Finding Time to Read

1A few months ago The Readers podcast discussed how avid readers could carve out even more of their day to indulge in their favourite activity. You can listen to the discussion here.

It’s something I’ve been wrestling with recently when faced with the realisation that a)my personal library (sometimes known as the TBR) is ever increasing and b) I keep hearing of books I really want to read, whether new issues or ones that have been around for decades, or maybe centuries.

Andy Miller solved the issue by setting himself a goal of reading 50 pages a day when he embarked on his Year of Reading Dangerously (click to link to see my review). For him, that meant sometimes spurious visits to the Post Office so he could stand in the long queue and read…. Ingenious but I reckon Mr BookerTalk would get suspicious about my sudden need for stationery and postage stamps in a world of electronic communication.  Seeing a page goal is of course one way to rattle through books but if feels a bit like a chore to me. I did it a few times when I needed to read a book by a certain date for the book club discussion – I ended up dividing the total page count by the number of days to get to my daily tally. The freaked when I saw the result. It meant all the time I was reading I was checking my progress and re-calculating my score. Not how the reading experience should feel.

Rather more appealing is the approach used by Patrick Ness who decided that he wanted to better appreciate short stories so set himself a task of reading one before breakfast every day. As a warm up for the day ahead that is rather more enticing than reading the daily newspaper litany of calamity, intrigue or vacuous celebrity gossip. And its something that could easily be adapted to say reading one chapter of a book rather than a short story. So appealing – but have I done it? Er, no….

Today I noticed that Goodreads has an article which lists strategies to find more time for reading  adopted by people who responded to a social media poll.

Some of them will be very familiar to you:

  • commute to work by public transport instead of driving
  • if you have to drive, then use audio books
  • switch your habit of watching tv at night and read instead (I know a lot of you have done that)
  • retire from work (that sounds good but in reality other things have a habit of taking over what you think is spare time)
  • schedule ‘me’ time which you use to curl up with a book

One that I liked the sound of though was this

“Throughout the day I play a little game. I read a chapter (just one) and then I get up and clean something. Example: Go and sweep the kitchen floor. Then read a chapter. Then fold a load of clothes and put them away. Then go read another chapter. I can do this all day. It works great for me!” (Shannon Strickland-Brown)

It’s the perfect ‘carrot’ in the ‘carrot and stick’ approach except with this there is no stick unless you consider publishers to whom you have promised reviews, the stick. The beauty is that it lends itself to all kinds of household chores or tasks I don’t want to do. Filling the car up with petrol (always a distress purchase for me), or cleaning the cooker (yuk), weeding the flower bed or emptying the dishwasher. Of course there is the temptation to make those jobs so small that you end up spending more time reading than doing them!!. Is it acceptable to read a chapter every three garments I iron I wonder or do I have to get through the whole basket before I feel I’ve earned the right to pick up the book?

It has the makings of a good swaps game doesn’t it?

30 minutes ironing = 30 minutes reading

two garments ironed = 15 minutes reading

one basket of ironing =a whole morning reading

It will undoubtedly mean the chores take longer to finish but just think of the pleasure you’ve earned.

Do any of those strategies appeal to you? Anyone fancy playing the ironing swap game or are you too busy already reading??



About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on September 25, 2016, in Sunday Salon. Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Because I always have a stack of books on the go, this approach works really well for me, because I can read just a chapter of each and then shuffle the stack a little, until I can settle more thoroughly into something in particuar. It makes me focus more on the variety than the size of the stack. Hope you find it works well with your ironing (I’ve got a litle more than Stefanie in my basket, but not enough to work at it every week, more like twice a month.) Good luck!

  2. I play that same “game” with alternating a chore with reading time. Especially when I am doing laundry!

  3. Here’s my secret: I don;t buy clothes I have to iron, or if something is wrinkled, I decide it isn’t wrinkled badly enough to bother. As a result I iron perhaps one shirt every two or three months 🙂

  4. This really resonates with me. Although I have no kids to run around after I find my reading totals are forever going down – this month has been particularly bad. I do watch more TV than perhaps I should but I desperately need wind down moments in the evening when I am so tired. Often I’m almost too tired to read – despite wanting to read more/longer. I am also conscious of blogging taking up some of my reading time. Though I mainly write blog posts when watching TV.

  5. “Seeing a page goal is of course one way to rattle through books but it feels a bit like a chore to me.” So true! The new system sounds like the perfect antidote — handle the chores, then read books as a reward.

  6. Great post! I find it difficult to get time to read and I work full time. I usually try to read on my commute and after work but I find that if I’m at all tired when reading, I don’t retain any of the plot and I lose my place, which makes reading for please a suddenly very frustrating exercise. I find the best place to get reading done is actually in the library or in a local cafe.

  7. I find what works best for me lately is, after the absolutely necessary and immediate chores are done, to allow myself about an hour of reading before I start doing everything else. Otherwise, I might not get it in, because everything else always takes longer than I think. And, yes, often I don’t get everything done, but it’s worth it.

