{reading} How I track my reading and January books read


So let’s talk about book tracking.

This is a big deal in the bookstagram world, and if you know me at all, you know I love tracking anything and everything. I learned since reading The Four Tendencies that upholders do well with monitoring, which is really what tracking is for me.

I first started tracking my reading straight after my last matric exam. For those outside of South Africa, it’s your last school year. That day was on 18 November and on that very day after my Biology exam, I went to the library, took out all the books I could and started tracking from that day nearly 27 years ago.

At some point once I’d started working, I started keeping an Excel sheet.

Fast forward to when I discovered Goodreads, and little by little but only back to 1998, I entered most of that notebook into Goodreads.

Well, how do I currently track my reading?

I track in 3 ways:

Goodreads (if Goodreads ever goes away, I don’t know what I’d do)

I use Goodreads for recording books I’ve read and to check when I’m at the library or bookshop whether I’ve read a certain book before borrowing or buying it. After thousands of books read, I can’t keep it all straight in my head 🙂

There’s an app which I use for on-the-go tracking, but I write reviews at my laptop as I need a proper keyboard.

Excel spreadsheet

I track my monthly goals on an excel spreadsheet. In the past I’ve done an exercise at the end of the year to see how many fiction vs non-fiction reads I had, and other such interesting stats, which took me hours. Hours of pleasure, but hours nonetheless. Then I got clever. So since 2017, as part of my monthly goals, I also track the numbers of non-fiction vs fiction, physical/ kindle/ audible books and so on. It’s so much easier to enter the totals in less than a minute every month and my Excel sheet is set up to total, and do % of goal, etc. so I have the annual totals quickly too.

Bullet journal

This year I started writing down the month’s books in a special notebook I call my book bullet journal. I also have notes at the back of books I want our book club to read, books I want to read on Audible, books I need to borrow through Overdrive, and so on.

It’s really lovely to have a beautiful, fun notebook, and to physically write down books I’m reading again, especially since I haven’t done so for about 15 years, if not longer.

How do you track your reading?

And as for the books I read in January…

I finished 10 books – 5 of them during the first week while I was on holiday 🙂

My final tally is 8 fiction; 2 non-fiction with 5 physical books, 1 audible and 4 Kindle versions.

Favourite reads of this month: The Friend – Dorothy Koomson (my first 5* read of the year!) and The Sunshine Sisters – Jane Green

What were your favourite reads in January?

{time} Your ideal weekend

On a Monday a couple of weeks ago, a colleague at work asked me how my weekend was, as you do, and I said, “it was a really great weekend”.

“Oh,” they said, “tell me more”.

And then I realised that nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I’d had a friend date on the Friday afternoon, hosted my kids’ book club, gone to Zumba and church, did some pottering around the house and read a book.

Kind-of standard things for me, but a really great weekend I realised because it had MY three ideal elements in the correct ratios.

  1. People/ out and about stuff
  2. Productivity
  3. Relaxation

It got me thinking that having a great weekend is completely within my control because I can control all of those components.

I’d been feeling a bit blah lately and when Dion and I unpacked my feelings, I realised I hadn’t had enough people time. As an extrovert, I’m energised by spending time with people.

My happy number is about 5 – 6 friend dates every month. Book club happens automatically and my friend dates are set up on a schedule, but when they get cancelled, I’m not upset (life happens) but I feel it later in this low energy state. What I need to do is then possibly reach out and just connect with a friend by phone.

We were at book club recently when one of our introvert members explained to two of us extroverts that it’s nothing personal but they just don’t feel the need to spend time with people. I must say, I was a bit surprised but I had an aha moment about friendship right there and then.

Over to you.

What does your ideal weekend look like? And are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this play out in your weekend plans?

Your favourite posts of 2018

This is one of my favourite posts to do every year. I love having the statistics; I just dread the process of drudging through and compiling it all 🙂

Some fun facts:

Over the last 365 days, we’ve had nearly 900 000 visits from 150 000 people.

