Solving for Tsundoku: Making and Breaking Your Goals

October 16, 2017






is a series of posts focused on making peace with the piles.

We’ve all done it: We’ve all decided, for some reason or another, that we need to set goals. Goals are the target of our ambitions or efforts; aiming for the desired result. Setting goals are great. They give you long-term vision and short-term motivation. They focus you and help you organize both your time and resources to make the most of those efforts. Goals transform your life from a passive state to an active one; they are a constant reminder of the things which inspire you.

I set a TON of goals for 2017 in all aspects of my life. As it relates to Death by Tsundoku, I set both reading challenge goals and blog goals. Why? Reading challenge goals push me to read more outside of my comfort zone. I know that if I don’t try to branch out, I’ll just end up reading the same genres over and over again. While that’s great, it doesn’t help expand my thinking or experiences– which is one of the main reasons I read!

2017 Reading Challenge Goals:

  • Read 110 total books in 2017
  • Complete the 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge (40 standard topic, plus 12 additional for 52 total books)
  • Complete the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (24 topics)
  • Read 15 books between the following book lists:
    • Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge
    • Newbery Medal Award Winners
    • Newbery Honor Books

Blog-specific goals should be obvious: I have them to keep me focused, honest, and on top of my personal blogish goals. These are intended to help me develop my own space in this amazing bookish community and find my own voice.

2017 Death by Tsundoku Blog Goals:

  • Never have a backlog of more than 5 books which need to be reviewed
  • Spend at least 5 minutes a day blog hopping
  • Expand the book discussion question database by at least one book a month.
  • Maintain posting at least twice a week.
  • Participate in at least 5 cross-post style events (such as guest posts, readathons, etc) with other bloggers.
  • Make the Thanksgiving Readathon with Ottavia a real thing! Planning! Posts! Prizes! All of that stuff.
  • Expand my non-book review posts, specifically the Between the Line series and a few other series ideas I have floating in my head; write at least 6 this year.

Now. What are you thinking after reading that list? Probably what I realized mid-year: I over-committed myself. It’s easy to decide in the beginning that I’m going to take on the whole world. In fact, that’s why most people fail at their goals when they set them. When you first start setting goals in a specific space you often underestimate the resources you have available to dedicate towards achieving these goals.

In April, I took a new job. Now one of my regular job tasks is to help people set achievable goals with milestones, expected deliverables, and deadlines. Looking back at my own goals for 2017 I realize that I made a ton of rookie mistakes. But the fact that I can see those now means that I have grown a ton in the ~7 months I’ve been in my role. I couldn’t be more excited about this!

One of the key things I’ve learned is that when you regularly miss a goal you need to stop and ask WHY. Find the root cause and make a correction. There is nothing more painful than to see yet *another* month go by where you missed your goals. Instead, you need to make changes. And that’s what I’m here to do now– Let’s revise my goals!

Updated 2017 Reading Goals:

  • Read 110 total books in 2017
  • Complete the 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge (40 standard topic, plus 12 additional for 52 total books)
  • Complete the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (24 topics)
  • Read 15 books between the following book lists:
    • Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge
    • Newbery Medal Award Winners
    • Newbery Honor Books

My reading challenge goals don’t change much. This is the third year in a row I’ve set reading goals, so I know where my limits and resources stand. But, I’ve gotten to the point where both the PopSugar and BookRiot challenges combined are stressing me out! While I am more interested in the prompts from PopSugar, and I have made more progress overall, I think the BookRiot reading challenge will push me more as a reading with the remaining goals. I’ll still keep track of my PopSugar reading challenge, but I will no longer stress out about finishing it.

Updated Death by Tsundoku Blog Goals:

  • Never have a backlog of more than 5 books which need to be reviewed   Review at least one book a week
  • Spend at least 5 minutes a day blog hopping
  • Expand the book discussion question database by at least one book a month.
  • Maintain posting at least twice a week.
  • Participate in at least 5 cross-post style events (such as guest posts, readathons, etc) with other bloggers.
  • Make the Thanksgiving Readathon with Ottavia a real thing! Planning! Posts! Prizes! All of that stuff.
  • Expand my non-book review posts, specifically the Between the Line series and a few other series ideas I have floating in my head; write at least 6 this year.

These are the goals which need the most revision. First of all, I read much more quickly than I can review. Going into 2017, I wanted to write a full-out review for every book I read. I know now that isn’t feasible with my schedule. There are too many things outside of my blog I am interested in and don’t want to give up my time our resources for them.