  8. This has been a big struggle for me lately, too, but I’ve always said that everyone has time to read they just need to find it, so I need to follow my own mantra! When I first started reading a TON, that change was due to simply turning off the TV and reading instead. Now I’m finding it easier to squeeze in audiobooks during times when I would otherwise just be walking (to and from my car on campus, while vacuuming, etc.) and it’s definitely helping.

  9. The trouble for me would be if I got gripped by a book because then nothing is going to tear me away from it and I’d probably rather burn my clothes than iron them!

  10. Ha – I don’t do ironing so can’t do that!! I make sure I get reading time because if I don’t, I get distressed and twitchy. Although I have other hobbies now, it’s been my main source of comfort my whole life.

    If I have time, after lunch I make sure I finish the chapter / up to a round number of pages / have half an hour extra reading time. I’m self-employed but a bit unfocused after lunch anyway, so that works really well for me.

    I’ve got “A Year of Reading Dangerously” on the TBR!

    • judging by the number of books you said you read during summer, i suspect you do rather a lot more than half an hour each day

      • Oh, put that wrongly – I didn’t say I read half an hour a day, or at least I didn’t mean to – I meant I gave myself half an hour extra at lunchtimes if not busy, but that’s on top of the rest of the reading time I have each day!

  11. The obvious thing to do is to set aside a specific time each day to read, but I’m sure most avid readers have already done that and want more. Or they’re like me and it doesn’t get done for some reason. Read before sleeping? I just fall asleep trying to read. And then with kids running around demanding attention. *sigh* Standing in line at the post office sounds like a good idea from this vantage point.

    • even though I am no longer working I can’t plan enough to say that at such and such a time each day I will read. the only guaranteed reading time for me is actually bedtime

  12. Giving up television has helped my reading immensely. I try faithfully to turn off all electronics at 9 p.m. each night; that usually results in a solid 2 hours of reading time, and a better night’s sleep as well.

    • so many people have taken the path of weaning themselves off electronic stuff – I do find social media a real drain on time. I like the interaction but oh boy an hour can go by and `I wonder what `i actually achieved

  13. piningforthewest

    I used to feel guilty about reading, rather than doing housework but since my husband retired I’m spending much more time reading. There’s nothing that needs to be done immediately nowadays so I’m getting loads of reading done, it’s my luxury.

  14. I think it’s the retiring that appeals to me most – but I can’t afford it! 🙂

    • that’s a shame. I’m not officially retired yet but am on medical leave so its similar. Even then I don’t seem to be reading a huge amount more – maybe about 20% extra. So many other things to do in the day even without work.

  15. I like to allocate 30 mins to an hour of reading daily. If I’m really busy, I try and read a chapter or 2 before going back to study. Holiday time is better though, because I have all the time in the world to indulge in good books!

  16. There have been times in my life when I set aside ten precious minutes a day for reading. Now I have a lot more time.

    I think we are so busy these days. Someone told me a while ago that we have all these machines to help us: dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves, vacuums but there doesn’t seem to be any more time. She is right.

  17. I think we all face a similar problem but the thought of cramming reading in between jobs/pastimes doesn’t appeal to me as I know that I just won’t concentrate properly. I know that when I force my reading then I just end up not paying attention to the book and don’t enjoy it. I’m currently steering towards a more pragmatic (defeatist?) approach where I admit that I can’t read everything I want to read and so choose my next read with that in mind.

    It’s worth trying different ‘tricks’ though, to see if any work for you. I’ve always tried to read short stories in one ‘hit’ but I’ve ended up with loads of short story collections unread—so recently I’ve been reading them but not worrying about reading them in two or three ‘hits’; it’s not ideal but it’s ok.

  18. I need to make more time but I’m not sure that doing even more chores than I do will help haha! I did start walking and listening to audio books at the beginning of the year which did work and helped me keep the walking up.

  19. I’ve got into audio books since getting a dog and listen to them out walking then back home doing washing up and all manner of stuff… not quite the same as ‘reading’ but a great way to spice up boring chores.

  20. I adopted a ‘read a chapter, do a chore’ strategy when faced with a day off and a long list of things I really should do. It fell by the wayside, mainly because the next chore on the list nagged away at my concentration.

  21. I like all the ideas, though I don’t really have a shortage of time for reading. After my son was born I thought I wouldn’t be able to read as much, but I’ve been able to maintain my reading habits, surprisingly. Except now, when I have some free time, instead of reading, I take a nap.

    I’ve tried the 50 pages a day when I had a reading buddy and we were reading a particular group. I was able to do it, though it’s hard when you don’t find the book too interesting.

  22. I like the idea of “rewarding yourself” with reading, by alternating reading with chores. Actually, I’d more likely just skip the chores. Who is noticing, anyway? (I live alone).

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