Insecure Writer's Support Group

Culling the To-Do List and the TBR #IWSG

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Learn more here.

Last year, I read Joanna Penn’s excellent Productivity for Authors where she recommended writing out everything you have to do in a day (including cooking and eating) and then marking the stuff only you can do (like writing your book) as important and then figuring out what you can outsource (e.g. social media) and what is busy work that someone else can do (e.g. cleaning the house).

She said that she had found it extremely hard to let go of the control of doing everything, but once she did, she found more time for doing the creative stuff she really wanted to do (like writing her books).

I started small: leaving the housework and laundry for someone else to do.

I nearly broke out in hives. The laundry wasn’t folded exactly the way I would do it; the floors weren’t swept and washed in the way I do it – or as obsessively; the house smelled like a home instead of like disinfectant… I know, having OCD was making me a control freak. But medicine and meditation helped. And those hours of busy work turned to hours of creative work.

I wrote about the difference between being busy and being productive in August 2021. This was even more intense than that.

I tried outsourcing social media, but it didn’t work for me. So instead, I’m focusing on Instagram and Pinterest. I do schedule stuff for Twitter, but I haven’t really been active there for years. (We all know of the toxic environment created there because of politics a couple of years ago.)

My adventures in audio, of course, meant that I stopped outsourcing audiobook production and did it myself. I enjoy it – which is a big thing to consider when deciding what to do yourself and what to outsource. You can read about my adventures in audio here.

For a lot of reasons, I cut back on blogging this year to only one post a month (except for April where I do the A-Z Challenge). This has been freeing. By cutting back on my time spent online – researching posts, commenting on posts, writing posts, etc. – I’ve found that my bandwidth isn’t exhausted and I can be more creative.

I’ve also been more selective about accepting ARC requests (reviewing books for other authors) and beta reading requests. Reading is a pleasurable, yet exhausting, activity.

Which brings me to my TBR.

For this year’s A-Z Challenge in April, I read at least one book per letter (in some cases an entire series) and featured the rest of the books starting with the letter that is still on my TBR on Goodreads.

It made me realise something: a lot of the non-fiction is either recommended by other authors or I added the same type of book (e.g. deep point of view) to my TBR to check out and find the book that works for me. Yet I never remove the books I’m not planning to read. Also, as I go through deciding age groups and genres (earlier in my career), I added books that were recommended and yet, as I settled into my genre, I didn’t remove the books that didn’t make sense anymore.

My TBR is over a thousand books long (no matter how many books I read a month). More books than one can reasonably read – especially with new books coming out every day. So I decided to take a long, hard look at it and remove all the books that I’m not going to read. I’ll probably have to do this every couple of years as I regularly add to my TBR…

In some cases, I even removed books I already own as they won’t further my career or do much for my creative well.

As for the good stuff from this year’s A-Z: I read a boatload of books, got around to ticking off series I wanted to read for quite some time but never got around to, and I have some great ideas for future books as my creative well is overflowing.

“The biggest waste of time is to do well something that we need not do at all.”
Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before

How has your to-do list and TBR changed over time? Have you had cycles of change in your creative life?

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22 thoughts on “Culling the To-Do List and the TBR #IWSG”

  1. Glad you found the way that works for you in terms of balancing social media and your writing. My TBR list is always super long too because I’m constantly finding books I want to read. Like you, I have to drop some from my list when I can’t get to them all.

  2. That Gretchen Rubin quotation is a killer (because it’s so damn on target)

    Being involved in a number of creative pursuits and having a new business, means I am going to have to do more of this in order to stay on top of what needs to be done or I will go insane. Joanna Penn’s advice sounds an excellent way to start.

    @DebsDespatches visiting today from
    Fiction Can Be Fun

  3. I have an author friend who now records and produces his own audiobooks. He’s really been enjoying it, too. Glad it’s been working out for you.

    I’m making a note to check out Joanna Penn’s book. Though I can already tell you that I will not enjoying giving up control of anything to anyone. 🙂

  4. Love the Gretchen Rubin quote! I left Twitter and Instagram, and I’m not very active on FB. Those social media accounts are an incredible time suck with little, if any, corresponding benefit. I have always had far too many books waiting in queue. I like your idea of just going through and deleting the books I am, if I’m honest, never going to read.

    I farmed out housework and yard work years ago, and once I got over the “it’s not done exactly my way” OCD, I’ve had a lot more peace and a lot more time.

  5. My Kindle tends to crash when I have it list all the books I’ve downloaded but haven’t read yet. Unfortunately for my wife, I find it pretty darn easy to neglect all the household chores I should be doing. And yet I still can’t seem to be as productive as I should be in the writing department. :(.

  6. Sadly, I lack anyone to outsource things to. Aside from throwing money at the problem, the cooking and cleaning is up to me. Definitely no plans to outsource the eating 😀

    But I do like the idea of taking a hard look at what things need doing at all, and maybe even more, looking at how some things could be made easier.

    Good post!

  7. The quote sums up your blog post nicely. I needed to read this today because I, like you, struggle with giving the busy work to someone else to do. And then wondering why I don’t have the bandwidth to write. I hope to get to your A to Z Challenge posts during the Road Trip

  8. Interesting ideas on outsourcing. There’s a lot I can’t outsource, but about a year ago I started doing Hello Fresh and everyone else in the household has to choose a meal for that week and prepare their meal. That one simple thing really helped me! I hope your culling continues to help!

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