Jan

Word of the year recap and my 2018 word

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

How I read 120 books last year  (this post is my most popular post of the entire year – yes, I’m shocked)

Feb

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

What I want less of this year

On being moderate with fitness

March

What went well in February?

The book that changed how I view nature

Quarterly recap of my word of the year

April

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

How is your phone changing you?

What freedom means to me

May

You have more than enough time

Groceries experiment – feedback

What I’m bullet journaling these days

At this point in the year, I decided to do a little experiment. You see, I took the Deep Dive into the Four Tendencies course and the concept of Upholder Tightening really hit home.

Blogging twice a week was me being in the same spiral without considering if it was still what I wanted to do or if it was good for me.

I didn’t make any big announcement; I just quietly went from a Mon and Thurs posting schedule to Wednesdays. To date, not one person has said anything about this.

Because of the reduction in posts, these are the favourite post of the month from June.

June

What are your nos with books?

July

Are you a time pessimist?

Aug

My annual birthday review

Sept

Lovely limitations (if you’ve heard The Nester on podcasts lately, she has mentioned it a few times too)

Oct

On setting reading goals

November

Introducing my 2019 diary

December 

What I learned by writing every day in November

Were there any posts that surprised you? (there were for me – the book ones!) I’m also always surprised that the ones I like writing the most are not the most popular ones, but that’s par for the course.

Which was your favourite? What is your favourite type of post to read?

{living intentionally} 3 ways to experience the “selfish” joy of giving this year

I picked up the phrase “the selfish joy of giving” from reading Laura Vanderkam’s “All the money in the world” book a few months ago.

It immediately resonated with me. I have often said that I sign up for Santa Shoebox because there is nothing better than shopping for other kids because I don’t have to find a place for all that stuff.

Jokes aside, it’s so true. There is something that warms my own heart even more than the recipients’ hearts when I fill a Santa Shoebox.

She also mentioned some research that people are more happy from philanthropic endeavours than from spending on themselves.

This was my favourite chapter in the entire book and has stuck with me since.

I also want to highlight 3 ways for each of us to experience this selfish joy of giving the entire year, not just around Christmas.

  1. shopping for individual families rather than giving money
  • She mentions that this is probably not as effective a way to use the money, but it is always a popular way to give. I completely resonated with this. Years ago at my church, there was an appeal to buy a gift for a certain amount of money, wrap it and bring it in. We always enthusiastically participated. Then it changed to just donate the money and suddenly we stopped. It just wasn’t as fun anymore. People (me!) want to feel warm and fuzzy inside while they give.
  • 2. lots of little gifts of a small amount of money
  • She suggests that if you have the mindset of looking for ways to make the world better for $5 – $20 (for South Africans, I just thought R20 – R100), it’ll be a lot of fun for you. One year I put on my list to pay for the person’s stuff behind me. It was so fun and let’s be honest – I didn’t even miss the money (just think of it as tossing a few extra things in your basket at the till, only healthier!)
  • 3. something larger that you won’t feel
  • This is the most exciting part for me. I have visions of paying for science/ maths camps for 5 kids a year. I have a bias because I studied science. If you know of any in the Joburg area, tell me!
  • But how about starting small and sponsoring a prize for the 3 kids who read the most books in the foundation phase at school? I’m going to do this next year – I just need to chat to the principal and the librarian to get the okays, and really, it’s a couple of thousand rands for me but will make me (and the kids) so happy. When I mentioned this idea to my kids, they were really upset that they’ll not be eligible 🙂
  • I’ve also thought about sponsoring a Bible college year for one person. These gifts, while larger, will not break my bank of Marcia (I know how to save and manage my money), but it might be just the thing to truly influence another person’s life, and I really want to be part of something bigger than just me.


