stop doing it. Or, if you can, find some mundane task you do every day and automate it.

There is a time for ambitious life changes. Right now isn’t it, and that’s ok.

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