I am still passionate about my book discussion question database, but I tend to update it in sprints. It takes a lot of time and effort to write good questions. For now, I want to spend that time developing stronger habits around writing posts and blog hopping. That means something needs to go on the back burner– like discussion questions. This goal is being tabled for future Jackie to pick up and conquer.

I have definitely participated in 5 cross-post style events already this year, honestly. But it just didn’t take the form I expected it to! Instead, I’ve been diving headfirst into the #AnneReadAlong2017 with Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf. #AnneReadAlong2017 totally counts and I will not beat myself up over my lack of involvement in other places.

I’m actually surprisingly close to meeting most of my other goals. But the goals I changed, even in writing this single post, have already lifted a weight I didn’t realize was on my shoulders. It’s amazing how we can set stresses and anxieties on ourselves!

Going forward I am going to try to check in on my goals more frequently. Just seeing if they are still the right goals for me. Typically, I’d remove some, table them, and then replace them with more achievable goals. But, since this is mid-October, I’m just collecting my ideas for when I have more whitespace in the future.

This post was a long time coming, and I feel so much better having taken the time to sit down and critically think through where my stress was coming from. Are you feeling stressed out about your reading? I encourage you to take a step back. Look at what you’ve asked yourself to do. And be honest: Do you have the time, passion, and resources to make this happen? If not, make a change! Just table your goal for a while. And who says goals all need to be set during New Years Day? Just set them whenever you want. It’s easier that way.

What do you think?

  • Do you set goals for yourself? What are your current goals?
  • Have you ever reassessed your goals like this? What did you learn?
  • What are your tips and tricks for managing your goals?
  • What are the goals you have achieved in the past you are most proud of? How did you find success with those goals?


  • Diana October 17, 2017 at 4:15 am

    Great post Jackie. I am glad that this post has helped relieve some of your stress. I have felt anxious before especially due to too many ARCs and the looming deadlines. Taking a step back and reviewing goals and also reasons as to why I read and blog helped me a lot. Take it easy, do what you can, enjoy your books and blog and all the best with the remaining goals. Congrats on what you have achieved so far.

    • Jackie B October 18, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Thank you so much, Diana! I’m so glad that I’m not alone in this experience. ARCs in particular can be SUPER overwhelming. You’ll notice I have not goals related to ARCs… that’s because I’m ignoring them. O_o Oops. Perhaps I’ll set a goal around those for 2018? Who knows.

      Thank you for stopping by! It’s so nice to hear from you. 😀

  • Laila@BigReadingLife October 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Jackie, I think your goal-setting is admirable, even if it turned out to be too much. You have such enthusiasm and passion for reading and expanding your reading comfort zone!

    As for me, I’ve decided not to set ANY reading goals next year, and I may not even participate in any readalongs or challenges. I want to try a completely unstructured reading year to regain some of my joy for reading. I’m actually really looking forward to January for that reason! Not that I haven’t enjoyed my participation in various things, I have, but I just want more freedom and whimsy in my (limited) reading time. It will be the first year since I began my blog that I won’t have any set goals.

    • Jackie B October 18, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Thank you so much Laila! I really appreciate your compliment. Sometimes, I get bogged down in my own perceived failures. My heart needed to hear your compliment. 😀

      Good for you! I’m impressed that you realized you needed ZERO goals. It’s definitely important to have “more freedom and whimsy” — in fact, I’m a bit jealous. Perhaps I’ll lean that direction some day… But I don’t know if I can let myself have no structure quite yet.

      It sounds like this break from goals really helped you mentally! Do you think you’ll develop goals for 2018 after this break?

      • Laila@BigReadingLife October 18, 2017 at 12:54 pm

        Oh, ha ha… I’ve not quite experienced the “no goals” thing yet – I’m setting that up for 2018, in January! I’m still trying to reach certain goals for the remainder of this year. Sorry I wasn’t clear about that! I’m just looking forward to it already!

        • Jackie B October 20, 2017 at 9:48 am

          OH! Silly me. I misread that, you wrote it perfectly clearly. I don’t blame you for looking forward to that. I hear stress reduction helps us all live longer. 😉

  • Novels And Nonfiction October 17, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Very insightful post! I’m glad that you’re feeling less stressed about your reading and blogging. For me what helped was realizing that I had to decide what my priorities were. Things that come before blogging include, work, friends, family, my pet rabbit, my anxiety, and exercising (my health). If I need to take time off from blogging or be late on posting for any of those things, it’s perfectly fine. I also realized I need to make sure I’m still enjoying my reading and not letting it feel like a chore. So sometimes even if i “should” be reading something for a post, I’ll read something else I feel like reading more instead. It’s all about balance! 🙂

    • Jackie B October 20, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Thank you so much, Ottavia!

