Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Taming the pile of unread books

Recently I posted to Facebook:

You know you have a book buying problem when... you discover that you have two copies of the same book on your bookshelf. Unread.

Yes, I have a book buying problem. And after that post I decided it was time to do something about it. I love reading. I find it extremely motivating and inspiring. But having a few dozen unread or partially started books is not only a waste of money, but just another open loop in my life that just doesn't need to be there. Jumping from book to book also inhibits in my ability to really understanding a book.

And before you start thinking I'm talking about a pile of trashy romance novels, I am talking about computer and business related books!

So how did it get this way?

I have always had a stack of unread books around, but I typically got through the queue. However, with eBooks it really has got out of control. I start with reading an inspiring blog post, or watching a video of a conference talk, it references a book and wham! Next moment, I'm online purchasing that sucker.

So what have I done to resolve this?

It was pretty simple really. I present to you, my three step plan:

  1. First, I took inventory. I identified the books as unopened, "briefly" started (read a few chapters), and "well" started (at least half way through).
  2. For those that were briefly started, I removed bookmarks, virtual or physical, and added them to the unopened pile. Basically, calling bankruptcy on the "briefly" started. This cleared a lot of open loops. A lot.
  3. With the "well" started books I recorded them in OmniFocus. This has helped me to keep conscious of how many books I have on the go. This ended up being four in total. The goal is to have no more than two in progress.

Since starting this two weeks ago, I have completed one book, and will finish the second this week. I will be at my goal of two in progress. Oh, and I haven't bought any new books in the last two weeks -- there have been a couple of occasions where I would have.

Book Queue in OmniFocus

Yes, I know this all sounds pretty ridiculous. However, I bet I'm not the only developer out there, with a book addiction. If you are, please let me know in the comments, how you have curbed your book buying behaviour, or please give my recovery plan a go!

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