How I Get Shit Done

Something book bloggers tell me a lot is that they’re envious of how organized I am with my book blogging. I read by publication date, churn through review copies, and write up reviews as soon as I finish the book. On the surface, this is just a matter of will power and overpowering any moodiness with regards to what to read next.

However, if you actually delve deeply into the many systems that power my reading, then you’ll see that I live in either organized chaos or chaotic organization. I’m kind of a mess, but a very well-scheduled one. See, the thing is that I want to have time for backlist reads and not just review books. Also, review books aren’t as straightforward as they may at first appear, since sometimes books show up on or past the publication date, which completely throws off my ARC schedule.

Back in the day, I would stick any books past pub date in front of the ARC queue, and I was perpetually reading everything just past the publication date. Now, though, I have a new, more complex system, that alleviates this problem and is actually letting me get ahead on my review books, and thus letting me do more free reading.

At any given time now, I am reading two print books, one or two manga, and an audiobook. Sometimes I pick something else along the way (usually an ebook I think I have time to sneak but don’t, which sits on my currently reading list for a month), but it’s usually just those. Today, I’m just focusing on the print books, not the manga or audiobooks, because explaining those will involve getting even further into the absurdity. Now, to my reading system!

you ready

Primary Read versus Secondary Read:

Why am I reading two print books at once? There are two reasons for this.

  1. I can make progress on two books from two different piles, which I’ll explain further soon.
  2. If one of them is boring, hopefully the other one will be good and keep me reading. I developed the two book system back in college as a way to get my school reading done and kept it for my pleasure reading. That’s the only way I finished Jude the Obscurely Awful Book.

For now, my primary book ALWAYS comes from my ARC pile. This pile is most out of control, and also where the bulk of books for which I owe reviews to someone reside, so I need to move at a good pace. I generally finish a primary book within 3 days, but it’s usually much less.

confident beyonce

Every twenty-five pages of my primary book, I read a chapter of my secondary book. As a result, the rate at which I get through secondary books varies depending on chapter length. Book without chapters? Well, first, I hate this because why, but I also have to read it in one setting. There is a caveat here that chapters that aren’t at least three pages long do not count, so I read until I find a long enough chapter to count, because books with really short chapters can end up being interminable in this system.

If I ever get far enough ahead in my reading schedule, probably to about a month ahead from the current date, then I will start switching the primary read between piles, depending on either which is closer to being finished or which I’m more in the mood to read.

The ARC Pile

Now, I call this one the ARC pile, but it’s actually more the “future books” pile. These are books where the review is not yet “due.” The bulk of these are ARCs, but there are some finished copies for blog tours.

blog schedule February

I keep track of my ARC and blog tour posts using Google Calendar. Above is the month of February. You’ll notice that I keep track of more than just my book reviews, but that’s all I’m talking about today. The titles in dark blue are blog tours or books where I’ve reached an agreement with the publisher to post at a certain time. The peach ones on the right are Sadie Hawkins books, which count in this pile as well, since they are due by a particular date.

The light blue ones are ARCs. They are left on their publication date until I begin reading books for that day. Something Real is an exception, because MacKids is being nice enough to send this to me right now, so I don’t actually have it yet. I just put it there as a reminder to myself. Depending on when it arrives, it will either end up in the ARC pile or the next one I’ll talk about. I read through the ARCs by pub date. Currently, I’m reading books releasing March 4, so I moved those up to the scheduling section (Half Bad and Death Sworn).

In choosing between books that all release the same day, I prioritize print review copies. Solicited print review copies take priority over unsolicited. Egalleys come last, and, if I miss them, I refuse to feel bad about that. Actually, I’m trying not to feel bad in general, since I’ll still read hundreds probably this year. If I have multiple at the same priority, I’ll choose if I have a preference or I’ll ask Twitter, which is almost always helpful.

