Others’ resolutions

by Eszter Hargittai on January 1, 2009

I never make New Year’s resolutions. If I want to do something then I’ll just start doing it. (This explains why I started recording my steps with a pedometer on April 4, 2007 and why I started photo Project 365 on October 24, 2006.) If I’m not really committed to doing something then it certainly won’t make a difference to start it on January 1.

But yesterday, I got some resolutions handed to me nonetheless. I was at a New Year’s Eve party and everyone was asked to write down their resolutions and put them in a hat. Then we went around and drew resolutions.

Here is what I got:

The resolutions I picked randomly on New Year's Eve

Eat More Green things (and by green, I don’t mean moldy)
Make more stuff

I get the first one and I’m happy to give it a go. I’ve already had some edamame today to comply.

But what does the second one mean? Does writing a book count as making stuff? Or should I be setting up shop at Etsy?

I’m curious, those of you who make New Year’s resolutions, what’s the longest you’ve managed to stay on track? Anyone go a whole year? Any unusual attempts this time around?



Steve Laniel 01.01.09 at 11:41 pm

I made my first NY resolution for 2008. It was to get fit. I did that. So now I’m aiming higher. In 2009 I intend to be elected US president. I am 30 years old.


sg 01.02.09 at 12:16 am

I don’t think edamame is strictly complying with the green things policy – they are a legume, and the spirit of the green things resolution is clearly spinach, broccoli, et al. You’ve already broken it! After all, if you were going to go by the letter of the resolution you could eat candy snakes or something.


The Modesto Kid 01.02.09 at 12:18 am

I take “make more stuff” to mean “do arts and crafts” — put things together in a self-expressive way, knitting and carpentry and so forth. I don’t think if I had written that resolution, I would have been thinking about writing books; but writing books seems like a good way of fulfilling it.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions because I can’t count on myself to follow through with them. OTOH this does somehow feel like a good time of year for thinking about my future.


strategichamlet 01.02.09 at 2:02 am

I’ve always tended to agree with you that if you want to do something you should just do it, or not as you see fit. Making resolutions always seemed for the weak willed. I do remember in 9th grade though we had to make a resolution as a writing assignment or something. Mine was “achieve a higher level of consciousness.” I think I’d just recently read Dune.


jacob 01.02.09 at 2:07 am

A few years ago I resolved, with my partner, to try to like the city we live in more. So we made an effort to find new places to go, experiment with new restaurants, and explore the farther reaches of the area. We didn’t keep up the exploration part, but we both did emerge from the project liking our city more–and thinking of it more as “our city” rather than the place we both live for school.


Antti Nannimus 01.02.09 at 2:19 am


“Make more stuff.”

It means cook your own food. Don’t buy so much shit.

Have a nice year!



The Modesto Kid 01.02.09 at 2:27 am

Some worthwhile resolutions here.


Matt 01.02.09 at 3:14 am

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade I made the resolution to do a better job of selling worms that year. I remember because it was recorded in some sort of school newsletter and people thought it was funny. With the help of my father my older brother and I had a small business selling worms to fishermen in the summer. I’m pretty sure I did a better job of doing it though I’m not sure if it was because of the resolution or not. (Doing better mostly consisted in going out on more nights to gather worms with my father.)


MH 01.02.09 at 4:48 am

I’m still trying to think of one for 2009. I want to find something that is less of a cliche than “get in shape” or “sell more worms.”


Ben Parzybok 01.02.09 at 5:24 am

I very much like making resolutions, there are a couple of reasons for this.

— I feel making resolutions is an excellent chance to quickly sum up hopes for the next year, a practice that is a very nice resetting of the mind on priorities and a sifting to the top of interests that I feel are most germane to the direction in life I want to go. It’s a chance to look at a longer period of time and to try to decide who you want to be at the end of next year.

— I feel writing these things down gives me a better shot at completing them than if I didn’t write them down at all. There have been studies done on success rates for resolutions:
The success rate is not high, but it’s way higher than zero.

