Earlier this year, I made a simple but life-changing decision.
I decided to go on a No Spend experiment. I realised I was spending unconsciously, and wanted to instead enjoy what I have. I’ve kept a diary about my experiment as I go.
As part of the experiment, I decided to not buy more any more books until I read all the ones I currently have. I LOVE buying books… and it turns out, I have a HUGE unread stack of them. I had over 200 unread books at this house… and I have most of my books in storage currently which has SO MANY MORE.
So starting mid-Jan, I decided to really get into the reading spirit, with the hopes I would get through the 200+ unread books I had at hand by the end of the year.
Three months in, I’ve already 100.
This is astonishing – far more than I’ve ever read before. A few years ago I went on a reading binge and read around 250 books – mostly romance novellas. But still – 100 in 100 days in far more than I ever have.
Here’s what I discovered along the way.
Here’s how I did it, and how you can read more:
1: Finishing the books I have has a big pay-off now!
It’s HUGELY motivating to me that I can’t buy any more books until I read what I have.
Buying books is my hobby, dammit. I love poodling about in boutique bookstores. The book sections of Big W are my closest place to heaven. A pleasant evening to me is binge watching Netflix while trawling Book Depository and making a large book order.
So, I can’t indulge in that hobby until I’ve read what I’ve got. So guess what? I REALLY WANT TO READ WHAT I HAVE, STAT.
2: I made my reading goal public to make use of my Obliger tendencies
Gretchen Rubin wrote an excellent book called The Four Tendencies. In it, she postulates that there are four types of personalities. You can take the quiz here if you like.
I’m an Obliger personality – I respond excellently to outside expectations. If I make my goal known outside of myself – whether that’s publicly through my blog, or to an accountability buddy, or my husband, I am FAR more likely to accomplish it.
I’m basically a productivity show pony – I like to perform and get external approval. Sure, it’s a habit that can get out of balance, however it can be powerful when harnessed thoughtfully.
So not only did I state publicly my goal of reading all my current books before buying anymore, I created a public-facing list of them here to tick off as I read them.
I cannot tell you the thrills I have of ticking off that public-facing list. Even if nobody is looking at that list, because it’s public, I am SO motivated to get it done.
3: The more I read, the faster I get
I’m definitely picking up speed as I go. I managed to read two complete books yesterday which is a new record!
4: If a book is shit, I give it up
There’s some books I’ve started, and put aside because I can’t get into it, or don’t like the way it is written. Before this experiment, I would put it back on the shelf and think that maybe one day I would change and like it.
I’ve never had that experience though of finally picking something up and liking it. So this time, I give it 20 pages, and if it’s still shit, it gets put in the out pile.
5: Embrace the skim
Sometimes there are parts of a book which are great… and then there are parts which are tedious or hard to get through. I used to get stuck, and put the book down until I had more energy/put it back in the bookcase.
Now, I give myself total permission to skim parts that would otherwise stop me in my tracks, and start reading more thoroughly again once it picks up.
5: I have a To Gift book pile
Once I read a book, I pop it in a pile near the door of my house, and gift it on. I’ve previously also sold them online + to used bookstores.
6: I have reminders everywhere to read
- I have a phone cover that tells me to read.
- I keep piles of books wherever I usually hang out at home – on the couch in front of the TV, in our sitting room, on our breakfast table by my bed. If I head out, I pop a book in my bag just incase I’m bored.
7: I added more reading into my day
There’s a dietary philosophy called swamping: instead of eliminating something from your day, you just add more good things in. They fill you, and you’re less inclined to eat shit.
So instead of trying to radically change or eliminate anything, I started reading using the swamping approach.
- I go to bed earlier and read for at least an hour.
- I read in the evenings while watching TV.
8: Put your kids to bed earlier
This is the best parenting and life advice I have for you, honestly.
Studies show that our kids are getting WAY less sleep than they did a generation ago, and this is causing huge issues in terms of mood, memory, intellectual capacity and long term health problems. (Adults are too, by the way. GET MORE SLEEP!)
