As a dad, there are a few things I consistently let slip through the cracks. Reading is one of those things. Finding time to read feels like hunting for a unicorn–impossible.
It’s not as if I find reading unimportant. In fact, I’d commend you to the litany of studies showing the benefits of reading, from stress reduction to improved concentration. By the end of a day, however, when I’ve finally found time to sit down to read, I’m too exhausted. Somehow, going to bed always takes precedent over picking up a book.
Bill Gates blocks out an hour each day to read. What would that be like? To have no kids and no boss and an hour of free time! If it takes living like that to read, I won’t be perusing any novels any time soon.
I wish we could all be Bill Gates. But that’s not what it takes to squeeze some reading time in. Don’t let the fact that you’re not him keep you from reading! You don’t really need an hour each day to read. Instead, cultivate a few new habits to start re-introducing books into your routine.
Don’t Count on Having an Hour to Read Every Day.
Face it. You’re never going to have a full hour free from distraction or responsibility for someone else. Don’t limit your reading to one large block of time. Believe it or not, you can read just as much in smaller blocks of time.
We all have 5 minute intervals during the day when we’re not doing anything. Consider, for example, what you do in those minutes prior to leaving the house while waiting for your spouse or kids to come down and get in the car. What do you do while waiting at the dentist’s? Think about it, and you’ll realize you have several minutes each day to devote to reading.
In his book The Four Doors, Richard Paul Evans indicates that by reading a consistent 10 pages every day, in one year you could finish The Great Gatsby, Madame Bovary, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Crucible, Brave New World, Animal Farm, On Liberty, 1984, Beowulf, and the complete works of William Shakespeare!
While 10 pages a day might sound like a lot, that’s really only about a 20 minute investment, depending on the book. Consistently take advantage of the spare moments in your life and you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish. (Check out some of these tips on time management.)
Schedule Time Into Your Day to Read.
If squeezing in a few pages here and there each day isn’t for you, dedicate a certain portion of your day to read. This will require some sacrifice. But it doesn’t have to throw your day off.
Wake up 15 minutes earlier and pick up a book before work. You’ll punch the clock every morning relaxed and focused, ready to give more to your boss because you’ve given a few minutes to yourself.
Do you have a lunch break? If so, spend some of it reading. No one needs an entire hour to down a peanut butter sandwich and some apple slices. A lunch break is a perfect, already scheduled time in which you can pick up a book.
Watch less TV. American adults reportedly spend an incredible 6 hours every day watching TV! I don’t believe that number. And I know it’s skewed by people with no kids and no job who watch TV all day. Still, it’s not lost on me that we all need to cut down our screen time. Can you read during a portion of the time you already set aside to watch TV? One of the best decisions we’ve made in our home is to read something together every day. We don’t get through all the shows out there, but it’s well worth the sacrifice.
Make Time to Read by Picking Your Books Carefully.
Another one of Bill Gates’ reading techniques is to always finish every book he starts. I generally agree with this concept. Doing so requires you to do something hard and learn something new.
You have limited time, though, so if a book really isn’t worth it, don’t be afraid to put it down and start something else. A better rule for me than finishing what I read is to make sure I start only books I know I’ll finish. This requires researching the books you read. It also requires understanding that not every book needs to be your “favorite” in order for you to complete it.
Also, vary what you read. I like to have at least a fiction and a non-fiction book going all the time. This will give you variety, helping to keep you engaged. It will also expand your knowledge of topics you never thought to study.
Make Time to Read by Placing Your Books Carefully.
Out of sight, out of mind! If your book isn’t where you are, you won’t read it. For me, this means always keeping a book in the car, a book in the bathroom, a book on my nightstand, and a book by the couch. When I have free time, I can do a simple reach for the book rather than having to scour the house for a misplaced copy, or worse, resort to phone scrolling.
Always Buy Your Books.
The library is a treasure trove. The problem is, it’s borrowed treasure. Read books that you own.
Having a time limit in which to finish a book, or worrying about being charged a fee diminishes the joy I find in reading. It’s also discouraging to know that when I read a borrowed book, I’ll most likely never re-read it or reference it again. Owning your own books allows you to mark them up, carry them around, and spend several weeks reading them.
Books are also a reflection of your values and ideals. The books on your shelves will remind you to read. They’ll also remind you to act.
Building your own personal library does not have to be expensive. Our local library always has used books for sale. Ten cents for a book is an awesome price! There are also plenty of used bookstores around, and even big-box stores like Barnes and Noble or Books A Million will frequently have great bargain sales on inventory they’re getting rid of. And there’s always Amazon or Abe Books, where you can sometimes pay less for the book than you pay for shipping!
Read How You Read Best.
People always ask me if listening to a book “counts” as reading. Absolutely. And I don’t think the reading folks have any moral authority over the listening folks, or vice versa. Both experiences are different, and both are valuable.
Just make sure to do what works best for you. For example, I don’t retain information I hear as well as information I see. For me, seeing something makes it stick. I also find listening hard because it requires consulting an electronic device. By the time I’ve found my headphones, figured out the bluetooth connection, scrolled through my downloads to find my book, and checked the texts that came through while doing all that, I’ve lost the spare moment I had to read.
Don’t Forget to Share What You Read.
All the new information you’ll pick up as you begin to incorporate reading into your day can be difficult to retain. Here’s a rule of thumb for memory recall: learn half the time, share half the time.
While you’re reading, try interacting with the book by taking notes. Or, better yet, share what you’re reading with your spouse. Use what you read as material for your kids’ bed time stories.
According to some, we remember 90% of what we learn when we teach it to someone else. You’ll remember something better when you share it, and remembering what you read will make all the time you spend reading worth the effort!
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