I can’t count the number of times that someone has said to me “Wow, I wish I had time to read, but I’m too busy” as if somehow I am not also out here grinding through work and school. In my last post, I talked about how I am trying to be intentional. That’s an adjective I have been actively pursuing, in what I eat, how I spend my time, what media I consume, etc. I think that we get so stuck in our habits that we forget that they are habits. They are malleable, and we can change them if we don’t like them. You just have to want to make the change and work at it. I hate to be harsh, but if you really want to read, you have to make time for it. You may have to readjust your routine, and you may have to confront some of your bad habits. You may even have to give up something else to make time for it. Unless your life dramatically shifts, you aren’t going to be any less busy. In this post, I am going to break down how I find time to read, what I have given up to make time, and hopefully give you some ideas if you are struggling to find time or motivation.
I don’t magically have more time to read than you do. I just decided one day that I missed reading and I wanted it to be present in my daily life. I was a big reader in elementary and middle school, but had lost the drive and focus sometime in the midst of high school drama. In January 2017, while stuck at home because of a compromised immune system and lack of strength, I realized that the time I was spending staring at Netflix could be better used. At that time, I DID magically have more time than you. I wasn’t working. I didn’t have much energy to clean. I wasn’t in school. I literally sat at home all day every day that I wasn’t with a doctor. But deciding to stop binge-watching Gilmore Girls again and start reading wasn’t enough work to actually make it happen. When I tried to read I found myself unfocused even through the most interesting book. I would end up on my phone, or going off to do who-knows-what. It TURNS OUT that when you don’t practice something for a while, you may not be fantastic at it when you come back. It’s almost like reading… is a skill? It’s almost like if you want something to become habit you have to… work at it?
So, I had to teach myself how to read all over again and how to use my time efficiently. Once I did, suddenly I had plenty of time to read. I read 56 books that year, and 57 books in 2018. And I still managed to work full-time and go to school. I still had social interaction, traveled, ate full meals, and slept a full 8 hours a night. So how did I do it? Let’s explore.
Tip #1: Set a traceable GOAL:
When I first started trying to increase my reading time, I made quantity goals. For me, quantity was a way to motivate myself. Having a numerical goal meant it was easy to track how I was doing. Maybe your goal is a list of titles you want to tackle. Maybe there is an author you love you want to read all of their books. Maybe you set aside a certain amount of time every week that you have to read during. Whatever works, just set a goal. Once I had to goal, it became easier to focus because I was working towards something. Just make sure you can easily track it.
If you pick a quantity goal, there are two factors that will determine how many
books you go through:
- How fast you read.
- What you read.
I have always been a fast reader. You may read slower or faster, so it is important not to compete with someone else’s book numbers. Instead, consider what books really enjoyed in the past, and how long it took you to finish them. Then estimate how many you could get through within a year. I spent those two years rereading favorites from my childhood, or finishing teen series that I never got to finish. Youth fiction can be really well written, but they are written to be easier to comprehend (This does not mean the book is any lesser!). I also knew that I would go through them faster if they were a series with cliffhangers.
Tip #2: Find your wasted time:
I know you may not want to admit this, but you are wasting time in your day. It’s a waste when it doesn’t help you in any capacity. It doesn’t make you happy, it doesn’t further your career, it doesn’t feed you, it doesn’t heal you. For me, a lot of this time was on my phone. Growing up my phones couldn’t access the internet and none of my friends were major texters. I had SO MUCH time to read!! Now, my phone is a mini computer full of fun and distracting ways to waste my time. I could scroll for hours, and I HAVE. Those hours are better spent, don’t you think?
I starting tracking my time spent on the phone, which is an app most smartphones have. Suddenly I was faced with exact numbers of time I spent on my phone. Even days when I was in school and at work, I somehow managed to spend an hour or two on my phone. Every time I am in line I was on my phone. Every time I was on a break at work or in class I was on my phone. Waiting for the bus? I was on my phone. Waiting around at the airport? I was on my phone. Waiting for the water to boil when cooking dinner? I was on my phone.
Now I have been actively trying to use that time to read. I read on the bus, while waiting for the bus. I try to read during my breaks at work, and especially try to read at lunch. If I’m not too tired at night I try to read for an hour before bed. I’ve recently been waking up earlier than I need to so I can sit by my windows or on my patio and take my time with coffee and a book.