They are also getting way less free time, which is important not just for cognitive development, but spiritually and emotionally as well. Kids need to be able to experience the gift of their own energy and learning to follow their own instincts and intuition.
We solve both those issues with one simple habit: we put our kids to bed EARLY.
My kids are currently 9 and 5, and they get ready for bed at 6:30, I read to them for 30 minutes or so, and they are in bed by 7.
They don’t have to go to sleep then. They can stay up to read, draw, play quietly or listen to audiobooks. They do NOT get access to screens. It’s time to either rest, restore and enjoy their own company.
Of course, we’re not crazy Victorian about it: they can still leave their bedrooms to go to the bathroom, get water, or come out for another hug.
But they know that night time is time to retreat into their inner worlds.
And what do adults do?
We PARTAY LIKE ITS 1956. Make cocktails, embrace orgy life, take cocaine.
And by that, I mean:
We watch Netflix, and I multitask by either journalling, creating, reading or working while we watch. I rarely want to watch something by being fully immersed in it.
Our evenings are super relaxed. Then we head to bed around 9, and I read for an hour or more.
I’ve had friends visit, discover the loveliness of Early Bedtimes, and gone home to institute the same thing with their teenagers. They’ve had a family meeting, talked about the benefits and why they were doing it, and their teens now go to their rooms at 7:30 for Chill Time.
Not only is it HUGELY amazing for your own sanity… but it is massively beneficial for your kids on every level too!
You will thank me for this more than anything else.
9: Book Baths Are A Sport
Most weekend afternoons you’ll find me taking impossibly long baths with a book. If I’m feeling stressed or sore, I’ll take even more. I usually read for about 2 hours or more.
My kids occasionally wander in to see what I’m up to, or to let me know they are hungry or bored. This is where I practice Benevolent Neglect – an excellent parenting practice to help my children foster important life skills. I remind them to get themselves food from the kitchen if they are hungry, and that I can assign them chores if they are bored.
They rarely interrupt now, and just tend to themselves.
I also think I am modelling TWO excellent things to my children:
- They are seeing their mother undertake self care. This is SO BLOODY IMPORTANT. They won’t see a martyr. They will see a woman who is tending to her own needs. That will be a soul lesson they will carry through their lives.
- They see just how adored books are. That they are a phenomenal source of education and entertainment.
So… BOOK BATH ON, WOMEN + MOTHERS!
10: Momentum creates momentum
I say this alllllllll the fucking time, and the same is true for reading books too.
The more books I read, and the more I tick off my list, the more energy I have to do MORE.
When you FINISH something, you get a surge of energy, pride and satisfaction, which keeps you rolling onto the next book.
Just start. And finish. Even if it means skimming and skipping parts that don’t resonate with you.
11: Reading heals + enlightens you
Honestly, undertaking such a large reading project has been the best decision I’ve made in YEARS. I have learned SO SO MUCH. I have been healed, enlightened and educated so profoundly. Somehow, these books have acted together in synchronicity to give me what I need at just the right time.
It’s renewed my confidence, faith and charged up my business brain once more. I can’t even emphasise enough how much it has affected me.
As always, I’ll do a yearly best books post at the end of this year. Here’s the compendium of my yearly lists since 2012!
In the meantime however, here’s the best books I’ve read so far out of the 100 I’ve already read!
Quiet Power Strategy – Tara Gentile
I started this one years ago, and only completed it thanks to the challenge. It’s one of those books that is so simple and powerful that can take a while to read because it has so many nuggets of wisdom in it.
It’s for business owners and entrepreneur who want to harness their own strengths, and execute marketing in a way that works for them. It’s an anti-hustle book, which I love. And a pro-intentional productivity book, which is right up my ally.
After The Fall – Dan Stantat
This is the best children’s book I’ve read in a lonnnnng time… and I feel like it’s a great spiritual parable.
Here’s me reading it:
Beautifully written and illustrated… I highly recommend this one, even if you don’t have kids!
