Don’t take yourself too seriously. Some of my biggest regrets in life are things I’ve turned down on principle.
Don’t agree to any social plans a month ahead that you wouldn’t be excited about if they were happening that night. If you kick it into the long grass, it will still eventually find its way back out of that grass and eat you.
If you do agree to a plan, don’t bail on it. Don’t be a flake!
Don’t make the idea of what other people might think cause you to be afraid of trying things and failing. Someone much wiser than me said: “The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.”
Don’t limit yourself to friends your own age. One of my great pleasures has been cultivating friendships with people of a wide range of ages. It helps put the preoccupations of your particular cohort into perspective.
Don’t stick all – or maybe any – of your life on social media. I’m very much hoping we can make a sense of mystery high status again.
Don’t kid yourself that people change. They just become more exaggerated versions of themselves, one way or another. Accepting this saves a lot of time.
Don’t think you will come up with a better new-baby present than my friend who registers the baby’s name and surname at Gmail.com, then gives the parents the password. Wait – I’ve just realised you’re giving a baby the lifetime gift of … email. Don’t do this, after all.
Don’t underestimate the pure joy of walking out of the cinema or the theatre if you’re not enjoying it. Some of my best nights out have been whatever I did instead of the second half of a movie or a play – often for the sheer pleasure of just not watching it any more. And, yes, I do strongly advise taking the same approach to my columns.
Don’t for one second think I’m capable of following about 80% of my own advice, so … don’t @me.
Don’t check in luggage. I have stood at the airport carousel waiting for a case that never appeared twice this year – including Milan fashion week, so that was fun – and have vowed never again. Squeezing everything you need for the trip into carry-on isn’t straightforward, but it’s a lot easier than finding yourself in another country with only your handbag for company.
Don’t skip a party just because you have to get up early. Skip it because you don’t want to go, skip it because you’d rather read your book – fine. But life is short, and sleep is overrated.
Don’t knock back compliments. “Thank you, that’s such a lovely thing to say” is a gracious response. “Oh Lord, no, I look disgusting, I found this jumper in the dog basket and my hair is full of split ends!” is not. It took me years to realise how ungrateful self-deprecation is to the compliment-giver.
If invited to eat at someone’s home, don’t be bang on time (they will be praying they have five minutes to do their hair/tidy the bathroom), but don’t be more than 15 minutes late. Aim to arrive seven to 11 minutes after the appointed hour. If, like me, you find it tricky not to be annoyingly punctual, be prepared to take a walk around the block.
Do not buy that dress/coat/jumper in a “fun” colour. Get the navy one. I bought a cashmere tweed coat in yellow in a January sales moment of madness a year ago. Wore it maybe three times; still get buyer’s remorse every time I see it in the wardrobe.
Give up bearing grudges. Unless whatever they did was life-changingly malicious, then the statute of limitations on bad vibes is about a week. If I feel myself sulking, I remind myself I’m probably not perfect, either.
Don’t hit send on an email while your blood is boiling. Never once have I woken up in the morning wishing I had sent that hysterical rant instead of saving it as a draft to take a view later.
Do not waste another day of your life not having a dog. (Prince, our cockapoo, suggested I include this one, but he’s quite right.)
I’m saying farewell to caffeine. I drink about 20 cups of tea a day, and found myself drinking coffee more, especially when travelling. This year, I’ll be raising a cup to decaf (even for tea!) for better sleep, and fewer trips to the bathroom perhaps …
Sir Richard Branson is founder of the Virgin Group
Don’t think people can (or want to) see inside your head.
Don’t buy another pair of tweezers, and keep away from the pairs you do own.
Don’t always open your mouth just because you’ve got something to say.
Don’t eat those last two pieces of chocolate because they look unwanted. Chocolate doesn’t have feelings.
Stop staying stumm. What I have learned this year is that each of us can make a difference. Right now, we’re seeing a frightening rise in antisemitism and Islamophobic incidents. As a society we didn’t speak up enough 90 years ago and we should not risk failing again. So I want to make sure I shout out on the taboos rather than hope for the best.