Some other ideas I’ve heard from friends:

  1. One friend stopped doing Santa Shoebox and decided to buy something (I can’t remember if it was nappies or formula) on a monthly basis for a whole year. She’s not trying to solely fund the children’s home but she knows that every tin of Nan counts or Pampers. Whatever it was.
  2. Another friend buys hot dog rolls and sausages, prepares them and then drives around her suburb and surrounds handing out food to the beggars on the corner.
  3. Another friend makes cupcakes for all the old people at her nearest old aged home.
  4. I used to read a blog where the blogger ran amazon ads and used all that money (it’s really not a lot) to buy diapers for kids. What a great idea!

I support two World Vision kids from the Eastern Cape (I’m from the EC) but this kind of practical thing sounds like a lot of fun that I can do in addition to my monthly subscription. In fact, 2018 marks 20 years of me supporting a World Vision child.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to do, why don’t you purpose now to set aside a certain amount of money every month this year, and make a practical difference. And if you can’t give financially, there is always your time.

Can you think of some easy ideas to experience the joy of selfish giving?

{reading} Why I read fewer books in 2018 than in 2017

In 2017 I read 120 books. You can read how here (that’s one of the most popular posts on the blog, by the way).

Last year I passed 100, didn’t hit 120 but ended up on 112.

Let me tell you why:

  1. I read longer, more challenging books

One of my reading goals for 2018 was to read books that would stretch me, some more literary fiction. I specifically set a really low Goodreads goal of 80 books. This means I still needed to be reading almost two books a week, so I had to prioritise reading but I could read longer books during a month and not choose ones I’d finish within 4 days instead of say, 6.

2. I worked from home more

I listen to audible books on the way to work. A standard non-fiction read is about 8 hours long and a standard fiction read is about 10 – 11 hours long, so let’s average out at 9 hours.

Given these stats, and my commute being about 45 minutes, in 2017, I’d get through a long audio book in 3 weeks, but on average this year it was taking me 4 weeks because for many weeks, I’d work from home two days.

(no complaints; I’d gladly sacrifice books for focussed deep work time)

3. my reading slump

I won’t go into the whole thing here again but when you’re in a reading slump, you’d rather do other things than read, so I organised, took jacaranda photo walks and had other kinds of fun 🙂

It was really helpful analysing why I read less this year. The bottom line is I’m an upholder and it’s still best for me to make my own rules about reading (and everything else) and uphold those rules.

Read more about my reading rules here, and on re-reading them now, it’s so obvious the commenters are not upholders 😉

How did your reading life compare from 2017 to 2018? Have you noticed any trends?

Lovely things to do, eat, watch, try in 2019


I made this free printable a few years ago because I like to make a list of lovely things to do when I have a birthday.

It’s like a goals list, but super fun ones 🙂

Some of you will say that all goals should be fun; I disagree because we all know there are things you should do as part of being a grownup that aren’t necessarily fun (dental appointments, I’m looking at you!).

I didn’t get around to make my lovely things list in August but I’m going to do it with a twist for next year.

  • Lovely things to do read this year
  • 19 lovely things to do in 2019

Ideas for you:

  • lovely things to watch this year (if you’re a movie/ TV person – I am not)
  • lovely places to eat at this year (if you like to try new restaurants – I don’t like new restaurants but I do like working my way through some menus…)
  • lovely things to cook this year (I could get behind this idea)
  • lovely friends to see this year
  • your choice

Have fun with it, friends.

I’ve got good news – I’ve made these 7 printables and they’re ready for you to download here.

Care to share your lists? Please tag me on Instagram and tell your friends to sign up for their set of lovely lists too.

{2018 Annual review} What went well this year?

This is part one of my annual review, where I start with the question I always use:

What went well this year?

