“I don’t have time for reading.” How many times have you said that exact phrase? Or maybe it was along the lines of “I wish I had the time to read but I’m just so busy.”
Without a doubt, finding the time to read is probably the biggest challenge (apart from “What book should I read?”) that people face when starting a reading habit. I myself struggled with this a lot. I remember the book I read that started my reading habit, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. I received this book as part of Loot Crate, and it sounded interesting. The first time I tried reading it, I read only the first chapter. After that, I didn’t touch the book for 3 months. Eventually, I made the conscious effort to sit down and read as much of the book as I could, and I finished it within a week.
Tip #1 – Read a book whilst travelling to work on public transport
I have a question for you, what do you do on your train ride to/from work? Do you listen to music? Do you play games on your phone? Do you mindlessly check Facebook? Or do you just sit there staring being completely bored out of your mind? If you’re like me, you would have done all of these. What made me look forward to my daily train rides is when I started reading during them.
The first book I read on the train was “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey. This is considered a classic book on self improvement and you’ll see it on lists of “Books to read before you die”. Had I not develop this new reading habit, I wouldn’t have read this book and more importantly, be able to implement it’s philosophy and techniques into the job I worked at the time.
Let’s say the average train trip is 30 minutes long and people take the train twice a day (once to get to work, once to get home). This is an extra 60 minutes in your day that you could utilise for reading and to further develop your knowledge. If you are wasting your train ride by doing mind-numbing activities like checking Facebook and staring off into the distance, then I challenge you to grab a book, pack it into your work bag, and read it on the train tomorrow morning.
Tip #2 – Listen to an audiobook on the drive to/from work
For people who drive to and from work, reading a book just isn’t possible (unless you want to cause a car crash). The logical solution to this is to listen to an audiobook (rather than mindlessly listening to the radio). Many cars now have the ability to connect your phone to the radio (through AUX or bluetooth), and even if it doesn’t, you can easily purchase an adaptor that plugs into the car charging port. I myself use a bluetooth FM transmitter, which automatically connects to my phone when I turn my car on, and transmits the sound through my car radio by using one of the many FM channels available.
A previous limitation of audiobooks is you had to purchase them on CD, and then hope that your car wouldn’t scratch the CD too badly (answer: it will do this). Now you can just download an audiobook or podcast to your phone, connect it, and hit play. However, you might be thinking, what app should I then use on my phone? Here are my recommendations
- Audible – For buying and playing audiobooks
- Spotify – For streaming music and podcast through their free service (or downloading via a paid subscription)
- Podcast Addict (my choice) – For playing downloaded (or streaming) books, podcast, or music. If you already have the audiobook/podcast files, you can put them into a folder on your phone, and add it as a “Virtual Podcast” in the app. The app then automatically deletes any files once they’ve been listened to.
Tip #2 – Read first thing in the morning
This is my favourite option. Imagine this, you woke up in the morning, stumble out of the bed, head to the kettle, make yourself a cup of coffee (or tea), then head over to the couch, put it into recline mode, then pick up the book to the side and read it for half an hour. After 30 minutes, you’ve finished your coffee, and feel great that you’ve already achieved one thing this morning, you read a book for 30 minutes. Do this everyday, that’s 3.5 hours per week, which adds up to 1-4 books per month. I think that’s amazing.
If you go down this route, it’s important to establish a reading spot. For me, it’s my reclining couch. The ritual? I make my morning coffee, and the reward is I get to enjoy my coffee and I’ve learnt something new.
It is best to read non-fiction in the morning (because if you read at night, you’ll be too excited by new facts and won’t get to sleep). Hence I say to people, read two books at a time, 1 non-fiction in the morning, 1 fiction in the evening. However you might occasionally come across a real good fiction book, so you’ll focus on reading just that (recently it was A Game of Thrones for me).
Tip #3 – Read before you go to bed
Do you have trouble sleeping at night? If you google ways to fix your sleep, a lot of sources will suggest altering your night time routine. If you spend your nights watching television or playing videogames, then I challenge you tonight to pick out a fiction book, and read it until you fall asleep.