You’ll notice one other light blue book, The Tyrant’s Daughter. That is my current audiobook read. Should I finish Half Bad first, it would swap to the post date of the 14th, and Tyrant’s would move down. Basically, as I finish, they get scheduled and in the order I finish them, so that I keep moving the schedule ahead. I just finished Panic, at which point it turned from light blue to purple. Next up is Grasshopper Jungle followed by The Good Luck of Right Now. If I’ve finished The Tyrant’s Daughter by the time I finish the latter, I’ll start Poison. If not, I’ll start Half Bad. Confused yet?

schedule

Here is my schedule for March. Here you can see where I’ve cleared out the ARCs for the first week of March, but you can see all the ones that remain. If I get to where an ARCs posting date would be more than a month in advance of the publication date , I would schedule it for exactly one month prior (for example, The Winner’s Curse is set for February 4th; I read it in June), and use my backlist reviews. Any review that is not owed to someone (for free reads, manga, or YABC books which weren’t owed on my blog), I schedule them for the distant future and have them ready to grab if I can’t get a review copy post up for one reason or another. I currently have about 45 of those. First up in the queue of backlogged reviews is The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller, which I finished September 8th.

I KNOW, GUYS. I get it.

I KNOW, GUYS. I get it.

We’re almost done with this pile! However, I also have free reads built into each pile. SO. As long as I have my reviews scheduled at least a week in advance, I get a free read every fourth book from this pile. Eventually, I hope to straight up alternate, but I want to get to the point where I’m using backlogged reviews because it’s too early to post the ARC reviews before that happens. For now, I need the forward momentum of reading predominantly ARCs.

The Past Publication Date Piles

That’s right! PILES. There are two main piles under here and they have sub-piles. So yeah. Things barely even got complicated yet. There’s a lot of complication for that coveted secondary book spot. I alternate between the YABC and the Solicited/Unsolicited piles, so that I’m getting through both, albeit fairly slowly and confusingly.

beyonce going crazy

YABC Pile

I’m honored to be an editor for the book site, YA Books Central. Editor is just a fancy way of saying reviewer. Anyway, I get a good chunk of review copies from them, which is cool because I have access to more things. For a while I had a huge backlog of finished copies that I got pretty far past their pub dates, but this system has cleaned those out. I’m currently reading The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen, and I have just three more of these to read.

When I run out of YABC books, I choose a free read. I’ll explain the logic (is this logic, really?) of those at the end.

Solicited/Unsolited Pile

Alright, these are those books that arrive right at publication date generally in finished copy format. While I think it’s smart of publishers to send finished copies, since they are cheaper for them and nicer for us, with not having to worry about changes, they ARE hard to schedule. I often have no idea the book is coming until it shows up, especially if it’s unsolicited, but often even if it was. For example, Tor generally send me what I request, but they often don’t let me know the book is actually coming; it just shows up one day. It’s fine, but I can’t plan for it and get to it as quickly as I do ARCs. This is just a fact.

This one has its own hierarchy. Any finished copies from publishers/authors come first. They are put in order of arrival. Currently, I have these totally cleared out. I got Lost Lake last week and read it immediately. However, the unsolicited ones take forever to get through. I just don’t feel as compelled to rush, since I didn’t actually say I would read this thing. I’m willing to try, but I’m not going to stress about it.  They’re in roughly the order that they arrived, though I wasn’t keeping track of them back in September or so, when the top book in this pile is from, so I’m not sure. When I’m out of solicited books, I actually alternate between these and a free read, because I’m generally not that excited about the ones I put in this pile and don’t want to make myself sad by putting them too close together. If they are awesome, bonus!

beyonce posing

Free Reads

This part is less down to a science (again, is this really?) because I’ve only recently gotten to free reading, but, for now, there are basically three main categories of free reads, and I’ll apply one to each pile.