Align + Attract – Kerry Rowett
I’m an unabashed Kerry fangirl – she’s my kinesiologist. So I already love her and her work.
But this book?
FUCKKKKK MEEEEEEEEEE. This takes it to a whole new level.
It is HOLY SHIT FANTASTIC.
I marvel at her capacity to see COMPLETELY inside the entrepreneur’s head, label every fear and worry and concern, and give practical steps to move forward.
Make sure you do the homework in this book – those exercises are gold.
FIVE FUCKING STARS.
Fully Alive – Pema Chodron (audiobook)
Pema is for you if you’ve been touched by the hard stuff in life.
If you’re in the mode of Positivity Only! Manifest Perfection!, Pema isn’t for you. She talks about suffering and the hard stuff.
I didn’t get her in my twenties. I didn’t need her.
Now – at 36, with ageing parents and small kids and the general fuckuppery that things can be, I need her like I need air.
Many Love – Sophie Lucido Johnson
I’m continuing my tradition of reading graphic memoirs to develop more understanding of other people’s lived experiences (racism, sexism, abusive families, war, sexuality etc). I didn’t feel like I understood enough about the polyamorous community, so I read this one. It was a beautiful read, and I’m grateful to Sophie for allowing us this glimpse into her life.
Onward – Howard Schultz
Maybe this is because of the stage of life I’m in, but I dig a book that’s about going through the hard stuff instead of just attracting only the good stuff.
This is the story of how Starbucks totally fucked up a bunch of things, and had to fix their company from the inside out.
It’s starkly honest and brilliant. It was a thrilling read.
I went through a stage a few years ago where I felt like my company was going in a direction I didn’t want it to be. I had to fight for it, and make so many changes to align it again. And it’s back to being exactly what I know it is supposed to be, but gosh it was hard to go through.
I feel grateful knowing that others go through similar phases, and come out the other side too.
Gorilla and the Bird – Zack McDermott
A beautifully written memoir of a dude who works in mental health who suddenly finds himself experiencing psychosis, admitted to a mental institution. It’s tragic and funny and soaked with love all at once. And I think it’s such a wonderful way to understand bipolar disorder even more.
Pretending to be Normal – Liane Holliday Willey
This is a blend of memoir and how-to on living with Asperger’s Syndrome, especially as a woman. I’m an Aspie, and find it so useful to hear how my experience of the world is similar to others.
There’s a section in here on relationships and communication which completely rearranged my brain in an excellent way. Suddenly SO MUCH made sense!
Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss
TBH, I thought this was going to be crap. I don’t know why. I really loved Tim’s 4 Hour Workweek. Maybe the name/vibe didn’t appeal to me.
I was totally mistaken however – this book is solid gold.
Tim interviews a bunch of brilliant people, and compiles it down into a cliff’s notes of their wisdom. There is some sensational nuggets in here.
I’ll be keeping this one in my business bookcase as a reference book!
Chillpreneur – Denise Duffield-Thomas
DDT has been a mate of mine for a fair whack of time now, and she’s continued to astound me with her wisdom, grace and integrity. She is someone who walks her talk completely, and has so much gold to share. Highly recommend, along with her other two books as well!
Say Hello – Carly Findlay
Carly is a wonderful, thoughtful activist for people with disabilities and appearance diversity.
We need more books like this in the world!
This Will Be My Undoing – Morgan Jenkins
Another thoughtful, searingly honest memoir on race in America. Beautifully written, and deeply thoughtful.
Made By Hand – Mark Frauenfelder
This is a sweet memoir that reminded me a little of another longterm book favourite of mine – Living The Good Life by Linda Cockburn.
It’s the musings and stories of a dude who wants to become more handy and make things for himself – whether that’s musical instruments, brewing kombucha or raising chickens.
I adored it, and it’s inspired me to take up more DIY projects again!
Happy Reading Adventures!
I hope this has inspired you to read more, buy less, enjoy what you have, and reap the benefits.
With love and book baths,