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BAND January Discussion: Books to Support Resolutions

BAND January Discussion: Books to Support Resolutions post image

BAND — Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees — is a group organized to promote the joy of reading nonfiction. We are “advocates for nonfiction as a non-chore,” and we want you to join us. Each month, a member of BAND hosts a discussion on their blog related to nonfiction. 

The host for January’s BAND discussion is Joy (Joy’s Book Blog). Because January is a time of new beginnings when people set goals and channel hopeful energy “into communities around interests like reading 100 books in a year or training for a marathon or taking a photo every day.” Joy asks:

What book or books have you used or are you using to support a goal, resolution, or project?

This has been a tricky one for me to answer since I didn’t really set any formal resolutions for this year. I have a lot of things I’m thinking about trying to do — lose 15 pounds, do a Couch to 5K program, develop a healthier lifestyle, learn to cook better, learn to bake bread — but I haven’t quite gotten that little spark of motivation I need to seriously make any of those things happen… yet.

Perhaps I need to start reading books about how to set goals and get motivated? Or not, because that sounds boring.

The one lifestyle change I really do need to make, starting yesterday, is improved focus. For whatever reason, it’s become almost impossible for me to sit down and actually focus on the tasks I have in front of me — mainly writing — when I’m at work or at home.

I’ve become one of those people with eight or nine or ten or eleven tabs open in my browser, constantly clicking through to check Google Reader and Hootsuite and Facebook and Pinterest and Tumblr, only to get through and start the process over again less than five minutes later. It’s like I’ve turned into a information junkie, constantly clicking through my social networks for my next fix of a funny video or book review or news story. It’s ridiculous.

But honestly, I’m not sure where to start looking for books that talk about focus that will be engaging enough to read. I don’t like self-help guides, but I also don’t think the kind of narrative nonfiction I like to read about how the brain works is going to be particularly helpful either. I need books that are a combination of engaging and practical… which is tough.

One book that I read last year and enjoyed was Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers, ““A crisp, passionately argued answer to the question that everyone who’s grown dependent on digital devices is asking: ‘Where’s the rest of my life?’” I liked the book because it balanced out the alarmist (“Technology is ruining our minds!”) with the enthusiastic (“Technology will save humanity!”) and offered some good, practical suggestions for unplugging.

Another book on my list is a new release, The Information Diet by Clay Johnson, which seems like it could be the In Defense of Food of media consumption. While I wasn’t over-the-top in love with In Defense of Food, I did like the way author Michael Pollan blended science and anecdotal evidence to come up with some practical advice for eating better. The Ominvore’s Dilemma was a more engaging book, but In Defense of Food was much more useful in my day-to-day life.

Another book I’ve had my eye on is Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson. Davidson, a researcher at Duke University, outfitted the entire freshman class of 2003 with free iPods, then waited to see what happened. As it turned out, students across campus found academic uses for the devices, prompting a discussion about how schools and workplaces need to adjust to a new, digital society. This may actually be in the wrong direction for what I’m looking for, but I think it’s worth a look.

Another recently-released book I could consult is You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. In the book, McRaney goes through many of the misconceptions we have about how we think and the reasons why our brain deceives us. I first heard about McRaney after reading a post on his blog (of the same name) about procrastination, which is still the most coherent and interesting explanation of why we put of tasks we know we should do that I’ve ever read.

But I don’t know. I’m not entirely convinced these books are quite what I’m looking for or, to be honest, quite what I need. Does anyone have a book that will jump up and down on my desk when I’m getting distracted and yell, “JUST WRITE YOU IDIOT!”

Do you have any suggestions for books about focus or techniques for getting offline and being more productive in the real world? How are you dealing with being an information junkie?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joy Weese Moll January 26, 2012, 9:59 am

    Great books! I’m putting You Are Not So Smart on my list.

    Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) wrote a tip list today about writing: http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2012/01/having-trouble-getting-yourself-to-write-xx-tips.html

    I recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen. It didn’t help me write, but it has helped me do other things to make it possible to write. Plus, it’s such a mainstay for many people on the Web that it’s useful for the allusions. I don’t follow it fully, but the Tickler File and In Box were vital for me. Others say that the context-sensitive Action lists are what really worked for them.

    And finally, this is what’s getting me to focus on writing right now:
    Pomodoros: http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/
    and an accountability partner that I exchange email with once a week listing the progress we’ve each made on our writing goals.

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 5:31 pm

      I read Gretchen’s post this morning — great timing — ad a lot of good advice. Thanks for the recommendations, I feel like I’ve heard of that David Allen book before. I’ve heard of Pomodoros too, but I’m not sure if that’ll work for me 🙂

  • Amy January 26, 2012, 11:40 am

    A lot of really interesting looking books here. I hope you read and review a lot of them 🙂

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 5:32 pm

      I’m really looking forward to The Information Diet as soon as I can get it from the library. I think that looks like a good one.

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm January 26, 2012, 12:40 pm

    I hear you on the focus thing…I have seven tabs open right now. :/ So often I intend to sit down and right a post or a review and end up playing the clicky clicky game instead.

    As for bread — I have a great recipe for bread that only takes 4 ingredients… if you’re interested. 🙂

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 5:33 pm

      Oh, the clicky click game. It’s terrible. I can spend so much time clicking around, just trying to get another link or something to lick on. It’s terrible.

      I would love your bread recipe! Please share!

  • Bettina January 26, 2012, 1:41 pm

    Pretty much the only self-help book I’ve ever read was “How to write your dissertation in 15 minutes a day” by Joan Bolker. It was gifted to me by a wise friend who claimed that it had helped her get her thesis written. Whilst I was highly sceptical at first, I quickly came around to the book’s ideas. It won’t get your dissertation (or other writing task) done in 15 minutes a day, but it has loads of useful hints and tips about getting it done at all.
    Highly recommended!

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 5:34 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation — I’ll have to look into that one.

  • Belle Wong January 26, 2012, 2:56 pm

    Wait a minute, Kim – is that your browser tabs you’re talking about, or mine??!! I swear, I have all those tabs open right now too, except for Tumblr, and that’s just because I need to get back into doing more Tumblr-ing. (Or maybe I don’t really need to … )

    I guess when it comes to helping with resolutions, my favourite books are creative inspiration books. I have one book that’s in my TBR stash that I’ve been meaning to read now for a while: 52 PROJECTS: RANDOM ACTS OF EVERYDAY CREATIVITY. It just looks like so much fun.

    As for being focused and productive, I’ve been having a terrible time opening up Scrivener and start revisions/rewrites for the second draft of the current WIP. So I’m afraid I’ll be of no help here!

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 5:37 pm

      Oh, social media. It’s so easy to get sucked in, isn’t it? I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves all of those things 🙂

      52 Projects sounds like a cool book! I looked it up, and it does seem like a lot of fun.

      I actually think I like doing rewrites more than I like writing first drafts… that’s what I’m constantly avoiding!

  • Andi January 26, 2012, 4:02 pm

    I’m glad you mentioned Hamlet’s Blackberry. I have a copy stowed away and it’s still high on my to-read list in the non-fiction category.

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 5:38 pm

      I liked that one a lot when I first read it! I just found it so comforting, like it was giving me permission to step away from technology when I need/want to. I’d recommend that one.

  • Trish January 26, 2012, 9:49 pm

    Ugh. Information junkie. This is me. I can’t really browse while working so I don’t…on the computer. But my phone? Such a terrible terrible habit!

    But to answer your question–I haven’t specifically sought out books for resolutions until recently. I just purchased a canning book and am looking for a gardening book. I’m also looking for a book on how to improve small talk skills! Ha!

    Now…to click back over to my draft post tab so I can go to bed… 😉

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 5:41 pm

      I almost wish my computer had something to limit browsing, but that also wouldn’t really work with my job. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your canning and gardening efforts this year! Those are both things I’ve never felt capable of doing.