      Deciding on priorities is so important. I struggle to keep them at the fore of my mind, however. Do you ever catch yourself drifting from your priorities? If so, how do you realign?

      • Novels And Nonfiction October 20, 2017 at 10:52 am

        Sure it happens all the time! It’s not easy but when I find myself worrying about my blog or considering skipping a social engagement or something that would help me relax for it I just remind myself it’s only a hobby, and the important thing is that I enjoy it. Also, I think about the fact that the pressure is just made up in my head. It’s not like our blog readers really have specific expectations of how often/what we should post and they’re probably not even going to notice if I post one or two days later than I said I would 🙂

        • Jackie B October 21, 2017 at 4:11 pm

          That’s a great point. I actually find I have more anxiety about not blog hopping rather than my own goals sometimes, too. I definitely set up expectations in my head about how people perceive me and what their expectations are which are probably completely ludicrous. O_o It’s important to step back and remind yourself to keep things in perspective.

          Thanks for all your insight! I hope I can keep that in mind going forward!

          • Novels And Nonfiction October 22, 2017 at 11:41 am

            Well you’ve done a great job blog hopping from my perspective 🙂 lol I love all your insightful comments! But yeah real life comes first and I don’t think anyone would judge you for not taking the time to read through everyone’s posts. They have real lives too so they know how hard it gets 🙂

            • Jackie B October 27, 2017 at 10:45 pm

              Haha. Thank you! I’m glad that you appreciate my comments. I spend a lot of time reading people’s posts and trying to glean everything I can. It can be challenging to be thoughtful– but that’s why I blog! I want to start a dialogue about books. 😀

              It can be SO HARD To keep up with blogs! I don’t know how all my favorite bloggers do it. Plus, there are rising blogging stars all over the place. Mind blown. Their involvement is rock solid.

  • KrystiYAandWine October 18, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Wow! That is a lot of goals, my friend! I’m impressed that you are so go oriented actually but glad you’re working to keep them manageable. I’ve done the read harder challenge in the past. This year I just did the Goodreads challenge. But I am totally going to do the William C. Morris or Printz starting next year like we talked about, because I am a copy cat.

    • Jackie B October 21, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I’ll take it. Also, those both sound like worthy challenges! Either way, you’ll end up finishing before me as those lists are quite a bit shorter. Well, for winners at least. 😉

      I like the Goodreads challenge. It’s simple and low pressure. It’s just fun to try and beat previous records!

      • KrystiYAandWine October 23, 2017 at 9:27 am

        It’s true! The lists are sooo much shorter. Thank goodness. I get overwhelmed looking at the Newbery list. It’s completely amazing though, of course.

        I do love the Goodreads challenge. I don’t know why it’s so satisfying to hit those goals, but it really is.

  • Annemieke October 21, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Great post. I think it is easy to keep stacking up on goals and then feel weighted down by them. But looking back at them realistically is hard. And things in our life can change so much throughout the year that it is hard to make your goals be flexible for that.

    • Jackie B October 24, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you! Yes– life is so unpredictable, it’s easy to overcommit. And it’s hard to let go once we’ve started something too, right? I find that far too many people won’t DNF books. But, who am I to judge if I can’t let go of my own goals?

      If this was my full time job, I’d be crushing these goals. But, this is something I just do for fun. So, instead, I have to let my goals go some. Here’s hoping I set more reasonable ones in the future!

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer October 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Wow Jackie! Your goals were amaze! I loved “Never have a backlog of more than 5 books which need to be reviewed.” Because I would LOVE to be able to commit to that… then I saw you cut it! *hug* I knew you were amazing but I was never so happy to see you make changes if you were feeling overextended. I am ALWAYS overextending so I could really relate to ALL the changes you made. I already abandoned my challenges and will see where I stand at the end of December. I’m really quite inspired by this post and the goals you chose… I loved your advice to re-evaluate WHY things aren’t happening with some goals… I feel like some things we feel SHOULD BE our goals when in reality we don’t want to be concerned by them… hence our lack of commitment.

