Does reading a good book fall to the bottom of your to-do list far too often? Do you want to read more but struggle to find time to curl up with a novel? Try some of these strategies to make it easier to fit reading into your life without adding extra stress.
We all have seemingly endless to-do lists and calendars jam packed with events and commitments. Finding time to read may feel like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t have to. It just might be easier than you think.
After rarely thinking about reading for almost a decade, I decided in 2014 that I wanted to get back into it. I set a goal to read 12 books during the year, just one per month. It sounded like a lot for me, but I ultimately found time to read more books than I ever though possible.
I have never been one to read hundreds of books in a year, and I won’t ever get there. My interests are too varied and, honestly, I’m kind of a slow reader. But even with kids, I know we can make space for books if we choose to make it a priority.
My second son was born in 2014, and I went back to work full-time shortly thereafter. Also in 2014, I made one New Year’s Resolution, to read 12 books that year (1 per month seemed manageable but meaningful). The goal seemed ambitious, but by years end, I just met my goal and loved getting back into the practice of reading.
Since then, I’ve been reading more than ever and truly enjoying it. I’ve always liked reading; I just stopped making time for it. With two kids and a full-time job, I’m just one example (of many) proving life doesn’t have to get in the way of a good book.
More than just trying to cram reading into an already busy day, I think one component of reading more frequently revolves around reducing the friction of becoming engrossed in a great read. Friction is the body of small hurdles and obstacles that live between us and a goal. They are the “little things” that make achieving many goals seem harder than they really are.
When I set out to read more frequently, much of my success hinged on taking the steps below to make transition from “to do list task master” to “comfy reader” for at least a few minutes each day. Check out these ideas that you can definitely implement if you want to get back on the reading train.
Read Several Books at Once
There is no rule requiring that you only read one book at a time. Almost all voracious readers will tell you they read several books at once, bouncing between books based on where they are, what they are doing, and their current mood. With multiple books in progress, you can read what you feel like reading no matter your mood.
Try Reading in Different Formats
Different formats for reading lend themselves to being enjoyed in different circumstances. If your’e willing to listen to audiobooks, read ebooks, and use paper books, you’ll likely find more time to read in little pockets throughout your day. Maybe you have time during your commute (where an audio book or Kindle might be best)? At night, when you can curl up on your couch with a book, a tangible paper book might be more enjoyable. While you’re traveling, it’s often easiest to have a Kindle, which is much lighter and less bulky than traditional books making it more suitable for throwing in your carry on bag.
I use my library’s collection of audio books and ebooks through the Libby app. I also have an Audible subscription to download one book per month for books that either aren’t available at my libraries (which really isn’t many) or have long hold lists when I want to read them. Sometimes it can be tough to get a popular new release or best seller on audio or ebook on short notice.
Set A Reading Goal
Have a tangible goal and turn that goal into smaller steps. Setting a single goal to be achieved in on year, for example, is almost a recipe for failure. We need to break such a long-term goal into small steps to be accomplished in shorter periods of time. Then we can measure periodically our progress relative to our goal and get that little boost of encouragement when we finish an interim step. When I wanted to read 12 books in a year, I knew that meant 1 book per month. Each month, I could easily assess my progress and know if I was on track.
I also tracked my progress through the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Each time I finished a book, I noted it on my Goodreads account. At the end of the year, not only did I know how many books I read, but I could get a quick snapshot and see their other recommendations based on books I read and liked.
Don’t Pay to Read
Shelling out money creates one more obstacle. It also clutters up bookshelves and creates guilt for not finishing or liking a book. Instead of moving on from a book we don’t like, the book represents a ‘waste of money’. If you don’t like something you checked out from the library, though, no harm done! Return it and choose something new.
In addition to the library, you can also get free books with an Amazon Prime membership. Prime members can choose one free pre-release book each month, and there are usually a few decent choices. Also, I collect digital media credits on Amazon when I decline Prime 2-day shipping. I have saved up these credits for a couple of free books. Considering I’m not reading more than a dozen or two dozen books a year, getting a handful of free books from these two programs really makes a dent in my collection. Though admittedly, the library is my main source of reading material.
Borrow Books From Your Library
First, it’s free, so that’s a no-brainer. Additionally, having a deadline by which you have to return books will undoubtedly give you a little extra boost to finish them quickly. I’m not suggesting you stop sleeping so you can crank through an extra book or two, but maybe that impending “Due Date” encourages you to read an extra 15 – 20 minutes a day. Reading just a few extra minutes each day adds up quickly and can feel like a big accomplishment by month’s or year’s end.
