Tackling my TBR pile – can it be done?

Like I lot of readers, I’m using the fresh start a new year brings to renew my determination to tackle my To Be Read pile.

And, just like a lot of readers, I have a large TBR pile because my book buying dramatically outpaces my reading.

Case in point: I checked my Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2021 and, while I set a new personal best, every book I read was one purchased in that same year.

In other words, my long-term TBR pile is no smaller than it was at the end of 2020. In fact, there were a few books I bought in 2021 that I still haven’t gotten around to reading. I’ve made no dent in it at all.

Which is particularly embarrassing, because ending the year with my outstanding book pile being smaller than the year before was one of my main goals (to begin with). Awkward.

I blame Book Twitter. They’re always sharing beautiful covers and tempting blurbs. I’m being lead astray, I tell you.

So what’s going to be different this year?

I’m essentially making the same goals as last year, which are to read all of the books I buy this year, and then some.

So if I couldn’t do that in 2021, what’s the chances I’ll manage it in 2022?

Well, now I have more knowledge. Failing at the goals last year wasn’t an indication that the goals were bad. I don’t have enough data to prove that to be the case.

And giving up on that idea because it didn’t work once could mean I miss out on forming a really beneficial set of behaviours that will stick with me for years; possibly forever.

All I can conclusively say is that last year I didn’t read all the books that I bought, and that I didn’t touch my existing TBR pile at all.

Putting my TBR on display

So what can be done about those things?

Well, first of all this year will be different because I’ll actually be able to see my TBR pile. For too long my books have had to be mostly stuffed in drawers and piled out of the way.

The phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is usually used to mean ‘thank god I can forget about that’. But in my case I don’t want to forget about it.

Now I have new book shelves I can rediscover all those great books that have been patiently waiting in the dark.

That means that Book Twitter won’t be my only source of reading inspiration. I’ll be able to visit my book shelves to pick my next read.

It’s a simple change, but I think it’ll make a difference.

Avoiding distractions and saving my focus for what’s important

What will really make a difference though is if I can change my mindset.

Modern life is full of distractions, especially the low-effort kind that deliver a quick reward and drag your focus away from more nourishing long-term endeavours.

For example, I know that checking my emails ten times per day is useless, but it’s just so easy to do and is the most frictionless way to fill those spare minutes I get to myself.

But it’s comes at the cost of chipping away at something bigger that, in the long run I know will leave me feeling better and happier.

Do the hard thing first

My main New Year’s Resolution for 2022 is ‘Do the hard thing first’. I want to train myself to do the difficult thing and then, if – and only if – I have time, I can do the easy thing.

That means first doing something like reading a few pages of a book, writing a few lines on my current novel or a short story, or making notes for a new blog post before I sink ten minutes into useless email admin, scrolling YouTube despite knowing I won’t find something I want to watch, or waiting for ads on a mobile game to end so I can play the next 30-second level before, yep, watching more ads.

If I can get into that habit, it means I won’t end up losing so much of my already limited free time. I’ll be able to spend more of that time doing what really makes me happy and leaves me feeling fulfilled.

It’ll be tough at first, but if I stick to it I can make these decisions come naturally.

And that’s not to say I’m expecting every second of my day to be productive. I just need to make sure that my brain is getting what it actually needs when it goes in search of a short-term bit of something.

A lifelong goal with lifelong benefits

All this probably transcends a single year. I’ll have to unlearn many behaviours – behaviours I’ve developed because our modern way of living, and many of the corporations integrated into and shaping it, has trained me into.

But it’s worth doing. It’s a small act of rebellion against the pressures and distractions of modern life, and it means I’ll be more in control of how I spend my time, which in turn will leave much more fulfilled.

So look out, TBR pile. I’m coming for you.


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Header image via Unsplash.

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