They’re calling you. Or maybe they’re taunting you? All of those books piled up on your bedside table, or backed up on your tablet. Friends recommended them, or you read about them on social media or in reviews, and you knew you just had to check them out. Since you’ve had so much extra time on your hands these days, you figured it’d be a piece of cake to plow through them, and also relax, pass the endless hours, and enrich your brain all at the same time.
But somehow it just hasn’t happened. Don’t feel guilty! We’ve all had a tough year, and it’s been harder than many of us thought to actually carve out time for ourselves. In fact, according to surveys, about a third of people without children, and more than half with children, say that they just don’t have enough time for themselves these days, despite the fact that our options for leaving the house are limited. So what should you do if you want to read more? Try these simple strategies and you’ll be turning the last page of a great book (and grabbing for the next one) before you know it!
1. Check Yourself in for Some B&B Time
No, you don’t need to run away from home and lock yourself in a remote cottage somewhere to fit in more reading. Try spending a few minutes each morning indulging in some “B&B,” or “book and breakfast” time. Even ten minutes a day over your morning cereal or toast can really add up, and get you focused for the day ahead (if you can pull yourself away from the spell being cast on you by your good read). And books don’t mind if you get a few crumbs or drops of milk on them – books are meant to look well-read.
Even if you’re not a breakfast-er, or if that time of day feels too hectic to you, remember: reading in short bursts is a great way to get at least a few pages or chapters in each day. Read when you’re waiting, commuting, or in the bathroom – we won’t judge!
2. Kiss Netflix Goodnight a Little Earlier
Haven’t made it to the end of every single streaming platform yet? Well, these days you might be working hard towards that goal, but remember, Netflix and Hulu will still be there waiting for you tomorrow. Try shutting off the old boob tube an hour earlier each night, and replacing an episode of your latest obsession with a few chapters from your book.
3. Try a “Book Night”
Date nights are great. Movie nights are great. Pizza nights? Yes, please. But how about a book night? How much more relaxing can you get than lounging on the couch in a quiet room, perhaps with some soft music playing, and just a few good books (and maybe your honey curled up next to you if you feel so inclined)? Not convinced? Consider this: within six minutes of reading a book, your blood pressure drops, and one 2009 study by Sussex University researchers showed that reading may even reduce stress by as much as 68%.
4. Set Goals
Tracking your reading feels way too strict for some people, but if you like feeling like you’re being kept on track, there are apps to help you do that. You can set yearly goals and organize reading lists…or you can be much more analog and relaxed about it. Try setting simple goals for yourself. For example, you can challenge yourself to read 50 pages before putting your book aside, or to finish the chapter before you move on to the next task. Set the bar a little higher each time, and it’ll naturally add up to more books read per year.
5. Be Tech Savvy
Do technology and reading go together? Well, it depends. On one hand, if you’re cracking open a book, give yourself up to that experience and put your phone and other devices away – all the way away. Even just seeing a phone, face down, notifications turned off can be a major distraction as you glance at it and think about what’s going on in there. Think about reading like being in a theater – give it your full attention.
On the other hand, technology can be your friend in other ways when it comes to fitting in more reading. For example, it’s easy to bring books everywhere you go when you have an e-reader, or when you download audiobooks onto your phone and listen to them while you clean, grocery shop, walk the dog, exercise, or drive. And no, listening to audiobooks is not “cheating”! They count!
6. Get Interactive
In a similar vein, you can use tech to your advantage during these crazy times in another way: you can start a virtual book club. Some people really like having a “deadline” to meet when it comes to reading, and are more likely to hit their reading goals if they know they are going to be discussing the next chapter at the end of the week. If you’re not seeing your friends in person right now, video chatting is a great option for getting together from the comfort of your own home and hashing out the latest plot twists – if you go virtual, you can even invite friends from all over the world!
Like things a little more informal? Start a text thread with friends about your latest reads. Want it to be more analog? Try “parallel reading” with your kids, for example. Take a little time at bedtime to lie next to them and read yourself a book while they read their own.
7. Cut Back on the Random Stuff
One final point about tech and reading: you might not realize just how much time is taken up by scrolling through social media and reading random articles that your friends (or frenemies) post. While any kind of reading is generally a good thing (depending on the source, of course), there’s only so much time in the day. If you’re looking to add in more dedicated reading time, you might just have to cut back on fluff.
8. Reward Yourself
We know you want to read, but you might have to find some clever ways to start a new habit. Consider “rewarding” yourself in little ways. For example, read for 20 minutes, then give yourself time to watch a funny video, do some yoga poses you enjoy, or indulge in a few minutes of social media. Or, you can reward yourself with buying a new book to start when you finish the one you’re in the middle of. Even giving yourself a mental pat on the back (“I read two chapters of that book today, that’s no small thing!”) can be a big boost to your brain, and could help you get hooked on your daily dose of reading.
9. Read for Fun!
You know what? Your reading is for you and you alone. You don’t have to track it or set goals, and you certainly don’t have to buy into any “rules” about what you “should” be reading. You don’t have to be reading “serious” literature if that’s not your thing, or you don’t have to plow through super long books every time you settle down to read. You don’t even have to finish every book you start. If you’re dreading picking up a book, that’s a sign to move on. Read a novelette, some short stories, or a poem – even ten lines can move you to tears sometimes. Reading isn’t a race or a competition. If you’re learning something, being moved, or just getting some well-deserved me-time out of it, you’re doing it right. Enjoy!