  • I read a lot of books (the year is not over and I think I’ll end on around 110). In fact, I read more than I thought I would read, especially since my Goodreads goal was only 80. Many of them were great books, but that’s another post.
  • Book club was so much fun this year. This is year two for us and I think we’ve ironed out almost all of the logistical issues around choosing books, deciding on hosting, bringing eats, and so forth.
  • I had great work rhythms. I should write a post about my end-of-week work routines, but it’s in my Instagram Story highlights if you want to take a look. I’d venture to say if I didn’t have good work habits, things could have been even more overwhelming.

  • The kids were happy at school and with their teachers, and they both still love being active and reading. I also started a kids book club which has been one of the most fun things I’ve done this year.
  • We had 3 family holidays which is perfect. Dion and I would obviously prefer 4; – in 2014, we managed to go on 4 holidays and that was the absolute perfect rhythm…. and was also the last year we didn’t have kids in Big School.
  •  I did awesome with my sleep. This is a strange thing to put down but it’s something to celebrate for a night owl like me. I’ve been tracking my sleep since 2015 and it’s now a reliable 7 hrs 40 ish with good, uninterrupted, restful slumber.
  • I had a great week of prayer in October. Prayers that were answered (that I know about) – jobs!
  • I did all my 18 in 2018 goals. I did scrape in those last two but there you go.

  • I’m up to date with my photos. I also devised a system for school (see Instagram Story highlights) and holiday photos. A project for holiday photos will go onto my 19 in 2019 list because I’m only up to 2017 with regard to holiday photo printing.
  • I took an Enneagram coaching course which was amazingly insightful and best of all, I think it brought me closer to God.
  • I also took the Four Tendencies deep dive course which was so much fun I will be taking my accreditation early next year to run live, in-person workshops. Isn’t that fun? If you’re local I’d love to have you.
  • As far as the house is concerned, we painted three of our rooms upstairs, one of them navy. We also bought two new couches and a new armchair (these were so overdue – we replaced furniture we’d had for 15 years, and we received those as hand-me-downs from an uncle who was upgrading). And we put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom which was probably the best money decision since we now have our own bathroom completely to ourselves again. It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in this house 2.5 years.
  • I exceeded my personal savings goal (I just throw a stretch number out at the beginning of the year and see if I can hit it).

  • My system for tending close friendships is also working great. This is also for another post.
  • I took more than 60 photowalks this year and many drives to look at autumn leaves, winter branches or jacaranda trees.
  • I also decluttered another big stash of books I don’t plan to read and donated those to our local library, I decluttered bags, shoes and scarves (but I know this is ongoing) and gave away more than 60 notebooks. I was not allowed to buy more than 10 – readers, I confess I failed!
  • I put myself out there and ran two blog projects – Spring into Organising and this current project, to write for 15 minutes every day in November.
  • My core is stronger because I’ve now been doing my barre180 class for 16 months.

Over to you.

What went well in your life this year?

The life-changing magic of not giving a f**k

Despite the title of this book (I’m not a fan of sensational titles), to my surprise, it was a really good book.

If I were asked, I’d say that it’s a book about boundaries… and you know how much I love talking about boundaries. But if you’re super sensitive to swear words, I’d give this a miss because you won’t get her message. That said, I don’t like a lot of swearing too and I found I became numb to it after a while.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

In this book, Sarah Knight gives her readers permission to stop wasting our time doing things we don’t want to, without feeling guilty about it. And without being that rude person no-one wants to be around. It’s about being firm, polite but being honest.

The nice thing is she gives lots of examples about places in all our lives where we do or pay for or attend things due to obligation without questioning, when in fact, the world will continue just fine if we stop doing these things we hate.

  1. like responding to rude people’s obnoxious questions (whether they be complete strangers or family!)
  2. attending baby showers and other social norm events
  3. doing things at work that no one cares about

Some of my favourite quotes:

“when I stopped giving a F about going to baby showers – an activity I positively loathe – I gained untold Sunday afternoons of freedom” (I had no idea anyone else in the world felt the same as I do about baby showers!)

