On making time to read (even when you think you can’t)

...read us, Katie...read...us...
…read us, Katie…read…us…

Why do you read like you’re running out of time?

We are all busy people here. We all have jobs and families and friends and maybe relationships and hobbies and extracurricular activities. But if you’re reading this, I’ve like to think you’re also a book lover — and an avid reader.

Sometimes, the other stuff gets in the way. I know all too well the agony of having to close the book and start a new day at the office, yearning to dive back into the fictional land in which you lived for all of your commute.

But I also know that there are ways to read a book — even two or three! — even in the most hectic work week. And I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned over this last year and a half of working and commuting and generally being a real adult who ALSO gets to read books. Enjoy.

Rule 1: ALWAYS have a book with you, even when you think you won’t have time to read.

It’s always when you think you won’t need something — an umbrella, a certain folder, an old Word doc you haven’t opened in six years — that it ends up becoming the only thing that can save you. You may want to get some work done on the train on your commute; you might be banking on chatting with a friend or colleague on the way; maybe you just downloaded the next juicy installment of your favorite podcast. But if you find yourself caught up on work (or maybe not in quite the right mood to get to work), or if your phone dies (for shame!), you’ll really kick yourself for not having your trusty book at hand.

And if you really end up not having time to crack open you book, you tried! And the suspense will make you all the more eager to read.

Rule 2: Avoid the Netflix Effect

Netflix is addicting. You’re probably binge-watching something right now, aren’t you? And your List is probably nine miles long, full of recommendations from friends and movies you keep hearing about and shows you always say, “Oh, wow, really gotta catch up on that cultural phenomenon!” and then you promptly never watch.

But while Netflix is literally magic, it can seriously hurt your reading time. We all deserve to cuddle up with our favorite show after a long day or on an awful subway ride, but you should also strive to exchange some of that TV time for reading time. If you usually try to watch a few episodes of a show before bed, try swapping out 45 minutes of TV for 45 minutes of quality time with your favorite book. That’s a lot of pages you can get through and a lot of story you can absorb — and you know you’ll still have time to watch seventeen episodes of your show before sleep sneaks in.

Rule 3: Read on your commute, no matter how tired you are.

Unless you’re deathly ill or seriously hungover (we’ve all been there), you’re probably awake enough to keep your eyes open for the hour or two it’ll take you to get to work. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to zone out to music and sometimes you just really need to stare out the window and restart “Serial” (you caught me). But you can start small — if you’re on your phone or laptop on the way into work all five days of the work week, try devoting just one morning to reading.

If you drive, bike, walk, or transport yourself to work in some other way that makes reading impossible/dangerous, try leaving a little early so you at least have 10 minutes to read before getting to the office. It helps you decompress after the commute, and gets you pumped to get back into the book later on.

Rule 4: Devote lunch, coffee, smoke, or plain old breaks to reading.

This cat gets it.
This cat gets it.

Don’t spend your time off checking your work email; it’ll wait until your sandwich is done. Don’t waste those precious moments updating your social media accounts — they’ll be there when you get home, or over the weekend, when you have much more time. You can catch up on the day’s news at home, and spend your break time actually taking a break, far, far away from anything more distracting than that new novel you put in your bag for just such an opportunity (see Rule 1).

Find a quiet table at a nearby lunch spot; find a shady tree or a nice sunny spot by the river (if you’re located near such spaces). Wherever you go, and no matter how much (or little) time you have, just grab a seat, ignore the world, and read. Your book misses you.

Rule 5: Read two or three books at once.

And bop between them! If one isn’t catching your fancy one evening, try the other. If you’ve just gotten a great new release from the library in hardcover, make that your “home book” and carry around a lighter paperback in your bag. Into comics? Those travel really well, and you can feel super accomplished for reading an entire issue and checking that off your TBR list.  You can always return to the first book once you’ve finished the one that interrupted it, or re-read it, or — and there’s no shame in this — set it aside for good if you realize it really just wasn’t your cup of tea.

Regardless, reading a book should be about reading something that will bring you hours of enjoyment. You should have a story that entertains, engages, and excites you waiting to go. Life’s too short to read a bad book, and the only one who can decide if a book is bad is you. So shop around, grab some awesome new titles, and keep on readin’ on.


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