Good evening, here I am with your day’s dose of “it’s complicated”!
So I have a couple of goals on Beeminder relating to reducing how many books I have in my backlog. In theory, this is a thing I want to do: I want to read more and I don’t want these lovely books to lie neglected on my shelf/Kobo for years.
In practice, it’s impossible for me to actually take a meaningful break from the extra willpower this goal requires, even during a time when I need all my willpower for something else like studying all day (I know there are some arguments against the idea that ego depletion is a thing, but it certainly seems to hold true for me). Even if I ask for a flat spot in my goal, that only takes off the pressure of trying to reduce the stack by reading – it doesn’t remove the pressure of trying not to buy books.
(This often sounds like a weird problem to have. Suffice it to say that growing up, books were a thing I got when I was good and a worthwhile human, to the point where now new books are 100% the most efficient mode of comfort/validation/celebration/dealing with any emotion for me. Some people have chocolate, I have books.)
I don’t really want to make it hard/impossible to buy books. Historically, that results in me rebelling either by just buying a lot anyway and taking whatever hit I’ve devised, or being pretty depressed/anxious and generally unsettled*. I stay within my budget, so it’s not bad for me in that sense, and space is not too much of a problem (I’m not a hoarder; I let books go as easily as I buy them, generally).
On the other hand, the number of books I have is overwhelming, and I am ignoring some awesome books because I’ve had them longer and I simply can’t get round to it. I have a couple of ways of incentivising this (if I buy no books in a week, my weekly roundup is called “Unstacking the Shelves”; I also have a “game” where books are worth points depending on stuff like length and how long they’ve been on my shelves; I track how much the books I’ve read cost me originally versus how much I’ve spent this month and my spreadsheet goes red if I spend more than I read), but I keep coming back to making a goal to whittle down my backlog and then failing dramatically, or at the very least needing to take breaks which make me feel like a complete pain in the proverbial as I ask for my graph to be messed with repeatedly.
Now that I’ve typed all this out, one option seems obvious: keep up my game-of-books goal (possibly increase it, or maybe add penalties for buying new books, or set point thresholds so I have to earn new books…), add a goal for making an Unstacking the Shelves post at least, say, once a month, and somehow make some kind of goal for keeping books read>books bought in my tracking spreadsheet. That latter needs more thought, though…
Anyway, other than “see a therapist” (my last one said “if you stay within budget, it makes you happy and it isn’t impacting your health, why do you want to change it?”), has anyone got any thoughts on this one? Any parallels you’ve managed to find ways to track and (sigh) reduce?
*I have actually tracked my mood and it correlates with both how much I read and how many books I’ve bought or been given. I even did statistical tests and the results were significant. I am a dork, yes, but we’re on Beeminder, so I assume that’s taken for granted…