Alex Mahon is CEO of Channel 4
Don’t get a 28-day callisthenics plan recommended from Instagram designed to give you a ripped physique with supposedly easy exercises you can do at home. You will not do them and all that will be ripped is your self-esteem.
Don’t allow your child, who is away at uni, to put your debit card on his or her Uber account.
Don’t try to get the attention of the server behind the bar in a crowded pub by mouthing a pleading semi-spoken, “Hi … ?” You’re better than that.
Don’t ask your Deliveroo delivery person if the restaurant remembered the exotic little sachet of sauce you specified. The Deliveroo delivery person knows nothing and cares less about the contents of your order.
This year, it’s time to give up fast fashion. I’ve been trying to wean myself off it for years, and while I’ve gotten better I still occasionally find myself popping into a high street store for some stupid little shoe I’ve convinced myself I need. The stuff is terrible by any metric, poor quality goods made under horrendous working conditions using methods that are bad for the environment, and the people who run them are always finding new ways to wriggle out of paying adequate tax. If you see me on the high street, gliding guiltily towards one of these shops, you have my full permission to give me a slap.
Monica Heisey is an author and screenwriter
Stop fighting the urge to take a siesta. I’m Italian, so an afternoon nap is in my DNA. The trick to not overnapping is to drink a large glass of water beforehand: if you don’t wet yourself, you’ll wake up to go to the loo.
Stop hugging people you don’t know. I struggled with the trend for cheek-kissing people I barely knew, but hugging is a whole new level of intimacy. Return to hearty handshakes and make your arm ramrod straight so there’s no breaching.
Don’t reason away your feelings. Not everything can be analysed – sometimes you just have to allow yourself to be angry because someone else has been a dick. Sometimes there’s no “why?”, it just “is”.
You don’t have to be the conversation starter. I’m an introvert and an observer, but I think I was “trained” to fill the awkward gaps as a young child – and I find it hard to stop. But this year I plan to sit back and let everyone else ask the questions.
Pay heed to how someone leaves you feeling. For years, I’d leave meetings with certain people feeling terrible and would look only at my own behaviour. Now I think, “Was it all me? Or was it them, or the combination of us?” I let other people take responsibility for their behaviour.
Remember you’re dead in the water at 9.30pm, so no point saying yes to dinner at 8pm.
Would you kiss that person in real life? Then stop with the kisses at the end of emails and texts.
This year, I will not be buying anything online. Yes, it’s convenient, but we need to support our local shops more. I buy a lot of books from a big online retailer (you know the place) – it’s too easy to sit at a screen and order stuff. Buying local means less packaging, fewer vans on the road.
Angela Hartnett is a Michelin-star chef
Don’t bring your phone when meeting a friend for lunch. I’m still working on this. If I really must take it with me, I will ban myself from putting it on the table and watching it as I would a hand grenade. My online life won’t explode within the hour.
Don’t try to be the best at everything. I plan to take up a hobby (Gymnastics? Cantonese? A cappella?), but not pressure myself to excel at it. No homework; no consistency; no slow, pained, progress. This is about the fun factor. Feel the failure, but do it anyway.
Don’t dump friends who voted Tory, or leave, or when you take opposing sides on any other important issue (Gaza, gender identity, private schooling, etc …). No one’s saying it’s easy, but hearing the other side, and sitting with it in discomfort and disagreement, stops us from living in silos.
Don’t impulse buy. Go out to browse the shops and come back empty-handed. If you’re still thinking about something you saw two days later, go back to buy it.
Don’t slave over the stove when you’ve invited eight people for dinner. Make one main dish and order in all the accompaniments (remember to throw away the packaging before guests arrive).
Don’t get stuck in a style rut. If you’ve always had long hair, get it cut off. I did, just over a year ago, and it was a liberation. Similarly, if you’ve been dyeing the greys for decades, stop. You can go back to the old look but you might end up loving the new one.
When you get to 66 you are often told by a doctor to give things up like alcohol, so some choices feel like they are made for you, but I hope to cling on to full fat cow’s milk in my tea for as long as I can.
Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist and author
Turn off read receipts. (The symbol that shows senders whether you are online and have read a message.) It just introduces doubt into the communication, prompting the sender to consider why you aren’t replying when it might not otherwise cross their mind. I know, I’ve been there: I’ve read into the silence and catastrophised, and I’ve also been annoyed at having to explain my online movements to someone who catastrophised about me.