    What is book hopping? And what is this database? I’m just so curious about the goals! ♥️

    • Jackie B November 4, 2017 at 10:44 am

      D’aw. Thanks, Dani!! I really wish I could keep my goal “Never have a backlog of more than 5 books which need to be reviewed.” Buuuut, well, I am definitely not prioritizing review writing. It’s strange, right? But I will spend more time blog hopping than I will writing reviews. I feel like the relationships I have with my blogger friends are so much more important. If I was still doing my blogging in a vacuum (like I was when I started out), I imagine that I would be more on top of my reviews. Oops!

      Overextending sometimes feels like a talent of mine. I am constantly pushing myself to do more! It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes it leads to not great things. I don’t know what my goals will look like for 2018, but I think I might be changing my perspective a but on what is meaningful. I feel like I took on EVERYTHING this year. Now I know that I need more focus in order to personally feel successful.

      D’aw. I’m glad I could inspire you, Dani! There are so many reasons commitment might wane. The most significant reason is that our priorities change. Going into 2017, I wanted to focus more on developing relationships with other bloggers. But I didn’t want to do that at the sacrifice of my own blogging! I knew relationships required a lot of work, but I didn’t realize how little time I would have to accomplish all my blog goals.

      I always want to do EVERYTHING. I just might feel more successful if I focused in one space and got a ton better there than doing everything. Right? Right.

      Haha. BLOG hopping, silly Dani. I want to let me friends know I am here for them. The connections with other bloggers are the most valuable part of my blogging experience. I’m so glad to be sharing these relationships.

      Since the reason I started this blog was focused on a passion for book clubs., I realized my niche in the book blogging space is focused around this. I want to encourage conversation and debate. Hence my Building Better book Clubs series of posts. I also have a section of my blog. Here are questions for book clubs to use when they discuss books.

      Right now, this is set up by the book clubs I’m hosting. I’m thinking I need to make a change in format to be more inclusive. Particularly since this is a focus for me and my blog. Any suggestions?

      What are your goals for the rest of the year? Anything I can help with!? 😀

  • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks October 29, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I remember you setting those goals when I just met you. It was the beginning of the year, I think… And I thought, maybe they’re a little lofty? 😀 especially what with all the cross-posting. And the book clubs. The book clubs are a ton of work on their own!

    Over-committing is probably the worst, to be fair. Because it doesn’t just create pressure.. You somehow do less. I’ve found that during this last readathon I did, I think. I didn’t commit to ANYTHING, and I did so much! So much that it has influenced how I read even OUTSIDE of the readathon. These past two days? I read two books. No committment!

    Hey, what were you doing before this job, BTW?

    I know I won’t be revising my goals this year though. I either reach them, or I fail and learn from the process. But I won’t be chickening out 😀 not my way!

    But I know I’m going to set smaller goals next year. I just don’t want to keep stressing myself. What more? I don’t want to feel bad each time when I choose a 500 page book instead of a 200 page one! It’s not how reading is supposed to work. I should read for the pleasure, after all. Not for the count.

    Hey, you cross posted with me, our review is totally a cross post 🙂 am I right or am I right??

    • Jackie B November 5, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Hahaha. I’m glad that someone can see through my rediculous goal setting! Next time, just call me out on it. 😉 I have all the hopes to do all the things all the time. Where is my time-turner? Am I right?

      I love your thought about how committing to something can set you up for failure in some ways, as well. That’s because once you know what success looks like you are stuck with that vision. It can be hard to push beyond it. However, if you set zero expectations, everything is a victory! I love setting goals because it gives me a chance to push myself beyond what I think I can do. That said… it might be worth making my blog a less stressful hobby in the future. Right? Right. Because, I’m sure, the only person I’m ACTUALLY disappointing is myself. O_o

      Before this job, I was a corporate educator. I have spent the last 7 years leading adult education programs which focus on systems, process, and skill education. To this day, I still love standing in front of a classroom. It’s awesome.

      What are your goals for this year? Feel free to post a link! I can’t recall any of them… which, considering you saw mine and REMEMBER them, makes me feel like a barely adequate friend.

      Oh, yes. When I do my yearly wrap-up, our buddy read post will TOTALLY be listed under my cross-posting victories. Speaking of, when are we doing that again? 😉

      • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks November 6, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        Lol I didn’t JUST misclick. I also replied a totally random comment. Anyway… as I was saying before my comment was brutally eaten ;_; first things first, please tell me you use messenger? Cause I absolutely need to talk with you more, and I also sort of really need to play the equivalent of scrabble with you on messenger.