Put Library Books on Hold
Most of us don’t have time or would rather not spend our limited free time searching library shelves for a specific book. Furthermore, nothing is worse than showing up to the library in search of specific title only to find they don’t have it or it’s checked out. Save yourself the time and hassle by putting books on hold online. When you arrive, simply pop into the library, grab your books that have already been pulled for you, and spend more time actually reading those books.
Make Visiting the Library a Family Affair
Reading doesn’t have to be something you only do when you’re alone. Time alone might be really nice, but it’s much easier to find time to read when you’ve already visited the library and have a pile of books on your nightstand. Head to the library as a family and let your kids enjoy the children’s section while you collect your books. Not only do you get to do something for yourself, but your kids will likely love it too and it helps instill in your children a love of books and learning.
Keep a Healthy “To Be Read” (TBR) List
Maintain a running list of books you’d like to read in Goodreads (or in more traditional format, if you prefer). Not only will it ease the frustration of not knowing what to read when you finally find a few moments to do it, but it will also give you a long list of exciting books to look forward to and for which you WANT to MAKE time to read.
Know What To Add To Your TBR List
For years, I didn’t have a clue where to find new books to read. Beyond the section of best sellers and new releases in the front of a book store (which often didn’t appeal to me), this was a major source of friction.
One day, I landed on Everyday Reading. I have no idea how I found this blog, but the author, Janssen, shares many book lists and book reviews. She also connected me to a handful of blogs and podcasts that I use to gather book recommendations like Modern Mrs. Darcy and the related podcast What Should I Read Next. Coincidentally, she posted a similar post about finding time to read just days before I shared this. A couple of our ideas overlapped, but most of them are entirely different, so head over to check out more ideas from Everyday Reading.
I also find recommendations for books in magazines, from friends, and in the monthly newsletter sent out by my local library. Additionally, I often scan the “related books” sections on Amazon and Goodreads for books I know interest me (and then instead of buying the books from Amazon, I put them on hold at my library).
With Goodreads, my TBR list is always accessible because it’s on my phone. Whenever I come across something interesting, I add it to the list and know it’s there for reference when I’m searching for something to read down the road.
Join A Book Club
We’re generally more likely to follow through on our commitments when we’re being held accountable by others. Even if your book club is just you and one friend that will chat about the book over lunch, you’re more likely to get to the end. If you want to join a more formal book club and don’t know where to find one, start with MeetUp or see what your local library offers. My local library has daytime and evening book club for adults that meet monthly.
Don’t Be Afraid To Quit a A Book
Nothing puts a cramp in my reading flow like getting stuck in a bad book. If you don’t like a book, ditch it. No one enforces any rules about finishing books either. With a limited amount of time to read, don’t waste it reading books that don’t bring you joy.
Use Your Fringe Hours
We likely have more “free time” than we realize because much of it is chopped up into tiny pockets of time hiding in unexpected places (that we often dwindle away doing useless things). Reading doesn’t require having hours and hours of time to bury yourself in a book. Keep a Kindle and headphones in your purse, an audio book or two on your phone, and at least one good book on your nightstand or dresser. With these supplies in your arsenal, you’ll be ready to jump into a book and plow through a few pages whenever those fringe moments pop up. Read when you have 10 minutes waiting in line or sitting before an appointment. Forego mindless scrolling through social media during your small pockets of free time and, instead, read a book.
Consider waking up 15 minutes earlier each morning and starting the day with your nose in a book for 15 minutes. You may not finish the book quickly, but it’s surprising how quickly that time adds up. 15 minutes a day is nearly two hours of reading a week and 91 hours a year.
For more on The Fringe Hours, check out Jessica Turner’s book in which she dives much deeper into how we use all that time and how we could use that time to find a whole lot more time for ourselves.
Read Without Being a Slave to Your TBR List
In the end, read when you feel like reading but don’t forget that it should be an enjoyable activity. If you change your mind mid-year and don’t like your reading goal, who cares. Adjust your goal or ditch it for something else that suits your fancy. No one is forcing you to read. Celebrate that you already read those previous books earlier in the year.
Unlike in school, there are no rules about burying our brains in a book if we have other things we’d rather do. Just because you added something to your To Be Read list doesn’t mean you ever need to get to it. It’s there, waiting for you if you want it, and not going anywhere in the meantime. Don’t sweat the list.
Are you a reader? Do you make time for books in your busy days? If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments!