You know what they say about the tyranny of the urgent, right? It’s bad news to put important things on the backburner because something more pressing–but less important–grabs our attention.
Well, book lover that I am, I experience my own unique brand of the tyranny of the urgent. I’m calling it the tyranny of the library.
My library’s reserve request system is magical. Any book that I want to read in the whole library system is mine for the asking–delivered straight to my local branch next door.
But this incredible resource gets me into trouble, because I don’t control when those books come in. Once they arrive, I only have 3 weeks to read them. If I’ve been waiting for months for a popular book, I need to read it immediately or I’ll lose my chance. Long-awaited library books often become “urgent” items on my to-read stack, jumping ahead of books I’m more interested in but don’t have a deadline on.
I recently realized that I’d been putting off two high-priority books–7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture–because of the tyranny of the urgent. These two titles were my top priorities, but they were getting bumped because long-awaited reserve items kept arriving for me at the library. Since I owned 7 and Introverts in the Church and could read them anytime, I kept putting them off in favor of the less important–but more urgent–library books.
Consistently putting the urgent above the important is never a good plan, not even for library books. Because truly, it’s not the library’s fault! The problem is with my own poor planning.
Here’s what I’m doing to make sure I’m reading the books I want to read, and not just because the library demands it!
1. Prioritize what’s important. When I clearly articulate what I want to read first, I can consciously plan to make that happen.
2. Don’t request library books that aren’t priorities right now. I’ve been guilty of requesting a library book because I was interested in it, without stopping to think whether or not I wanted to make the time to read it that month.
When a popular book comes out, like Susan Cain’s new release Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I place a request right away, so I don’t have to wait a year to get my hands on a copy. (And when Quiet comes in, I’ll drop everything to read it.)
But the library has many, many books that I’m interested in reading eventually, but aren’t in high demand. I can have a copy of these titles within days, or even hours if it’s sitting on the shelves at my local branch. I am breaking my bad habit of not requesting books that I want to read someday–just not necessarily right now. For these books I recommend…
3. Get a Goodreads account. Several of you readers recommended I get a Goodreads account to help me meet my goal of keeping track of the books I read. I did, and I’ve been faithfully recording what I read. But it’s also been helpful for keeping track of what I want to read in the future. (If you want to connect on Goodreads, you can find me here.)
Do you suffer from the tyranny of the library? How do you stay on top of what you’d like to read next?