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How to Read When You're Too Busy

A busy woman reads on her phone with her laptop open,

Reading is a pleasure that I've enjoyed for as long as I can remember. Even before I could read, I loved to listen to my mother read me stories at bedtime. So, sometimes I wonder: Why do I allow myself to go weeks, or sometimes months, without enjoying one of my favorite activities?

It's because I'm too busy. Do you know how to read when too busy? My hours are spent taking care of a chronically ill child, keeping up with my publishing schedule, marketing my business, teaching part time at a university, cleaning the house, cooking for my family, feeding the dogs, and the list goes on. I often tell myself I can't afford the time to read. (I say the same thing about exercise, btw--but I digress.)

Does any of this sound familiar?

In recent years, I've come up with some strategies for finding time to read. They have helped me to decompress. I hope these strategies help you, too.

Carve out ten minutes in your day. As I mentioned in my previous segment, Five Ways to Overcome a Reading Slump, carving out ten minutes in your day to read can be everything. You could read in the morning with your coffee (or in my case, Diet Coke) before checking your emails; or, if your mornings are too busy, you could read for ten minutes in the evening with a glass of wine (or in my case, hot tea). If both your mornings and your evenings aren't conducive to this ten-minute ritual, you could incorporate reading with a mid-day break--maybe with your lunch or with a snack.

How do you usually start your day? With coffee? Do you do anything in the evenings to wrap up your day? What about breaks in the middle of the day? Do you take them?

You might even tell yourself that you can't have that coffee, or that Diet Coke, or that wine, or that tea, or that snack if you don't have a book in your hand. You'll be surprised how easily this strategy can become a part of your daily ritual. And, if you truly can't afford to read more than ten minutes, you could even set a timer and force yourself to stop. Then you'll have something to look forward to the next day.

Reward yourself with reading time. Speaking of things to look forward to, we all need rewards for our hard work, and what could be a better reward for a reader than more time to read? (Well, besides a trip to Greece?) As someone who struggles with my weight, I sometimes get in the habit of using food as a reward. Do you ever do that? Lately, I've been trying to replace that habit with the reward of hot tea and a good book for more than my allotted ten minutes at night. It's been such a pleasure to look forward to that at the end of the day (though I still sometimes incorporate a food treat, too. I need to stop that!).

My husband isn't a reader, so we've gotten in the habit of rewarding ourselves with television together in the evenings. I look forward to watching the next episode of whatever show we're into at the moment (our most recent one was The Americans. I loved it! Have you seen it?). But that was eating into my reward of reading. So, I told my hubbie that instead of watching two or three episodes with him each evening, I could only watch one or two, because I wanted my time to myself for reading. My adult son, who lives with us, taught me this, because he likes to play his favorite video games before bed, as a reward for his hard work. He will only watch one episode with us, and then he returns to his room for his gaming time. Now, I do the same with my tea and reading time. It's been amazing.

Integrate reading time with pampering time. The reward of reading can be made even more luxurious by incorporating it with spa time. If you're like me, you rarely allow time for pampering. One thing I've been doing--not often, maybe once a month--is reading while I soak in the bath. I light candles, put on instrumental music, use a scented bath oil in the tub, and read on my kindle until the hot water turns cold. It's such a treat!

I'm going to talk about this more in a future segment, but, for now, I want to show you this bath caddy I found at Amazon. I absolutely love mine! You can find it here.

Extending across a bathtub is a bath caddy holding a glass of wine and an iPad for reading when you're too busy.

The ends of the tray extend to fit your bathtub size. The caddy is lightweight, but solid enough not to knock over easily. It makes getting lost in a book a dream!

Have a book on you at all times. In addition to these scheduled reading times to look forward to, make it easier to integrate reading throughout your day by always having a book within arm's reach. For years, I've made a point of only buying purses that can accommodate my kindle. I usually carry a tote with me, too, especially if I happen to be reading a paperback and don't want to risk damaging the book in my purse.

By having a book on your person at all times, you can find snatches of time throughout the day to read--while waiting in line at the bank, or the school pickup line, or the grocer; while waiting on an oil change or a car wash; while waiting for your lunch order to arrive at your table; while waiting for your appointment with a doctor or client or colleague; while waiting for your work meeting, class, or seminar to begin; while waiting on a friend you might be meeting for lunch or drinks; while waiting for the bus to drop off your kids; or while waiting for and riding the bus or train or plane.

Do you have idle moments in your day during which you could open a book, if you had the book on you?

If you don't want to carry your kindle or paperback in a purse or tote, you could have books loaded onto your phone and ready to go. The point is to make it as easy as possible on yourself to read.

Listen to audiobooks. As I mentioned in my last segment, Five Ways to Overcome a Reading Slump, audiobooks can be real time savers. I always have an active audiobook on my phone and my kindle, so if I'm doing something rather mindless, like driving, waiting in line, or performing household chores, I can make that task soooo much more enjoyable by listening to a good book.

Some readers turn up the narration speed to get through a book more quickly. I prefer to listen at regular time. Even so, listening while I'm doing something else is a great way to squeeze a book into my busy schedule.

Are you an audiobook fan?

Some readers have said that they can't focus on audiobooks--that their minds tend to wander. I cover strategies for overcoming that problem here.

Join or start a book club. I talk about this in more detail in another segment here, but a sure way to integrate reading time into your busy schedule is to commit yourself to a group of people. You can join a club online or in your community, or you can start one of your own. I used to run a book club in my neighborhood, and it was one of the highlights of my life. I truly miss it and am thinking of starting one up again.

Have you ever joined or started a book club?

I share all my secrets for how to make it successful here. Meanwhile, I hope the above strategies help you find more time to read.

Btw, if you don't already own The Bookworm Bible--my fifty-page comprehensive guide for book lovers compiled from articles I've written over the years on topics such as "How to Overcome a Reading Slump" and "How to Write Easy Peasy Book Reviews" with free resources such as a printable reading log, review templates, and an online reading journal--grab your free copy here.


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