  1. Books I Own: Obviously, I should be reading the books I own. Theoretically, every book I own is either unread or something I want to reread, so I have 1400 books that I want to read RIGHT THERE. I’ll either choose them by randomizing my catalog or by taking a picture of a shelf and making Twitter choose.
  2. Goodreads To-Read: Though I own a schload of books, I actually do NOT come close to owning all the books I’m interested in. I also don’t want to have to buy them all to get to read them, so I want to be sifting through this list too. When choosing these, I use random.org to choose a page of my to-read shelf and select one of those 25, sometimes with Twitter’s help.
  3. Series I’ve Started: Inspired by Renae (Respiring Thoughts), I made a spreadsheet of all the series I’ve started and divided them up by whether they’re complete, ongoing, and whether I want to finish and need to catch up. There are a LOT of series I’ve started, wanted to finish, and not finished and I want to fix this. I’ll be making a constituted effort to make progress on this.

The books I own will probably be tied to the ARC pile, since I’m getting to do the most free reading there. The other two I’m not too sure about, since I’ve not cleared either pile yet, but I think I’ll put series books with YABC and the random books from my to-read shelf with the unsolicited books.

I'm over here. Now I'm over there. I AM READING ALL THE THINGS.

I’m over here. Now I’m over there. I AM READING ALL THE THINGS.

Final Thoughts

I told you so. Look at that monster of messiness! Look at how out of my way I will go to not have to ever make choices! But, actually, all of this is working out pretty well for me. I implemented this particular strategy of organization about a month ago, and I’m already further ahead in scheduled reviews than I’ve ever been on my blog, and more on top of YABC reviews than I’ve been since pretty early on.

In no way do I think this will work for everyone or even most people. Actually, given my history of shifting my strategies, it probably won’t even work for the Christina of six months from now, who will probably write another post like this. I guess the message is to embrace your own ridiculousness and do what you need to do to enjoy your reading but also feel comfortable with where your blog is. If, like me, you want everything all scheduled and orderly, it might take some finagling. If you can mood read and post whenever, more power to you; I’m honestly rather jealous of that attitude, but I just can’t. Just be you and own it.

beyonce sassy snap

Are you intimidated? Judging me? Feeling better about your own reading practices?

36 Responses to “How I Get Shit Done”

  1. I said it on Twitter, but I am in awe. Just figuring out that process, let alone actually LIVING it?

    But hey, if it works for you, power to ya ;)
    Kat (AussieZombie) recently posted…January Wrap UpMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Well, it didn’t happen all at once. I’ve had various systems like this to keep me moving. At one point early in blogging, I was reading something like six-eight books at once and it was the worst. I honestly don’t even remember why, but it was the worst plan in the history of plans.

  2. Bonnie says:

    Wow. That is quite a system. I’ve cut WAY back on my ARC requesting and I don’t get too many physical ARCs so I actually have less than 20 for the next 6 months. Only one for February. Being more willing to DNF has helped this. lol I REALLY need to sort out which ones are finished review copies though because they’ve gotten all mixed up with the rest so that I can focus on getting those knocked out because I feel guilty about ignoring those. I think my issue is even when I develop some sort of system my mood wreaks havoc on it. But bravo to you for your diligence.
    Bonnie recently posted…Review + Giveaway! The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie RutkoskiMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m trying to cut back on ARC requesting too. Trying to limit it to things I’m pretty damn confident I’ll like, which has actually been failing me about 1/4 or more of the time, so maybe I need to scale back further.

      DNFing has been helpful, but I still hope I’m through the slog of bad books all in a row.

      Forgetting the finished copies is really easy, because they’re essentially without a date. You’re already published, so oh well! What difference does it make?

  3. Morgan says:

    Wow. I’m impressed, monstrously impressed with your chaotic organization (as I like to think of it)! It definitely makes sense and I see the logic. You’d be drowning in books otherwise. I wish I could read two books at once, I used to all the time! Now I just try to power through and finish one as quickly as possible.

    By the way, I’m very excited that you’re going to review Moth and Spark! I just learned about the book recently and think it sounds good even though I haven’t heard much conversation about it.

    • Christina Franke says:

      This is how I try to keep any one pile from getting out of control. So far, so good. I’ve gotten so used to reading two books that reading one, unless it’s monstrously good, is tough.

      I’ve gotten used to my little breaks, so, even if I’m trying to read straight through, I’ll stop and wander around or get a snack or pet the cat for a mental break from the book.

  4. Kayla Beck says:

    I’m so lost by what you do. Well, except for the Google Calendar part, which I do, too. However, I’m about 9 books behind right now, thanks to my scheduling. I am doing better with reviews since I’ve started it, though. I’ve got from 3-4 a month to 2-3 a week, so I guess accountability helps.
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Cover Reveal (Giveaway): Now That You’re Here by Amy K. NicholsMy Profile

  5. Sophie says:

    Christina, your schedule is TOO AWESOME I CAN’T EVEN. I love the two-book system too, and I’m only slightly intimidated by the rest of it, haha. I schedule tasks instead of events on my Google Calendar because I like checking off the things I get done, but the downside is that my calendar isn’t as multicolored as yours. Thanks for sharing your chaotic methods! :P
    Sophie recently posted…Book Reader Species Report #1: THE OMNIREADERMy Profile

  6. Kelly says:

    I’m not even going to pretend like I understand your system, but man. Kudos to you for coming up with something that works for you!

    I definitely fall into the “mood reader” category. I often find myself grabbing something at random, starting it and then realizing, I’m not in the right mood for it. I don’t always know what I’m in the mood for, but I can always tell you what I’m not in the mood for. It makes no sense, but there it is.

    I guess we’re all just a little crazy! Haha
    Kelly recently posted…Book Review: World AfterMy Profile

  7. Jamie says:

    WOW. I could never ever in a million years operate this way because my brain is like spinning out of control reading this but I AM SUPER IMPRESSED/REALLY JEALOUS BECAUSE MY BRAIN CAN’T BE LIKE YOURS. I mean, I want to hyperventilate looking at your method to the blogging madness. My brain is like NO SHUT IT DOWN. I’ve always thought you were an organized blogger but DAYUM. Thanks for sharing your process…super fascinating because mine is the total opposite! If I wrote this post it would be like:

    1. Read the first book you trip over.
    2. Review it….eh fuck go on Netflix instead.
    3. SHIT SHIT SHIT you really need a post up. OH fuck that book you just read comes out in 6 months?! EFFFF.
    4. *looks at unreviewed books to perhaps review*
    5. Can’t remember much of that one. Nope that one either.
    6. EHH fuck let’s just do a discussion about how much reading makes your ass hurt.
    7. *goes to pick next book to read* OH I think someone was talking about this. I CHOOSE YOU, PRETTY COVER BOOK. Or do I choose YOU, book who is going to make me cry my eyes out? I did have a rather shittastic day and I’d like to cry about something legit rather than the fact the popular radio station was playing that song I discovered a year ago from a cool band and then realized how hipster that thought was of me.
    8. Fuck that took long enough. I’m going to go read…err I mean hop on Twitter.
    9. * 3 hours later* I guess I’ll just start this book tomorrow. My bed is looking miiiighty fine.

    Suffice it to say. I am a mood reader through and through. I have no organization when it comes to ARCs. I read the ones I feel like and sometimes they are on par with the release dates and sometimes they aren’t. I read a lot of backlists when I’m getting pissy with ARCs.

    Teach me your ways, madame of blogging organization.
    Jamie recently posted…February Most WantedMy Profile

  8. Ella Zegarra says:

    All I catch was “book”. I need a new brain after this ._.
    Ella Zegarra recently posted…Truth {or} Dare #4My Profile

  9. ashley says:

    This is amazing! I tend to be a mood reader. This helps/hinders me depending on the situation. I tried to plan everything in a way like you did, but it caused me great anxiety and as you know, I already have enough issues with anxiety!
    ashley recently posted…The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse AndersonMy Profile

  10. I … I think I need to reread. I’m a bit confused, but it all looks very organised, even if you say that it’s messy. Organised messy is right!

