There is so much I want to get done in 2024.

I’ve resolved to read at least 12 books and have regular Shabbat dinners with family and friends. I want to travel abroad, rewrite my play and perfect my vegan tomato soup recipe. I’m going to see more movies, concerts, and theatre. I want to write a thousand more articles.

Opinions differ on the New Year’s resolution. Some people are totally onboard while others resist them altogether. Still, they loom large.

A third, 34% of Americans planned to make resolutions or set a goal for this year, according to a December 2023 YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults.

Personally, to meet all my goals, I’ll be adding new elements to my day-to-day like starting my nighttime routine earlier to leave more time for reading, setting a monthly reminder to reach out to my siblings about Shabbos, and listening to more podcasts for inspiration.

All of these are meant to improve my wellbeing, but in thinking about what would actually make my year better, I realized I can’t just keep adding components. I need to subtract some as well.

Experts support this approach.

Subtracting is a ‘great idea for New Year’s resolutions’

“Our tendency as humans when we think about improving something is adding,” says Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago. In fact, “often the improvement is by removing things.”

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Concordia University in Quebec have found that letting go of goals that aren’t serving you “leads to less stress, depression and intrusive thoughts,” according to reporting in the Scientific American.

I actually started my substracting journey a couple of years ago. I stopped using the dating apps in 2022 because they made me feel miserable and I just didn’t find them to be a reliable way to make real connections.

Last year I deleted my Instagram account because it was sucking up my time and giving me FOMO. Both decisions have proved beneficial for my overall wellbeing.

Our tendency as humans when we think about improving something is adding. Often the improvement is by removing things.

Ayelet Fishbach

Professor of behavioral science and marketing

So in thinking about New Year’s resolutions, I considered what else I could subtract. And I realized that instead of the specific activities I’d be taking on, it’s the deadlines that I have set for myself — and that others have set for me — that have really been weighing me down and stressing me out.

For example, I’ll turn 38 in a couple of weeks and I’ve long thought that 40 was my deadline for milestones like having multiple kids.

“Deadlines are funny because we often set them to motivate ourselves,” says Fishbach. But those deadlines can sometimes be arbitrary. And while not meeting my various life milestones by 40 could be disappointing, ultimately, missing them doesn’t mean I won’t achieve those goals later in life.

So maybe it’s time to just let those deadlines go.

Other people have implemented the idea of subtraction as well. My colleague Lauren Shamo, for instance, is quitting New Year’s resolutions altogether. “It’s almost like adding another thing on your to-do list,” she told CNBC Make It in December.

For anyone else considering what might make 2024 better than last year, it’s a “great idea for New Year’s resolutions,” says Fishbach. “To remove.”

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