After a season of excess and merriment, a brand new year can serve as both new beginning and something of a palate cleanser.

Conversations frequently turn to resolutions -- things we vow to do more or less of -- in the year ahead. More time with family and less time at the office top many lists. Also, committing to spending more time at the gym or less time at our multiple digital screens. And yet by the time February rolls around (and I'm being generous), most resolutions have beaten a hasty retreat.

An informal survey of friends, family and colleagues echoed that theme. Many have scrapped grand resolutions and replaced them with what I call "unresolutions," or the notion of embracing only potentially realistic changes that can help us improve personal or professional practices.

Brian Berger, the founder and chief executive of a Manhattan-based maker of stylish underwear for men, said the company's New Year's theme is to encourage people to refresh their style. Berger offers the somewhat tongue-in-cheek exhortation to "Change your underwear," a low-key way to encourage small changes.

I asked my sister, Kiki, an executive coach in New York City, for advice on tackling larger issues. She said you're going to slip up at some point when you start making resolutions. "Which makes it a good place to start," she said. "It doesn't mean you're a failure and you should stop. It's just your testing ground for how to keep trying."

So when is it time to stop trying?

Susan Silver, a radio commentator who wrote for such TV classics as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Maude" and "Bob Newhart," has a different approach. "If you haven't changed by a certain time, you won't," she said. "I've learned to stick to things that I really believe in and let go of the things that would drive me crazy."

Which for me at least, means tackling my challenges one day at a time, instead of all at once.