— Mostly, I make very specific resolutions, many of them are items that may be considered plans or goals. For example, I plan to be living in Brazil this time next year. However, it will be a significantly complicated challenge to do so, and by no means is it a certainty. Another of my resolutions is to spend more time in silence (no media, radio, children, etc). This is a difficult to track resolution — but writing this down clarifies the interest for me which leads me to:

— I post them visibly above my workspace and I refer to them all year long. This does help.

— I keep all of my resolutions, and it’s very fun to go back through 4 or 5 years of resolutions with a satisfied “Yep, I did that” or “No, I didn’t do that because my interest changed” or, and often enough, “No, I didn’t do that, and it continues to be a goal that will get re-listed.”

So yes – I keep them religiously – and usually I have 20 or 30 bullet points of them. I always look forward to making them and spending some time summing up the year and thinking how the next could be improved.


Worm Fan 01.02.09 at 11:22 am

” I want to find something that is less of a cliche than “get in shape” or “sell more worms.” ” – MH

Surely, ‘selling more worms’ is not a common or garden variety of NY’s resolution (though the worms sold might be). Surely not cliche.

‘I resolve to proceed with greater resolve’ was mine.


Jacob Christensen 01.02.09 at 11:33 am

Does writing a book count as making stuff?

Not according to the bibliometric indexes used by the Danish Ministry of Science. If it’s an anthology, even worse. If you were working at a Danish university, you would be considered a liability by your head of department. ;-)

On a more serious (?) note: Everybody talks and writes about New Year’s Resolutions around this time of the year but at the age of 44 I have yet to meet someone who have actually made, let alone kept one. Do I know the wrong people, or…? (And no: I have no resolutions myself.)


trane 01.02.09 at 1:46 pm

I am in favour of resolutions, but I have never had any particular New Years’ ones.

I am in favour of resolutions, because I cannot say

“If I want to do something then I’ll just start doing it. ”

without being a pathetic liar to myself.

Being true I would say:

“If I want to do something then I’ll start dreaming about how nice it would be if I did get to do that thing more (say, writing real letters to friends). I will start doing it a little bit (write a bit of a draft of a letter), but not get around to finishing it. I will then move to making plans for doing those things right after finishing other important things (say, finishing a thesis). When I break deadlines for other important things, I will spend a lot of time lamenting that I did not get around to that wonderful resolution thing (letter-writing). Next comes the blame phase, the time for which will contribute to breaking another deadline for other important things, which of course will postpone getting around to resolution stuff. Occassionally I surprise myself, things suddenly materialise, and I do get to finish stuff. This happens most often when I spend time with The Thing to Finish rather than with interesting blogs.”

So my new year’s resolution for this year:

Rise early. Open main document. Stay away from Crooked Timber until after 8 p.m. And: Finish. Thesis. Very Soon.


Mike 01.02.09 at 2:46 pm

My brother has the two same News Years resolutions every year.

First, drink more Bloody Marys

Second, eat more pork.

They seem staggeringly reasonable to me.


praisegod barebones 01.02.09 at 2:59 pm

‘Not according to the bibliometric indexes used by the Danish Ministry of Science. If it’s an anthology, even worse. If you were working at a Danish university, you would be considered a liability by your head of department. ;-)’

I know it’s OT – but could you expand on this a bit? Are you saying that they prefer academics not to write books? Or that they prefer other forms of output? and does this extend to all disciplines, or does it only apply to the natural sciences? My curiosity about this is not entirely idle…


Paul 01.02.09 at 3:34 pm

My resolution is to be resolute in the face of much ado about nothing !! :-)


Peter 01.02.09 at 4:02 pm

How many steps have you taken since you started recording them?


Tracy W 01.02.09 at 6:20 pm

About 10 years ago, I made a New Years’ resolution not to eat anything when I was already full just because it tastes good. I’m still keeping that one.
Of course the tight link between wrong-doing and consequences is a big help.


Michael L 01.02.09 at 6:33 pm

About 15 years ago, in August, I resolved to make a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking. On New Year’s eve I probably smoked 2 1/2 packs of cigarettes. I haven’t smoked the things since.
It helps me to get things done if I work myself up to it.