    I use Google Calendar as well, as I find it so much easier when I can see the posts/books/reviews lined up like that. I don’t make a list on release days though, although I used to do something similar. But I ran out of room and I got annoyed with the +more thing that the Calendar does XD
    Amber @ Books of Amber recently posted…Debut Showcase: February 2014My Profile

  11. […] @ A Reader of Fictions revealed how she gets shit done, aka how she’s so organized with her book […]

  12. Um wow, I got a little confused for a minute there. But this is awesome chaotic organization you have going on here! I haven’t been as chaotic when it comes to reading ARCs and generally staying ahead of the whole read-and-review-before-release-date. However, I do have these periods where I’m reading four books at a time. Sometimes I genuinely like doing it other times, not so much.

    I’ve been keeping track of everything using MS OneNote as it feels great to make a checklist and check things off as you go. I think I’ll get the hang of scheduling pretty soon. Like you said, I also keep changing my reading habits.

    I might have been able to pull of 10 percent of it if I wasn’t such a mood reader that I tend to get sometimes. I’m in awe of all this, Christina. Kudos to you, really.
    Sana @ artsy musings of a bibliophile recently posted…Monthly Recap: JanuaryMy Profile

  13. I’m overwhelmed, confused and awed by your messy yet perfectly working system! I think this is one of the best chaotic organization method I’ve seen so far :D I keep track of everything by a schedule in Excel & using Google Calenders. But in the end, I hardly use my schedule and read books that fit my mood. It does work that way for me. I also do the read-more-books-at-the-same-time as you do: I always read at least one ARC and one book from my TBR pile.

    I’m going to save this post and read it again later, haha.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…10 random facts about me.My Profile

  14. Meg says:

    I’m kind of a mess, but a very well-scheduled one. <– I'm not entirely sure why this sentence tickles me so much (I'd say I relate, but I'm more highly efficient, less well-scheduled) but it does and I love it. You are the best.

    Once again, I find myself in awe of your schedule. It's so organized, I can't handle it. I wish I could force myself to stick to something like this but I'm too much of a flake or mood-reader, I guess, if I'm being nice, but there's a healthy dose of flake in there too)

    I promise to do better about harassing you about reading stuff asap, I don't want to upset your delicately balanced system as it is clearly working for you (LIKE BEYONCE)

    I love this post and your system. Your brain amazes me. I'd say teach me, but I think it would just frustrate us both (see flakiness mentioned above). Yer a wizard, Harry…er, Christina.

  15. Brandy says:

    I am in awe. I have a similar system though not as large because I don’t have as many ARCs. I try to be careful about how much I request because I know I don’t have the time and don’t want to sacrifice the backlist entirely. Plus I have three other people in this house who always need me for SOMETHING. (Not that I think life is easier to balance when you’re single and kid-free. It’s just a different kind of balancing act. I remember well.)
    Brandy recently posted…Black DogMy Profile

  16. My head is spinning right now.
    Lenore Appelhans recently posted…The Debut Author Challenge 2014My Profile

  17. kara-karina says:

    Brain exploded.
    The scary thing is I completely get and support you on this, Christina, but to implement it for myself? My grey matter says HELL, NO.
    I need a drink now. *raises toast* Respect, sister!
    kara-karina recently posted…February New Book Releases I’m Dying to Read!My Profile

  18. Nafiza says:

    You completely lost me at the multiple piles but I am in complete awe of your dedication. I do the Google calendar thing too at both of my blogs and it helps me remember when reviews need to be posted. The thing with me is that too many review copies annoy me because I don’t like being obligated to read anything even if I was the one who requested the arc/review copy so I try to keep them minimal. Again, I’m very impressed with your techniques.
    Nafiza recently posted…Artist Spotlight: げみ*ティアけ06a*My Profile

  19. Heather says:

    I think my brain just exploded. lol. I am completely blown away by your organization, especially because I’m such a mood reader. If I’m not in the right mood, I simply can’t finish a book.

