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Making time for reading

I can’t count the times I have been asked how I find the time to read so many books. The asker will sometimes add that they never have time to read, or say they envy me for being able to find so much reading time, and so on. Sometimes the non-readers radiate an unspoken assumption about my nerdishness or my lack of a social life, but for the most part these questions come from other readers who want to know my secret. Well, guess what? There isn’t a secret.

If you are determined enough you WILL find time to read, even if you have a spouse and kids, high-maintenance pets, lots of friends, a busy job and an active social calendar. It’s just a matter of planning your time, prioritising and grabbing every opportunity you can. Here are some tips – just choose the ones that apply to you and you’re on your way to reading more:

  • Any time you find yourself with your hands empty and nothing to occupy your brain, read. If you have no such moments, create them. If this means taking the bus to work instead of the car, go for it if you really want to make time for reading.
  • Always carry a book with you so you can use the small gaps between tasks to read. For example, I can read a page or two in the time it takes my computer to start up in the morning, and when I find myself alone at lunch-time in the coffee room, I pick up a book.
  • Multitask. For example, it is perfectly acceptable and easy to read while you eat (as long as you are alone and don’t have to observe polite table manners). Take a book with you to the bathroom and read while you are in the tub. If you have small children and are staying at home with them, train yourself to read with one eye and one ear on the kids.
  • Buy or download audio books and listen while you exercise or take a walk; while you cook or do the housework; during your commute to work; or, if your job allows it, while you work.
  • If you are the planning type, organise some time for reading in your schedule. It doesn’t have to be much: You only need 30 minutes a day for a week to finish a short novel.
  • Subscribe to a book in daily e-mails through The instalments are are quite short so they can even be read at work without anyone being the wiser, and before you know it you will be subscribing to a second book.
  • Turn off the TV. Rather than watch something just to have something to do, pick up a book instead. If you find it hard, ask yourself if it’s really a matter of life and death whether you miss one episode of the Tonight Show (to take a random example).
  • Join a book club. It will give you a reason to read, and in your discussions with the other club members you may find out about other books and authors.
  • Read books that interest you, not books you think you should be reading. You shouldn’t reject a book just because you think Harold Bloom and co. wouldn’t approve of it.
  • If a book turns out to be bad or boring, don’t feel obliged to finish it. Life is too short to waste it on reading bad books.
  • Find a reading habit that suits you. If juggling multiple books isn’t your cup of tea, just concentrate on finishing one at a time. If the opposite is true, juggle as many books as make you feel comfortable. 
 And now, Dear Reader, I would love to hear how you make time for reading.


George said…
I follow most of your suggestions: I don't watch much TV (vast wasteland), always carry a book with me, etc. Many of my friends are shocked that I don't own a cell phone. People here are addicted to them and are constantly texting (especially my students during my lectures!). If they were reading instead of texting, more books would be read.
IngridLola said…
Great tips! My problem is that if I don't have a good chunk of time to devote to reading I'm afraid I won't "process" the book correctly. I have no idea why I think that and I don't think it has any legitimate basis. I'm going to try out some of these tips this week and see if I can get some more reading in.
Dorte H said…
I have also heard that question quite often. No doubt some people stand in awe, but perhaps even more of them think we are really lazy people who waste our time. :D

It has never been difficult for me to find reading time either so the *only* thing that has made me read less in 2010 than usual is my determination to write. You can´t have your book without writing it, but to find writing time you have to follow the same guide lines, basically. You just join writers´ clubs or blogs instead.

So the bottom line: if you really want to do something, you´ll usually find the time for it.

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