… it’s all about prioritizing. Joy over annoy. Choice over obligation. Opinions vs feelings. Sticking to a budget. Eyes on the prize”

and my favourite

“Your time, energy, and/ or money spent should result in greater happiness for you.”

One thing I really LOVED in the book was the concept of a personal policy. E.g. you get asked for a loan from someone. You just say, “I have a personal policy that I don’t give loans. So sorry” (polite, firm and they can’t argue – it’s your personal policy)

You can do this for many things…. go wild 🙂

The overarching theme is that we all think other people care much more than they do (so true). And so we do things to make people happy when they really don’t/ won’t care that much.

So stop twisting yourself in knots, just be honest about your feelings in a kind way, and you and they will be much happier.

I think I have good boundaries but I also learnt a lot from this little book. If you need a little kick-in-the-pants (especially for the obligers and then upholders), grab a copy from the library and get reading in preparation for your Christmas events… or for a New Year refresh 🙂

Do you need a boundary refresh? Where do you need to set a personal policy?

If you didn’t know, I coach women just like you to live more intentional lives. Contact me to arrange your coaching session.

How to get out of a reading slump

I shared in my newsletter and on Instagram Stories a few weeks ago that I’d been going through a reading slump.

What’s a reading slump?

It’s when reading feels more like a chore than a pleasure, and when you would rather do anything else than actually read.

What brought on my reading slump?

  • My standard reading life looks like this: a work of fiction started and finished on the weekend, an audible book in the car to accompany me on my daily commute, and a non-fiction read for weeknights.
  • I had a string of fiction books that I was not finishing in time so it was stretching into the week. My pace became really slow (5 – 6 days per book instead of 3 days) and my reading rhythm was thrown. Some of these books were book club reads that because of the internet noise, I’d been looking forward to, and were therefore disappointing (The Almost Sisters and Eleanor Oliphant). One was a book about a woman dying of cancer which was beautifully written but still, a difficult read.
  • In typical upholder fashion, even though I could have stopped when I saw that people weren’t joining in with Spring into Organising, I carried on relentlessly organising my home, going harder to try and inspire, but instead just burning myself out by doing more, more, more (17 spaces instead of the 9 planned). By the way, if you have suggestions for future endeavours, please let me know in comments what would work better in terms of getting people (or you) to play along. I have many ideas but I’m (honestly) scared to even try again.

I then heard an episode of the Currently Reading podcast where reading slumps were discussed, and when they asked readers to let them know how to get out of one, suddenly I realised what was going on with me and I was full of ideas.

Here’s how I got out of my reading slump:

  1. I decided to read one or two authors that I always enjoy reading (like Cathy Kelly) because I knew I’d read and not want to stop reading.
  2. The weather helped as we had one cold and rainy weekend, perfect reading weather.
  3. I chose a mystery book to increase my pace. I always read mysteries faster and I needed to feel like I was immersing myself in books again.
  4. I picked some fun audiobooks to keep me company on my way to work, not the “next thing” on my to read list, but just books that stood out to me. And yes, I flew through them.
  5. I chose to put down my phone. This was fortuitous as I upgraded and the iPhone helpfully told me exactly how much time I was spending on Instagram. 14 hours in one week is easily 2 – 3 books read, so that was an easy decision. This is not entirely accurate but I will write about this some more once I’ve gathered more stats.

Over to you.

When was your last reading slump? Do you remember what led to it? And more importantly, how did you get out of it?

And then, let’s talk about the books I read last month.

I read three physical books, my first in 3 months 🙂 and I’ll admit, readers, that it is really satisfying to occasionally hold a real book.

  1. I finished 10 books and I’m now over 100 for the year (101).
  2. Physical/ Audible/ Kindle: 3/3/4

I read some great non-fiction books this month.

The ministry of ordinary places – Shannan Martin

Shannan is an enneagram 8 which means she’s challenging in a good way and in this book, makes you think about what the definition is of widening your circle and doing ministry right there in your small, ordinary world.