“But Raelee, I don’t use public transit!!? Of course you can
read all the time, you’re on a bus.”
OK, well you should if you can because it’s better for traffic and the environment. Not to mention I spend maybe up to an 1 hour on a bus everyday, but anyway.
Tip #3: Find your format:
Audiobooks, friend. They exist, and reading snobs might say they don’t count, but that is bullsh!t. One of my friend pairs her audiobooks with physical books. She can listen to a book on the way to school, and then read the physical book later at home. Personally, I do prefer to hold the book myself, that’s why I don’t use ebooks. But if you are not audibly challenged like me, there are plenty of audiobook subscriptions. Often times they can be cheaper than buying an actual book. Go to used bookstores and get used audio books. Libraries let you borrow audiobooks. My Bioanthropology teacher, Tony, said that he listens to audiobooks so he can adjust the speed. Even speeding up the recording slightly can dramatically cut down the time it takes to listen to a whole book. Play them while you clean your house. Listen while you cook dinner. Listen while you’re in traffic.
Tip #4: Make your routine more efficient:
I wear the same makeup everyday. I have been wearing the same general makeup for several years now. I’ve gotten pretty fast at doing it now, sometimes I even have extra time to try something new. But when I first started doing my makeup, it was messy and took forever. So what changed? Practice. Repetition. Doing it over and over. I cut out the things that I didn’t care for (mascara on my bottom lashes always messes with my glasses anyway; leave lipstick for special occasions, etc). I invested in products that helped me achieve the look I wanted. Hair oil to help with frizz, copper brushes to help with dandruff. Setting spray to keep my makeup on my face all day. Now do that with everything in your life.
Pretty much all of my sock are grey or black. Most of my clothes are similar enough colors that I can try on six outfits in the morning and it’s still faster than it was in high school. I boil water for my oatmeal at the same time that I boil water for coffee. My travel mug is sitting next to my grounds, my lunch is leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. I always have a book in my purse and next to my bed. This means that to get ready in the morning, or for bed in the evening, I need about 30 minutes to have everything ready. If I took the time to meal prep, the rest of my week would be even faster. If B and I got a french press, making coffee would be even faster. I could shorten up my shower routine, I could shorten the time it takes me to do laundry. I want to be faster at getting the kitchen cleaned up. Speeding all those daily tasks will leave you with more time, as will cutting out the things you don’t need. Which brings me to my last tip.
Tip #5: Sacrifice something:
I am obsessive, and anxious, and I like to do everything. But often, we have to cut something out to make time for something else. I could be playing the sims right now, but I want to invest more time into my writing and my bookstagram so instead I am working on this. I could even be reading right now, but I know that I have some time later that I can read that I wouldn’t be able to use for writing. I’ve also lessened the amount of money I spend on Starbucks so I can use that extra money to buy more books. I used to spend about $10 a week on coffee, and now I can buy a book with that (sometimes even two if I find deals!). I can’t afford to spend that money on both, I had to give one of them up. I don’t have Spotify premium anymore, that extra $5-10 a month goes to reading. I don’t have photoshop anymore ($10-25 a month), I use pixlr or phone apps. I don’t go shopping much for a variety of reasons, but one fun side-effect of that is I have that time and money for books (or rent, lol). Time and money are probably the hardest things to sacrifice and compromise on when it comes to forming new habits, but I have found that they make the biggest impacts.
I hope that this gave you some inspiration to bring books into your life. I really think that there is nothing better than falling into a book. Start small, start by doubling the number of books you read last year. Read one book a month. Just make some time to read. Read the paper, read comic books, listen to audiobooks, read magazines.
Reading is said to:
- Expand your vocabulary;
- Stimulate the mind, slowing down the progress of Alzheimer’s or dementia;
- Increase your capacity for empathy;
- Reduce stress;
- Be hella fun!
Any of these tips can be used to help you develop any habit, not just reading. I have been using similar techniques to improve my eating habits. Let me know if there are any tips that you use that I didn’t list. I’d love to try other ways!
This is written from the perspective of a lower middle class white female. What I have access to may differ to what you have access to. What I can physically do in a day may greatly differ from someone who is less able-bodied. Keep your abilities in mind, and don’t push yourself too far just because strangers on the internet have different circumstances. Find what works for you.