Margot McGovern has tips to help you find more time for reading.
When I tell people I write book reviews one of the things I hear most often is: ‘I LOVE reading, I just don’t have the time.’ I get it. We live in the age of busy. There’s always a dozen things competing for our attention and it’s difficult to find space for books, especially the kind that require a little brain power. But are our lives really the whirlwind of insurmountable chaos we make them out to be? Sure, there are days, weeks and even months when we’re genuinely under the pump, but I suspect if most of us really tried, we could find more time for reading.
The other, perhaps larger, problem is that many of us treat reading as a luxury. A guilty pleasure. There’s always something more ‘productive’ to be doing: work, emails, washing, vacuuming, dishes. And if you do make the time, it’s easy to feel bad about it—maybe you’re just not busy enough? So we shove reading into the corners: those few minutes before we fall asleep, waiting for a friend at the cafe, plane rides. For me, the easiest way to read more is to remind myself that reading is a legitimate use of my time. If you’ve found your way to Letito, you already consider yourself a reader and believe reading is rewarding and worthwhile. Stop feeling guilty about it—it’s okay to make reading a priority.
I’m by no means a fast reader, and I tend to clock two good sized books a week, but that hasn’t always been the case. A few years ago I found myself balancing a full time magazine job with planning a wedding and finishing my PhD. I realised that unless I made a conscious effort to read for pleasure, the only books I was going to see were the ones that appeared in my thesis bibliography. So I got organised, cut things down, shuffled them around and looked for ways to make room for reading—admittedly not a whole lot of reading, but enough.
Now when I find my commitments piling up and my book count going down, I use these same tricks to get back into the habit. I’d wager that by combining a few you can find time for an extra book a week.*
*possibly not if you have young children
1. Have a book on the go
When I finish a book, regardless of how late it is, or how tired I am, I pick my next book and read the first few pages. Getting a taste for a book gives you a reason to go back. If you’re not reading anything—if there’s nothing waiting on your nightstand—you’re more likely to find something else to do.
To help find that next book quickly, I ask friends for recommendations, read book reviews and file titles on my Goodreads ‘Want to Read’ shelf. Doing this means I’ve always got a long and diverse list of titles waiting and can usually find something to suit my mood.
2. Watch less television
Netflix is awesome. It’s also ruined my life, and the ‘auto play next episode’ function is THE WORST. Turn that shit off. One of the easiest ways to make more time for books is to cut down on the amount of TV you’re watching.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘But I hardly watch TV.’ Really, my friend? You might be surprised. Log your viewing for a week. I dare you. Not that TV is bad, or even less valuable than reading, but those episodes aren’t going anywhere. If you watch two shows a night, cut it down one and you’ll have an extra four hours’ reading time on school nights each week. That’s already a decent sized book right there. Also, make conscious viewing choices. It’s easy to fall into the trap of watching a show just because it’s on, or because you aren’t quick enough to click the back button before auto play kicks in.
3. Cut down on social media trawling
Here’s a sobering stat for you: according to this 2012 report, Australians spend 3.6 hours a day on social media. Surely not? I don’t know about you, but even half that seems like an excessive portion of the day to devote to pictures of your friends’ kids, cats and dinners. Yes, I know social media is so much more than that, but 3.6 HOURS??!! A DAY??!! That is a lot of potential reading time, even if you only cut down by a bit.
The good news is that there are plenty of apps out there to help you track, limit and even block your social media use. I’ve heard good things about Stayfocused, and here’s a few more profiled in Huffington Post.
4. Take public transport
I’m the first to admit that public transport can be a massive pain in the bum and not always super reliable. But it’s also cheap and frees up time for reading that you might otherwise spend stuck in traffic, especially during peak hour.
Download audio books for when you’re in the car, walking the dog, doing house work, cooking, gardening or getting around under your own steam. I have some friends who even listen to audio books at the gym. There are plenty of times when our hands are busy but our minds are not.
6. Don’t read crap
If a book doesn’t grab you, find another one. I used to make a point of finishing every book I started; I felt I owed it to the author. Now I don’t have time for books I’m not interested in reviewing. It’s also hard to find the motivation to persist with a book you’re not invested in. As a general rule if I haven’t found enough to hold my interest in the first 50 pages, I move on.
It also helps to do your research ahead of time. Read reviews from reviewers you trust and get recommendations from friends. It’s great to take risks and read outside your comfort zone, but avoid books you know you’re not going to like.
7. Join a book club
There’s a lot to love about book clubs. For a start, being part of a book club gives you a deadline to read to. It also forces you to read books you might otherwise not, and gives you the opportunity to have in depth discussions about those books with other readers.
I’ve been part of a few book clubs in the past, and the best ones are those that draw together people with diverse interests and experiences (office book clubs can be great for this). Instead of meeting at people’s houses, I also recommend trying a different bar or restaurant each time and picking the venue based on the book—it’s a great way to discover your city’s hidden culinary gems.
8. Go to bed/get up earlier
When we do make time for reading, it’s often those few minutes between getting into bed and falling asleep. Most of the time we’re tired and don’t get further than a few paragraphs before losing focus. Try getting cosied up under the covers with your book half an hour or even just fifteen minutes earlier.
On the weekend try setting your alarm an hour earlier, make yourself a pot of coffee and read in bed. It’s a relaxing way to take a little time for yourself after a big week, and also a time when (unless you have small children) people aren’t likely to bug you.
9. Keep a book about your person
Throughout the day there are often little pockets of dead time: the bus is late, a meeting gets pushed back, you’re kept waiting for the doctor, a friend, your kids, your foils to set at the hairdresser. All are opportunities to read. Never leave home without your book.
10. Read in the bath
In our communication age, the bath remains one of the last bastions of privacy. If you are lucky enough to have a sud tub, make use of that bad boy. Even if it’s just once a week, set aside time for a good, long soak. Leave your phone out of reach, go nuts with the bubble bath, put on one of those cleansing face masks and read until the water turns cold.
Looking for a good book to get you started? Here’s Lectito’s top ten reads of 2015 so far.
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