    Oooh, I like the way in which you read your secondary books, and I think I’ll use a slightly modified method for books I’m not particularly fond of: read a few chapters of the book I like, then read one or so chapters of a book I’m not as into. I think that might help me get through the lackluster ones, as I have such a hard time DNFing anything.

    I’ve been doing really well with only reading two or three books at a time (one is always an ebook, as my Kindle goes with me to the store, work, on vacation, etc), and it is so much easier to finish books now that I’m not reading ten at a time :)

  20. OH MY SWEET BEYONCÉ CHRISTINA YOU ARE MY FAVORITE PERSON EVER.

    I am so jealous of your review system because you have everything figured out! *cries* I have a calendar too but it’s basically me slapping on random titles at a time like “Eh this looks about right, maybe I should put it here” and then I have a party. I was reading how your calendar system works and I was like, “This makes my calendar look like a pubescent child.” And whenever I feel like reading a personal book, I just go, “I’m in the mood to read this one, so I’m gonna ditch my whole schedule just to read this one.” Haha but fantastic post, Christina! I actually love your schedule. <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…Life of a Blogger (2): Music GenresMy Profile

  21. I am totally intimidated. Wow, you are so scheduled! I write all my posts a month before they are actually posted and use Google Calendar to schedule them with my c0-blogger. When it comes to reading though, I guess it’s “whatever I feel like”. Usually, I make sure to read ARCs first and then it’s whatever else I have. I can only do one book at a time. I feel like if I go too structured, I’ll feel like reading is a chore and I will avoid it. It’s cool to see what works for you though!
    P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex recently posted…The Weekly Progress: To The Edge of Insanity and BackMy Profile

  22. Anya says:

    *pets my piles* I’m so glad I’m not the only one that doesn’t like making choices and organizes by piles! I have a pile of solicited physical copies, physical copies I grabbed from friends and therefore publishers won’t know that I could have reviewed it if I don’t get to it, and a pile of library books that I have everything intention of reading >.>. Let’s not discuss my eARCs though please <.<
    Anya recently posted…Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen eARC {5 Stars} + Giveaway!My Profile

  23. Your Google calendar is scary awesome! I’m trying to dial back the organization obsession, because I tend to obsess in general and I’ve started feeling like my lists are making the books not fun anymore. BUT I really wish that I could have a schedule and stick to it. I so admire that often, we’ll see you tweeting about a book and the post goes up the next day. I horribly procrastinate reviews and I’m about 10 behind right now. O_O

    Also: BEYONCE. THAT IS ALL.
    Terri @ Starlight Book Reviews recently posted…Month in Review: January 2014My Profile

  24. Jenni says:

    Holy shitballs girl, I STILL don’t know how you do it. oh and books without chapters? *shivers*

    I am going to go off topic here for a sec… well kind of. I used to think that books with shorter chapters went by so fast but now I find that I read ones with short chapters and feel like I get nowhere. The chapters in The Good Luck of Right Now were longer than I usually run into in YA (I know it’s NOT YA… but anyway) and after every chapter I was like WHOA I HAVE COME SO FAR!

    Ok. I like how you organize your unsolicited books, the hierarchy. Much sense that makes.

    Oh and the Beyonce gifs are the best.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing because you are a MACHINE!
    Jenni recently posted…Review: Alienated by Melissa LandersMy Profile

  25. Gillian says:

    You have rendered me speechless. All I can say is that I hate you. Fondly, of course. But I hate you.
    Gillian recently posted…Book Haul, or the One with Kenji, Warner, and ThorneMy Profile

  26. […] Christina shows us how she gets shit done. […]

  27. […] I actually did a BIG post on what I read and when and why, so you can check that out for a more detailed answer and pictures […]

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