Reading is less stimulating on your brain than say playing videogames. How many times have you been up to 3am playing a really good game? I’m guilty of this. I actually set boundaries where I won’t play videogames after 6pm. But back to reading, you aren’t constantly thinking, you are sitting there absorbing the story but at the same time you are slowly nodding away. You hit the point where you can’t read any longer, you go to bed, and you end up having the best sleep of your life.
Tip #5 – Spend less time watching television so you can spend more time reading
This is less about when to read, but how to free up the time to read. A common complaint I hear from people is “I don’t have time to read”. I agree with this statement. It means you are spending your time on other activities. However, could you free up some of those activities such that you can add reading into your day? A common way to do this is to watch less television, and use that time for reading (or exercise if that’s a priority to you). But I’m not going to say stop watching television entirely and only spend time reading because television is a wasteful activity and brings no benefit to your life. That I disagree with. TV provides entertainment (and even knowledge if you watch documentaries). What I’m saying to do is only watch the TV shows you really enjoy. The shows that you are excited to watch every week.
Bit of a confession, I had 10+ shows I’d watch every week which required a lot of dedication to keep up with (hence my use of Sidereel’s Tracker which I still use today). Turned out a lot of stuff I was watching just because I’d been watching it for years, but they weren’t interesting to me anymore. This includes shows like Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy, Family Guy, American Dad and many more. Simply removing these shows freed up a lot of time.
There were also shows I watched because they were part of a bigger network of shows. Straight up, I love Marvel. The comics, the movies, the shows. Watching all the movies takes a bit of effort, but once they moved into television, it became too much. Hence I stopped watching Agents of SHIELD and only watched a couple of episodes of the Netflix shows. This was a deliberate action as it felt like I needed lots of effort just to keep up to date. Another series of shows that meet this are the DC superhero shows on The CW. I started off with Arrow, moved onto The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, but when Supergirl came out, I watched a single episode and decided to keep it at that. Since then I’ve dropped Arrow from my list, The Flash I watch every week, and Legends of Tomorrow I leave so I can binge watch it later.
But back to reading. By significantly decreasing the number of shows I watch, I now have a lot more time to read. My nights are no longer spent catching up on 5 different shows, instead I’ll read 5 long chapters of a fiction book. My mornings are spent learning something new through non-fiction (today I read a few chapters of The Four Tendencies). Let’s just say my life feels more fulfilling now since changing from TV to books. But I still get to enjoy the shows that I really really like (cannot wait for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who).
Tip #6 – Read one book at a time
I tell people that you are better off sticking to one book at a time, otherwise you’ll start about 5 different books and never finish them. By focusing on just one book, you could read it in under 3 days (even quicker if you dedicate a lot of time to it). The one exception to this would be books of 1000 pages or longer (hello The Kingkiller Chronicle).
To understand why this is effective, it’s worth understanding that multitasking is very ineffective. Every time you switch tasks, it can take 5+ minutes to reacquaint yourself. Do this multiple times an hour, and you may only get work done 10% of the time. The same is true with books. If you’re reading a book on time management and a book on running at the same time, it can sometimes be difficult to separate out the ideas. If the time management book talks about using a pomodoro timer but you are reading the running book at the same time, then you may get confused and forget which book the idea came from.
Another great reason to read one book at a time, you will feel less guilt every time you buy a new book. How many books on your bookshelf do you have that you’ve never finished? I currently have at least 10, my partner has over 30. Hence every time we buy a book knowing that we have other books that we want to read, then there’s that guilt that we are wasting money. However when we finish reading a book, we feel happy that we finished it, and then are excited to buy a new book. A small change, but it’s the difference between guilt and happiness.
What I’ve given you today is a snapshot of some of the ways you can find the time so you can develop a reading habit. I leave you with one final tip. If you still struggle to find time in the day to read, then read for just 5 minutes. Set the timer on your phone, sit down, and read. When it goes off, you stopped. Next day, repeat. Soon enough it will become a habit. A habit of 5 minutes per day may not seem like much, but if you do it everyday, then it adds up. I actually wrote this entire blog post by writing for 5 minutes every day, and the end result is a 2,000 word post providing 6 really great ways to implement that reading habit.
Before I go, I want you to tell me how you prioritise your time so you can read. Let me know in the comments below (I read every comment).