        Second, about the blog stress. Absolutely know what you mean! When I started out, I was all like “I’m gonna be so happy when I get all popular as a blogger!” Now? *gets a ton of notifications, deletes them all, doesn’t think anything of it* <- me #facepalm… I wish I at least took time to appreciate it or something. I really am incorrigible.

        Corporate teacher! That's kind of what I do, except for marketing only. And it's only my occasional job. But your current job totally makes sense in this context 🙂 however, I can't say I enjoy the teaching too much. My voice kills me. 3-4 hours of talking and I feel like I'm all battered, and can't speak the next day. Any advice?

        As for the goals, it's alright! I'm not sure we were even friends yet, at that point. I was only starting out, and I was this little crap blogger, and you were already blogging for a year 🙂 I'm not sure I would locate my goals post, but they're fairly simple: 100 books for Goodreads, 36 for Mount TBR (books acquired only before 2017) and any number of ARCs older than 4 months that I can manage (didn't set a number cause #hundreds). They aren't unreachable, maybe the ARCs one is a little lofty, but if I'd made that ARC group earlier I might have done better 😀
        I don't know when we're doing a buddy read yet! First we'd need to pick a book 😀 maybe January though?

        • Jackie B November 10, 2017 at 8:20 am

          I have *totally* done that before. And probably not with some super long comment, but I’m not great about consistently replying where I should. Whatever– the discussion is what mattes, right?! Right.

          Like, Facebook Messenger? Or some other Messenger tool? I’m open to whatever. I will do whatever I can to spend more time with you! No joke. And I’m adequate at best at Scrabble. This would be a great chance for me to work on my skillz. with a Z. Because. duh.

          Hahaha. I can barely keep up with my friends! I love it when I see that your blog is dorwning in comments, but I couldn’t handle the pressure. I care so much about the unique relationships I’m building, I would never blog– i’d just respond to comments. O_o It’s alllll about balance.

          • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks December 5, 2017 at 1:31 pm

            After playing Scrabble with you I can say that you are DEFINITELY much more than adequate, woman.

            • Jackie B December 14, 2017 at 11:11 am

              Hahaha. I adore you as well. P.S: Your move. 😉

  • Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons November 4, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I love this post!! I’m definitely trying to embrace the fact that I set too many reading goals for challenges and such–and trying to be at peace with the fact that I won’t finish all of them is hard, but necessary. I’m already mulling over bookish goals for next year–and I think I definitely need to set some more achievable ones (like…posting 5 times a week on my blog is just not feasible during the school year when I’m teaching). Goals are a constantly evolving process. I’m glad you were able to relieve some of your stress!

    • Jackie B November 5, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      Thank you!! Goals are empowering and intimidating– it can be such a challenge to pick the right level of commitment for each one. That’s my favorite part of my new job; the constant reassessing of goals. It’s okay to change your goals– just understand why and be certain to tell your story well.

      Be kind to yourself as you start putting together your goals for 2018. I am going to try to be kind to myself too. Just because we WANT to publish 5 posts a week doesn’t mean we WILL. 😉 <3 <3

      • Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons November 5, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        Agreed!! I have multiple goals floating around in my head for next year and I’m trying to find ways to make them achievable–and not super stressful ;). Always a work in progress!

  • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks November 6, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Oh my god I wrote the longest comment and misclicked and it’s now gone. FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

    • Jackie B November 10, 2017 at 7:51 am

      !!!! O_o

  • theorangutanlibrarian November 6, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    I really agree about diversifying bookish goals, otherwise I also would end up reading a lot of the same things. I think that’s such a good point about thinking about WHY you miss goals, cos I feel like I often have goals I miss- then I just stick it back on my to do list… and then miss it all over again. I think it’s so good to be prepared to change our goals- and I’m glad that doing this helped lift a weight off your shoulders. And totally agree about not just setting New Year’s goals (that’s why I favour Mid Year’s Resolutions as well 😉 )

    • Jackie B November 10, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Exactly! So few people stop and ask WHY about anything in their lives, sadly. It’s like we lost all our curiousity when we were children. Being successful is not just about knowing everything– it’s about understanding ourselves and our motivations.

      Do you have any current blogging or reading goals?

      • theorangutanlibrarian November 11, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        Yeah that’s very true. Perfectly put!

        I am trying to read a mixture of books, especially off of a tough reading list (making slow progress there 😉 )

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