Eszter Hargittai 01.02.09 at 7:25 pm

A few years ago I resolved, with my partner, to try to like the city we live in more.

That’s interesting, it’s a nice positive approach. I wonder if it worked in the end, because it was a joint decision and it wasn’t something you were trying to do alone.

I know it’s OT – but could you expand on this a bit?

Since when has being off topic mattered to CT commenters?;-) This is a light thread, go for it. If Jacob checks back, I’d be curious to hear more on this point, too.

How many steps have you taken since you started recording them?

Over 5,457,798, more details are here. WalkerTracker helps me keep track, but it’s on me to input the numbers and on occasion I’ve forgotten to do so thus the “over”.


mapaghimagsik 01.02.09 at 9:59 pm

I’m in the same boat. I make life changes as I decide I need them (which probably should be sooner, but hey) and January 1 isn’t a great day for that, since usually I’m in the frame of “I should drink/eat less” since I’m coming down the from Holiday binging.


Jacob Christensen 01.03.09 at 12:21 pm

@praisegood barebones and @eszter: Oh, dear. I guess, I asked for it… Well, I’ll try to be as brief as possible.

Now, I assume that you are vaguely familiar with the performance board evaluation exercises introduced in the UK by the Conservative governments (if not, Christopher Bertram can surely inform us). Basically, at regular intervals evaluation boards will descend on British academic departments and with the help of a lot of indicators – bibliometric and others – decide if they produce research of value or not.

The Scandinavian countries (Social Democratic governments or not) in general have enthusiastically adopted the gospel of New Public Management, including in the field of higher education. So Norway, Denmark and Sweden are in the process of removing basic research funding to universities and replacing it with a system building on productivity-based indicators. We don’t make our students any wiser (we produce STÃ…s or HSTs or whatever) and we don’t gain further academic insight – we produce publication marks which again will be used for the distribution of appropriations.

Our bureaucratic overlords have decided that basically there is only one legitimate form of academic publishing – the peer-reviewed journal article written in English. These are what will earn you – or rather: the department you are associated with – money. The number of marks or points you earn depend on the status of the journal, your work appears in, but basically a journal article (provided it is published in a proper academic language and not German, French, Hungarian or – heaven forbid – one of the Scandinavian languages) beats not only book chapters but also monographs. So if we assume the existence of Eszter having a Scandinavian double (Esteri Hargittainen?), our Esteri would have to consider if she couldn’t have made more stuff by splitting the book into articles and hawking them at various prestigious academic journals. After all, the book would earn her department one, possibly two points, while three or four article would earn the department eight.

And yes, these rules also apply to the social sciences and humanities at Scandinavian universities. To our overlords, technology and natural sciences are the models for all academia.

But – a brief look at Eszter’s CV informs us that she is an associate professor at NWU (belated congratulations with your tenure, btw!) and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center and it may not be unreasonable to assume that the powers that be at Harvard are just a bit more flexible than Scandinavian bureaucrats. In which case, producing a book may indeed count as making more stuff.

And with this back to the New Year’s resolutions!

PS: Yes, I know that Esteri Hargittainen is pseudo-Finnish and that Finland is a Nordic, not a Scandinavian country. :-)


Antti Nannimus 01.03.09 at 10:33 pm

PS: Yes, I know that Esteri Hargittainen is pseudo-Finnish and that Finland is a Nordic, not a Scandinavian country. :-) ”

Oh kiitos (thanks) Jacob! Now you’ve saved me from my irresistible urge to make an annoying pedantic comment.

Have a nice day!



Eszter Hargittai 01.04.09 at 3:28 pm

Thanks, Jacob, that’s interesting. I think there are fields in the US where book writing is similarly less desirable than peer-reviewed journal publishing and doesn’t seem to count much toward tenure (or other types of promotions). It certainly seems like a group of articles goes through more peer review than a book manuscript so perhaps that’s the reason for it. Of course there are lots of problems with the peer-review system of journal articles as well. (Now we’re definitely off-topic.)

In this particular case, my application for the fellowship at Harvard specifically stated that I would be working on a book so everyone was on the same page going into it, there shouldn’t be any surprises there.

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