I’m Throwing in the Towel


I really, really love checking things off of lists. It’s one of the reasons I chose my Day Designer planner when I was looking for a new one: each day has a to-do list on the same page as my hour-by-hour calendar. Swoon… In many ways, this is a positive trait, since it pushes me to finish things I’ve started. However, it also makes it difficult for me to throw in the towel before I’ve completed something – even when it’s clear that I need to.

In recent years, I’ve come to understand how limited time can be, and have started pulling the plug on things, rather than spend waste more time on them. Exhibit A: I used to force myself to read all of the articles in magazines, because I didn’t feel like I’d really read the magazine if I didn’t. These days, I give an article a paragraph or two, before deciding if reading on is really how I want to spend my time. I’ve also made this shift with books, and today I’m sharing the decision I just made to stop reading a book I’m only a little more than halfway through.


If you’ve read my fall reading list post, you know that I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam, is on it. I heard the author interviewed on several podcasts this summer, and her time management message really resonated with me. As a result, I picked up several of her books at the library, and decided to start with this one. I started out strong, but have lost my momentum, and haven’t read a single paragraph in several days. (No, the irony of struggling to finish a time management book is not lost on me.) Coincidentally, I read another blogger’s post about the books she had read in September, commented with the books I had read, and mentioned that I’d just started reading I Know How She Does It. The blogger commented back that she had not been able to get through it, and asked what I thought of it. When I read this reply, something clicked, and I knew that it was time to throw in the towel on this book.

What’s Wrong With It?

I don’t dislike this book, but there are two, big reasons that I’ve lost interest in it. First, I heard the author talk about it several times, so I already knew the message. A little more than halfway through, I haven’t discovered anything that different from what I heard on the podcasts. As I said, I like the author’s premise: that many of us think we’re busier than we really are, and that while it’s difficult to achieve balance every day, most people achieve a good amount ofbalance throughout any given week. To demonstrate this, she recommends that people track their time for a week, then review how they spent it. I tracked my own time for a week, and while I wasn’tsurprised about how I spent most of it, it was helpful for me to see just how unfocused I can be when I’m not at work, and juggling home, blog, and parenting. Adding more structure to my at-home days would definitely be helpful. (If you’d like to track your time, Laura Vanderkam provides free documents for doing so here.)
The second reason I lost interest in I Know How She Does It, is that it’s not exactly applicable to me. The messages about prioritization and time management definitely apply to everyone, but the target audience for this book is full-time, working mothers, who earn $100,000 or more per year. Mother? Check! Work full-time? Nope. Earn $100,000. Negative. The women profiled in the book all met these criteria, and the descriptions of how they spend their time were interesting, but not particularly relatable for me.
So, after renewing the book from the library, and carrying it around my house for several days, I’ve pulled out my bookmark and set I Know How She Does It in the library return pile. What am I picking up next? Drumroll please…

Have you decided to set aside any books before you finished them?

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Author: My Upstate Life

Wife, mom, and lover of books, podcasts, and blogs. Not a fan of cooking, winter, and snakes.

23 thoughts on “I’m Throwing in the Towel”

  1. I’ve done this before. I can’t remember the books name, but it was a book about side hustles and it was all information I had heard or learned before. I pulled the plug on it about halfway through. No sense wasting your time and something that isn’t increasing your knowledge.

  2. I always feel compelled to read an entire book, even if it kinda sucks, then I regret the wasted time that could have been spent being productive. The only book that I recall tossing aside before I finished was Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult. I have been a huge fan of hers. Years ago, I was looking at her extensive list of books and excitedly discovered that I did not read this one (one of her first, if not THE first). My expectations were WAY too high and I was severely disappointed.

    I learned to read reviews more carefully before committing to a book and also to remember that every writer has to gain experience SOMEHOW.

    Thanks for sharing this post! #trafficjamweekend

  3. I’ve definitely put aside books without finishing them before. If the message doesn’t seem applicable to my life or the story is uninteresting or the details drag on so long that I start falling asleep and I lose interest, why continue?

  4. Omg yes several but one in particular was a so called classic Anna Karenina it was just not a great read for me. I put it down several times but because I just had to find out the ending I finally sucked it up and finished. That one I didn’t completely throw the towel in but geez was close enough. I think it’s best for me to watch the movie so I can get better understanding lol. Thanks for sharing on Traffic Jam

  5. I’ve done this many times. If the book doesn’t appeal to me within the first two chapters, then it quickly gets returned. UNLESS, I’ve agreed to review it for my blog. Then I’ll endure it to the end. There have been maybe 1-2 books that have surprised me by getting better 3/4 of the way through it. However, the vast majority of them DON’T!

    This does sound like a great book for me only because I’ve NEVER listened to her podcasts or even heard of her. However, if I had then chances are high, I would probably agree with you completely.

    Thank you for sharing your honest review of this book!

  6. Nice to see this perspective. I usually make it through books, but I recently read a parenting book and decided to skip the chapters about high schoolers. With a 9 and 7 year old it wasn’t worth my time right now to read about high schoolers. (=

    I also do a similar thing when I’m on Facebook where I try to scroll really fast over stuff I’ve seen before and don’t really need to read over and over again.

  7. I have given up on plenty of books in the past, some just because of slow reading and an unmet time deadline and some because I lose interest. There are too many great books out there to spend my time on books I feel meh about. Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday linkup, pinned to our Linkup board.

  8. Overestimating how much leisure reading time I have is a gift of mine. But I have to admit, it’s hard for me to let unfinished books and mags go; in fact, I’ll buy more — because time is always so obliging to full-time, working mom schedules. 🙂 (I’ve downloaded the time makeover, btw.) Enjoyed this post. —Elle

  9. I love to read, but i often find that i am simply too busy….or i sacrifice sleep for reading which creates a whole other set of issues! haha. I have definitely quit a few books midway through. I don’t have time to waste on a book that just doesn’t do it for me!

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