I am a hoarder of academic journals.
At first, I didn’t think this was a problem, but a recent clean up of my bookshelves led me to this discovery: 28 unread academic journals, and at least 6 unread academic newsletter bulletins/magazines. And this does not include whatever is likely sitting on my bedside table.
Now part of the above paragraph is a lie. I did know this was a problem. I knew it was a problem every time I opened my mailbox to find a new journal, with its beautiful cover, its crisp pages, its unbroken spine, its promise of amazing scholarly ideas and fascinating characters.
I knew it was a problem because after a week of the journal sitting unread on my desk, it would wind up getting moved from one place to the next: from the desk to the coffee table to the nightstand and then to join its buddies in the overflowing stack on my bookshelf in a room far from my office so that I didn’t have to feel ashamed for not reading it cover to cover every time I passed it.
So, in my pursuit this summer of what I’m coming to term “academic minimalism,” I’m trying to figure out the best ways for me to actually read these and remove them from my home/office.
Step 1. Come up with a better metric for deciding what’s important.
This is probably the hardest part. I have a lot of interests, so how do I keep them contained? Well, my current way is to follow this simple advice: Do what gets the dissertation done.
Step 2. Cut out interesting articles.
This step is dangerous. How do I avoid going from having a 6 foot stack of journals that I don’t read to having a 2 foot stack of articles THAT I STILL DON’T READ?
You might be yelling at your computer right now, “But Dani! Don’t you know of the fabulous BrowZine app that allows you to save articles from all of your favorite academic journals??”
Yes, and it frequently reminds me that I have bookmarked over 150 articles to read “later.” My friends, later never seems to come.
The hope is the printed articles are visible enough to remind me to read them, and I don’t have to use my iPad — because if I do, it is just a few short clicks to Candy Crush and Two Dots, which I have learned can easily busy me for hours when I should be doing more important things. Like finishing my dissertation.
Step 3. Set up 20 minutes every evening to skim at least two book reviews, if not a full length article.
This seems reasonable, right? Especially with time-blocking.
In any case, this blog is my attempt to journal my way into productivity. To create a system of accountability for becoming more focused and more intentional in my work. And I hope that anyone who happens to follow this blog feels free to pose a question or offer up potentially useful strategies.
With that in mind, I ask you: Do you have a pile of academic shame sitting in the corner? How do you narrow down the articles in your “to-read” pile? What are you metrics for what gets read and what gets tossed? Does recycling/donating used journals pain you or feel liberating? Or, have you just come to terms with the guilt of not reading everything?