Readers, I’ve heard a common refrain from many of you lately—in blog comments, on my podcast, and in Book Club. “My reading life was weird this year.”
I know it’s not just me. Maybe you missed listening to audiobooks on your daily commute, you couldn’t focus on a novel unless it grabbed your attention in the first five pages, or you saw your reading taste do a complete 180. Life circumstances always affect our reading habits, and the impact of big and small life changes was starkly apparent in 2020.
While my reading year was weird, it was also pretty great. I credit that largely to long-established routines (even if I did deviate from them A LOT), and one simple TBR strategy I developed to counter the pitfalls I noticed myself constantly falling into early in the year.
My TBR trick for avoiding overwhelm
When it comes to managing their reading lives and deciding what to read, we know readers everywhere struggle with capital-o Overwhelm. There are so many good books, and so little time to read them in! Given the stacks and stacks of books I’m surrounded by each day, it won’t be a surprise to hear that I succumb to this myself from time to time.
This past year, in an effort to keep my reading life on track, I tried a simple trick for my To Be Read list using one of my all-around favorite tools: post-it notes. It’s turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done for my reading life. And it’s so quick and easy!
Here’s what I do: I grab a post-it and write down the top five books I want to read next. This is my “Priority To Be Read list.” When it’s time for me to choose my next read, I don’t go to my shelves. I go to my Priority TBR and select my next book. (My priority TBR is not ranked numerically—I might choose any one of the titles to read next.) Whenever I finish a book, I spend a minute or two updating my priority TBR.
Because I’m thinking of my next reads in groups of five instead of one-by-one, this method ensures I choose the right mix of titles for my reading life. More importantly, my Priority TBR helps me stay focused on the books I want to read—as opposed to getting distracted by whatever catches my eye on Instagram, or that new release that came in the mail. (To be clear, I add titles to my TBR ALL THE TIME based on what I see on Instagram, or what comes in the mail. But because of my priority TBR, now the newest thing that catches my eye doesn’t hijack my intended reading plans.)
This simple TBR trick works because it helps me avoid several of the too-common mistakes I see people making in their reading lives every day.
What’s tripping you up in your reading life?
Because of what I do, I’ve spent years talking to thousands of readers about their reading lives. Here’s what I know: everyone encounters mistakes in the reading life. You might not succumb to overwhelm like me, or get distracted by the shiny and new, but perhaps you find yourself trapped in comparison or absorbed by data and numbers. In order to overcome your reading mistakes, you first need to identify them.
I’m here to help. Because I’ve seen readers struggle with the same mistakes over and over again, I can tell you exactly what the common pitfalls you’re likely to encounter are. (As a longtime reader, you better believe I’ve made every one of these mistakes myself at some point!)
But there’s no sense in identifying the mistakes if we’re not going to offer solutions—so we’ll also discuss simple strategies (like my TBR trick) to pull you out of those pitfalls and get your reading life back on track.
7 common mistakes people make in their reading lives (and what to do about them) class
I hosted a free class about the common mistakes people make in their reading lives. In this hour-long session conversation, we unpack the common mistakes readers make to help you reflect, refine, and refresh your reading life in the year ahead.
If you’re struggling right now, we can figure out why, and what to do about it. You can watch a replay here.