Ten: On Fitting in Reading

Like most things that are important, but not urgent, reading time can be tough to justify. Whether you’re in the habit of returning stacks of unread library books or working with students who have no time to read, perhaps something here will help. This week’s Ten suggests some ways to fit reading into a busy life, whether through motivation (making time) or a bit of creative rearranging (finding time).

Read Short Books
Not always possible, and probably not desirable full time, but in certain contexts — if you’re looking to broaden your familiarity with a topic or genre, for example — picture books, graphic novels, early chapter books, novellas and other shorter works can be a life saver. Books requiring a relatively small time commitment are also sooner pulled from the shelf when you have a bit of time. A likely completed task (and finished story!) can be a powerful motivator.

Acknowledge that Reading a Chapter of a Longer Book is Still an Accomplishment
It’s lovely to settle in and read a book cover to cover, but rarely practical. Fortunately, even a few pages does move you forward in the story and nearer to the end.

Give Yourself Permission to Stop
Again, not always possible. However, if it’s not assigned or otherwise required reading, I pass on this excellent bit of advice once received from a librarian: There are too many books in the world to waste your time on one you’re not enjoying. When reading becomes about returning to a book you dislike, it’s easy to put it aside in favour of other things. If you’re able, leave whatever you’re not enjoying behind and try something else.

Read More than One Book at a Time
Reading books in a variety of genres and/or formats at the same time can be a big help in fitting reading in at different points in the day. An audiobook for walking your dog in the morning, a book of short stories for the bus, and a longer, chapter-a-day novel for bedtime provides far more reading time than a single book, which might be physically, intellectually, or emotionally suitable for only certain contexts.

Keep a Book (or Books) with You All the Time
This is easy if you’re comfortable reading e-books and digital audiobooks. Keep your e-reader in your bag or stock your phone with books, and you’re set to get in a bit of reading in the waiting room, on the bus, in the line at the grocery store…

Discover the Joy of Audiobooks
Audiobooks are amazing for multitasking, and for improving otherwise unappealing tasks. Need to exercise more? Start an audiobook that’s only for workout time. Been putting off tedious jobs around the house? Turn on an audiobook while you wash the dishes, scrub the bathtub, or paint the guest room.

Challenge Yourself
Working toward a goal can be a great way to motivate yourself to read more. Pick a challenge that appeals to you: read every book in a series, work your way through one of those “must read” lists, tackle something intimidating that’s always intrigued you, or keep a list of what you read this year, and try to beat that list next year in number of titles, or pages, or genres.

Apply a Little Peer Pressure
The desire to save face can be a wonderful motivator. In fact, you don’t even need actual peer pressure. Join a book club, take a reading-heavy course, or sign up for #bookaday, and whether or not the people around you are genuinely interested in whether you get the reading done, you’ll have an extra push to choose reading over other things competing for your attention.

Redefine Reading
Reading books is fantastic. So is reading newspapers, blogs, magazine articles, letters, movie reviews and the dialogue in video games.

Give Yourself Time to Process What You Read
Does this get more reading done? No. But taking time to think about what you liked and didn’t like about something you read, to tell someone else about it, or to respond to it, publically or privately, will enhance its ability to make a difference in how you see and understand the world, yourself, and the people around you. Isn’t that why we’re reading in the first place?

Are there other tricks that you use to fit in reading? Please share!

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