I loved each essay and screenshotted (since I read on overdrive) many, many pages to remember some of her words.

The 360 degree leader – John Maxwell

Maxwell is the king of leadership books and this one was published in 2006 yet everything he says is still completely up to date, probably because leadership and interpersonal skills are timeless.

I was in a bit of a funk when I borrowed this one from Overdrive and listening to this book sorted me right out. I can lead right from where I am, no matter my position or title.

This really was a great book to inspire me for the last month of the work year.

I also have two fiction reads that stood out to me this month:

Rainbows never end – Cecilia Ahern

Coming out of my reading slump I was fully prepared to abandon this book if it was in any way weird. I say that because Cecilia Ahern’s books are a hit and miss for me – some of them are exactly my thing and then others (like The time of my life) are just too weird/ “imaginative” for my liking.

This one had me glued to the couch for two days. I remember picking Kendra up from a party and saying to her, “come on, hurry, I’m 20 pages away from the end of my book”.

This year it will be different – Maeve Binchy

I don’t usually like short stories but Maeve Binchy does short stories very, very well. Each story can be enjoyed with a cup of tea or over breakfast and this one is now one of my Christmas favourites. I’d been looking forward to a Christmas read that would leave me feeling warm and hopeful, but not too soppy, and Irish fiction is just that. Real, relatable, flawed characters with stories that have satisfying but not cheesy endings.

Tell me about some of the great books you read this month.

Book bossy and my October reads

I learned of a delightful  little phrase, “book bossy” this month.

It turns out I am book bossy.

Friends, I was quite taken aback because I don’t see this book bossiness as a negative at all; it’s just who I am. I am a person who is passionate about books and reading.

And honestly, I’m only book bossy when I think it may matter to you too. There are some friends I never talk books with; granted, these are probably not my deepest friendships 😉

I am book bossy when I really love a book and want to press it into everyone’s hands (or ears), or because it is universally loved. Or because I know that the person will, in fact, love the book.

So in honour of my book bossiness, these are some books I am decidedly and unashamedly book bossy about:

The happiness project – Gretchen Rubin

Perfect as we go into the new year. I plan to listen to it in January again – it’s just the perfect start to a new year, or even around your birthday.

Boundaries – Cloud/ Townsend

Still the best book on boundaries out there.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

Look on my sidebar. I’ve written many posts and it is truly life-changing.

The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

Listen, read and then if you’re intrigued like I was, take her deep dive course too. Or come coach with me and I will take you through it.

And now, let me show you all the books I read in October, among them the book that taught me about my book bossiness.

I read four fiction and five non-fiction; 0 physical books (!), 6 Kindle and 3 Audible.

My favourite fiction read was the Cathy Kelly – Secrets of a Happy Marriage.

I have three favourite non-fiction reads to talk about. It’s actually a pity of sorts that I read them all in the same month; they each deserve their space in the spotlight.

Off the clock – Laura Vanderkam‘s new release. I enjoyed this book so much and am planning to write a few blogs about it. It’s more philosophical than her previous books, and is my favourite by far.

Dream more – Dolly Parton. This was a short read and I actually listened on audio. It was so fun to hear Dolly singing a verse here and there. I believe that a memoir-ish book needs to make you like the person more than you did before, and this one did. She is utterly delightful and I am so impressed with her work ethic and attitude towards life.

I’d rather be reading – Anne Bogel. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did because (confession!) I don’t usually like books about books as I find them either too cheesy or trying to be too clever. This one was neither. It was relatable and endearing, and I found myself wanting to either wake my husband to share things with him, or Instastory everything and put polls in my stories to talk about it all.

What was your favourite fiction, and non-fiction (if you read – I realise more and more that I’m in the minority with my 40% on average non-fiction reads)?

And more important, are you book bossy?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...