Don’t lie to your friends about what you can afford when you eat out. Scan the menu before booking to make sure there are plenty of options in your price range. And if there aren’t, better to say so rather than pretend you really did just want the side salad and fries. I started doing this and have been surprised to see how quickly someone else pipes up with the same.
Don’t give in to the cat – they might ignore every bit of training you’ve tried to instil but, scientifically speaking, it’s never too late to train them. I’ve started rejecting my kitty’s demands to be let into the bedroom, or have doors opened whenever she wants. I’m convinced one day she will get it. Maybe.
Don’t take down the Christmas lights until you are good and ready. January is miserable enough – why make it even less twinkly and cheery? In Sweden, they keep the lights up until 13 January. Just saying.
Don’t let the pushy 4×4 behind you win. I drive a secondhand runabout, and am forever being bullied and flashed at to go faster even when driving at the limit. Just because they have an unnecessarily big vehicle, doesn’t give them the right to tell you what to do. Besides, it’s you who’ll pay the speeding ticket, not them.
Embrace quitting. I don’t mean smoking and drinking, I mean all the things you feel like you should complete: podcast series with a great story but an unbelievably annoying host-voice, etc. I always felt I had to finish what I’d started, out of respect to the creator. I finally realised, they don’t need to know whether I finished it or not. They’re just pleased I started it.
Stop washing your clothes. You’re allowed to wash underwear, sportswear, vests. Everything else will be fine with a spot clean, seriously, for ages.
Don’t be delicate. Keep manners, keep tact, but if you find yourself in a conversation with a new person, go in hard on the apocalypse, or a prominent figure you hate. Most people don’t want to talk about their hobbies.
Stop making bespoke excuses. Everyone knows you’re lying. Go with: “Sorry I’m late, I left late”; “Sorry for my slow reply, I am slow”;“Sorry I didn’t come to the thing. I felt like not coming to the thing”.
I’m going to leave behind heavy, chaotic bags. I carry way too much – most of it is stuff I never use or don’t need. Trying to find my keys among uniforms, my iPad and paperwork is impossible – I feel like Sisyphus some days.
Florence Knight is a chef and author
Don’t fix anything until everybody in the house knows it’s broken. This includes – but is not limited to – leaking taps, loose drawer handles and the light in the fridge. You get no credit for rescuing people from inconveniences they never got a chance to experience.
Don’t mull over stupid things you said a long time ago. You’re torturing yourself for no good reason, and you’re almost certainly the only one who remembers it. Of course, a little burning shame can be a handy corrective in the medium term, so you’ll have to set your own statute of limitations for letting these things go. At the moment, I’m operating with a cutoff of 15 years, and hoping to shorten it to 10.
Don’t waste any time trying to be on the right side of history. I can’t think of a worse way to judge whether or not you’re right about something. And, anyway, the future might be run by arseholes.
Don’t second-guess your satnav app – just do what it says, and let the result be its fault. If you have more than one app and they’re offering different routes, go with the one advising you to stay on the motorway.
Don’t buy shoes online. They’re always 30% pointier than they look in the picture, and will not fit. I say this as someone who buys all his shoes online.
Don’t revisit old new year resolutions for a second try. Consider any past failure a failure for ever. At least you’ve learned a hard lesson about yourself.
Don’t tell other people what players are in your fantasy football team or how they are doing. Nobody cares.
Don’t announce your intention to leave the pub after one last drink. Just go when the time feels right, or several drinks after the time felt right.
Don’t answer a ringing office telephone if you know the call isn’t for you.
Don’t concern yourself with what people who have never met you think about you.
Don’t leave your bag on the seat next to yours on a busy train then bury your head in a book, newspaper or your phone. There are few greater signs of selfishness and, while you might pretend not to see us, we see you.
Don’t try to stay awake in the afternoon. Any day is improved immeasurably by having a short snooze after lunch. Especially at work.
Don’t watch Match of the Day if your team has lost that afternoon. Trust me, they still won’t equalise in the 89th minute and you will only get depressed twice over.