Seven Ways to Find More Time For Reading

"The Housemaid", William McGregor Paxton, 1910

Invariably, most conversations I have with adults these days about reading end in the same sentiment, voiced by at least one of the party (sometimes myself): "I just don't have the kind of time for reading that I used to."

What with jobs, volunteering, church obligations, family obligations, social life and the dreary time spent in the car just schlepping yourself from place to place to place, reading easily falls by the wayside.

Don't misunderstand me: I'm talking about myself here, not preaching to some group of "others" who have somehow not achieved my level of enlightenment. This post is merely a collection of ideas that have worked for me to help me read more, and I'm hoping that sharing them with you will remind me to put them into practice myself.

Injunctions to "do more" that shame people who are not "doing enough" by employing the "if I can do it, so can anyone!" tend to annoy me. Everyone has their own struggles and their own priorities. I do not write any of this to make you feel bad about the commitments in your own life, or to guilt-trip you because you choose to unwind by snuggling up with Netflix when you've had a long day. But I do want to make it clear that if you want to choose to make more time for reading, it IS possible. I work a full-time job, go to school part-time, run my own household (okay, to be fair it's just me and my husband and one cat right now), occasionally volunteer in community theatre, am active in my church and try to keep up a social schedule with friends and family. I have a goal in 2019 of reading 50 books this year, and I'm almost caught up with it right now - it can be done!

So, without further ado, seven tips to find more time for reading.

1. Keep a book in your car with you. 

No, don't read at stoplights - I'm not crazy enough to advocate that! But if you keep it in the back seat of your car, it will be easily accessible when you arrive somewhere too early and need to hang in the parking lot for a few minutes (this happens to me all the time). It's less cumbersome than carrying a book in your purse (though this is definitely an option, too!) but still provides you with easy access to reading when you are out and about.

Library book pro and cons: you'll have it close to hand when it comes time to return it (pro) but you might not finish it in time to avoid overdue fees if it stays only in your car and not on a bedside table (con).

And, of course, as long as you don't get motion sick, it should be obvious that if you take public transportation, this is a great time to get some reading done! I used to ride the bus for work every day and I loved having that time to read. (It definitely got annoying when random people would try to interrupt and ask what I was reading, though. After the first brief, polite answer, employing the Resting Scarlett O'Hara Face can work wonders. Particularly with male irritants.)

2. Keep a book in every room of your house. 

This one is kind of piggybacking off the last point (wow, I didn't get a red underline for "piggybacking"! What are we coming to?), but I've found I'm far more likely to pick up a book rather than my phone if one is close at hand. Bedside table, kitchen table, any surface in the living room... okay, it's up to you if you want to keep one in your bathroom or not. ;)

 3. Listen to audiobooks!

I'm sure to many of you this one seems obvious. (Okay, to many of you ALL of these will seem obvious. I'm sharing them for the benefit of those to whom they are not obvious.) But we are living in an age where audiobooks are more accessible than ever, whether through Audible on Amazon or even free from your library. (Hoopla Digital and Overdrive are both great apps to which your library may offer access!)

I am one of those people who uses up WAY too much storage on her phone, so I very rarely download audiobook files, but I keep my library system's audio CD collection circulating. I keep the CDs in my car and listen to books when I'm driving. My commute to work is short, but groceries have to be bought every week and errands have to be run. Those minutes in the car add up quickly!

4. Spend time reading with a friend or relative rather than watching a show together.

This one can be iffy for me. My husband works 50-60 hour weeks at a manual labor job. When he gets home, at 8:30 pm, he usually just wants to crash. If we're going to do something together, it might be one or two hands of Uno (at best) or watching a little TV.  (A two-hour movie can take us a week to watch. No joke.) But with a little effort, we try to to read aloud together when we can. Sometimes this means rereading childhood favorites for some lighter fare. (When you're tired after a long work day, the last thing you want to do is slog through Crime and Punishment!) Right now, we're doing Rifles for Watie in bits and pieces.

Alternately, reading a book together can be a great way to keep up with someone you don't get to see very often! The reading can be done on your own, and discussion can be done over email, over the phone, even Skype/Facetime sessions if your schedules can line up. It's a great motivator to read when you know someone else is holding you accountable to finish your section on time. (Or giving you grace when life is too busy and you still haven't moved past chapter 2. Been there.)

5. Take a book on your lunch break. 

Most jobs allow you at least a little bit of time to yourself to eat your lunch - why not make the most of it and tote a book along? It's easy to be tempted to just do a phone scroll during this time (hi! guilty!), but you can do a lot of reading in half an hour! Since my job is a desk job and fairly sedentary, I try to do some walking on my lunch break as well, but alternating is always an option: walk one day, read the next.

6. Read out loud when riding in the car, if you can.

This one can be hard if you get carsick easily. Admittedly, the only reading aloud I'm able to do is when the car is rolling along a nice smooth stretch like a highway. Twisty, winding country roads - forget it. But as long as you're not too afflicted with nausea, reading aloud to the person who's driving (if it's not you, that is!) is a great way to use otherwise dragging time. Audiobooks can help here, too! (We made the mistake of not bringing any books to read aloud on our honeymoon - which involved a six-hour drive out of state, each way. I'll make the excuse that packing for your honeymoon is one of those things that maybe doesn't get all the attention it deserves right before your wedding, though!)

7. Keep your phone out of your bedroom and read at night instead of scrolling.

You know what they say - the blue light from phone screens and computer monitors blocks melatonin production and can make it harder for you to fall asleep. So this one should be easy and obvious! Right??

Okay, okay, this is a difficult one. And I am very, very guilty of not following it. My lame excuse is that I use my phone as an alarm, so I have to have it on my nightstand, right?  Well, first of all, I technically could just use the actual clock that is also on my nightstand, and second of all, having the phone on the nightstand doesn't mean I HAVE to pick it up and check all my social media right before bed! It's a hard habit to break, but I'm trying to break it by having the Most Interesting book that I'm currently reading (yes... I do have 5 or 6 going at any given time) at hand as well, so that I'll be more tempted to pick up the book than the phone.

Of course, this can also backfire. I have stayed up wayyyyyy too late many a night, telling myself the age-old lie, "I'll go to sleep as soon as I finish this chapter."

*cue the servants in My Fair Lady singing, "One am! Two am! THREE!"*

Bonus: Don't force yourself to finish books you don't like. 

This isn't technically a way to find more time for reading - more of a gentle reminder that we only have a finite amount of time on this earth, and with the exception of books you *have* to read (for assignments and the like), our time is too short to waste it on a book that has no useful purpose and does not spark joy. ;) Sure, there are books that are uncomfortable to read, but good for the soul. And there are books that are not exactly riveting, but help us along in life. And then there are books that you slog through in the hopes that it will eventually get better, while also neglecting the much better books languishing on your shelf. Do yourself a favor, put the tedious one down, and pick up something you actually want to read.

Because that's the idea, right? We read to know we are not alone. We read to experience many lives and not just one. We read for information, yes, for inspiration, yes, and for the wonder and imagination that only a book can give.

"Books are the plane, the train, the road.
They are the destination and the journey.
They are home."
~Anna Quindlen

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