Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No Time To Read? 10 Ways To Squeeze More Reading Into Your Day

"I don't have time to read."

"Yeah, I'd read, but I'm just so busy."

"You must read quickly. I couldn't possibly read two books a week."

"Mrs. C, I have homework and sports. There's just no time to read."

Well, folks, I am just as busy as you are. I work full-time as a librarian, have two young children, and am dedicated to my morning workouts. I don't have a maid, and I post reviews to this blog 2-3 times each week. My reading speed is slow to average, and I am very easily distracted by noise and other things going on.

And no, librarians do not sit in the library and read all day. Quite the contrary, we don't have any time at work to read at all; most days I barely have time to eat lunch and am lucky to squeeze in a couple of restroom breaks.

So how do I find the time to read two books a week? Well, first off, I am dedicated to it and really, really love reading. For me, it's a way to escape the daily grind and shake off a long day. So here's how I make it work...


1. TWO PAGES A TINKLE. How many times a day do you go to the bathroom? Keep a book in the bathroom and make a point to read two pages each time you tinkle. Will you get funny looks when using the community restroom at work? Possibly. Or maybe they won't even notice at all. Either way, who cares? Maybe you'll start a trend. If you tinkle every two hours, that is eight times per day. That's sixteen pages right there, which adds up to 112 pages per week.

2. UNWIND WITH A GOOD BOOK. What do you do to wind down before bed? Do you watch TV? Play games on your phone? Check your email? Get into the habit of reading every night before bed. Even if you can only do five pages before you conk out, that's 35 pages a week.

3. CONSIDER CUTTING SOME TV TIME. How many minutes a day do you watch TV? An hour? Two? More? Try cutting that in half and reading instead. Cutting TV time by 30 minutes a night will allow you to read maybe 20 additional pages each night, adding up to 140 pages each week.

4. ARRIVE EARLY FOR MEETINGS AND APPOINTMENTS. Plan to arrive a few minutes early for meetings and appointments so you can squeeze in a little reading before checking in for your appointment. Read in your car to avoid pre-meeting socializing or being seen early by your doctor or dentist. 

5. HARNESS THE POWER OF WHITE NOISE. If you are easily distracted by noise (music, TV, people talking, etc.), check your smart phone to see if there is a white noise app. For iPhone users, the free version of WhiteNoise by TMSoft (called WhiteNoise Lite) has 11 different sounds. The upgrade version is $1.99, and it has 40 sounds to choose from, including crackling fire, vacuum cleaner, steady rain, thunderstorm, and cat purring. Both the free version and the upgrade are easy on your cell battery.

My favorite sound is "Airplane," which sounds like the low hum of an airplane cabin and is included on the free version of WhiteNoise. I also use this app when writing or doing anything where I just need some quiet time to think.

If you do not have access to WhiteNoise, a box fan on HIGH works great also. 

6. INVEST IN AN E-READER. I take my Nook to the gym and read while walking on the treadmill or burning calories on the stationary bike or elliptical machine. E-readers are especially great for the gym because you can often place them on the cardio machine's display screen and read your book hands-free. Increasing the font size will help make it easier to read while you are in motion. At 45 minutes of cardio daily, I read about 30 extra pages a day. Multiply that by 4-5 days of working out, and that adds 120-150 extra pages a week. Plus, my workout is much more interesting. Instead of thinking "Groan. I still have 15 minutes left," I am thinking "What? It's been 30 minutes already?"

Tip for reading at the gym--I always use the white noise app with earbuds at the gym to drown out the loud music playing; I get easily distracted by extraneous noise.

If you have an e-reader, check with your public library to see if they have Overdrive for e-book checkout. Overdrive has thousands of e-books and audiobooks, all free, and you don't even have to leave home to download them.

7. TRY AUDIOBOOKS. This is especially useful for those who have a long commute to work. Again, check to see if your local public library has Overdrive, which will allow you to download audiobooks to your phone, MP3 player, or iPod. Audiobooks also make great workout companions for those who walk in their neighborhood or workout on cardio machines at the gym.

Trips to the grocery store are also more peaceful when you are wearing headphones. Trust me on that one. An hour at Wal-Mart is a whole lot more pleasant when I have in my earbuds. I keep an extra pair of earbuds in my purse, so I always have them with me.

8. BRING A BOOK WITH YOU EVERYWHERE. Read while standing in line at the grocery store, while riding in a cab or on a train, while waiting for PTA meetings to begin, at doctor appointments. Again, white noise with earbuds is critical for those who can't focus because of outside noise.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ABANDON SHIP. My husband has this thing about finishing a book to the bitter end, even if he isn't into it at all. He feels that if he started it, he must finish it. In doing this, he tends to put off reading the book because he isn't enjoying it. Because he procrastinates reading it, that one book ends up taking weeks to finish, plus he isn't starting any new books (which he may like better) during that time. It's like he's punishing himself just for picking up the wrong book; I just don't get that at all.

If you really must finish a book, I suggest "staggering" that book with one you really want to read. I did this in college when we had to read some dusty old classic or 30-lb. cataloging textbook that I wasn't connecting with at all. I still had to read it so I could write a paper or pass a test. So I would read one chapter (or even only a couple of pages if the book is really dry) of the yucky book, then one chapter of a book I really wanted to read. It breaks up the book you don't love into smaller chunks, enabling you to finish it without procrastinating. It also keeps your mind fresh and helps keep you from falling asleep while reading. I've "staggered" up to four books at at time before (in college, of course).

10. RECLAIM YOUR TIME. It's YOUR time, after all, and life is short enough already. Learn to say "NO" every now and then. I know this is easier said than done, but honestly, if you aren't really into something, then why are you doing it? Take some time to think about what people or commitments in your life are sucking away your time, without adding value. Is it worth it?

Got any good tips to increase reading time in your life? What works for you? I would love to hear your comments!


  1. Love these!!! It never occurred to me to plug into my audiobook when grocery shopping. I HATE grocery shopping and that just might make it more pleasant...!

    I am addicted to my Audible app on my iPhone. The iPhone (or an iPod or mp3 player) is so easy to carry around the house that I always have my audiobook going when I'm making dinner, folding laundry, cleaning up the kitchen... I also have gotten into the habit of listening to an audiobook before bed. I am not a great sleeper and often find my mind going a million miles an hour when I'm trying to fall asleep. Having the audiobook playing helps me concentrate on something else and I use the sleep timer!

  2. Yes, it's really nice to not have to listen screaming kids or "Security, please scan Area 4."

    I think my favorite one is #10--Reclaim your time. This is the one I struggle most with. Overcommitment is my nemesis.

  3. OMG! It's like you've read my mind! I'm a avid reader cause I LOVE BOOKS! and it's true now seeing them in numbers and it's easier if everyone do this too!
    Like happened to me yesterday I was at the supermarket and the lines to pay were HUGE! I was alone with nobody to talk to, but thankfully I NEVER leave the house if I don't bring a book along and I kept reading and reading, people were desperate but I was very calmed reading my book until it was my turn to pay!

    So thank you! more people should follow this tips!

  4. Annemel--If we get on a good part, we might even be willing to let people go in front of us! ;)

  5. Yes, I love the Bathroom Idea it's smart because I go to the Bathroom once in the morning and like six times before I come to school and then on the bus i could read on the way to school. That's my ten mins there. Also it could get me up to like 25 pages in 10 mins and I could reach my reading goal for sure. These were really helpful tip thanks.

  6. Yes the bathroom one was really smart because I use the bathroom many times out the day, I feel if I follow the bathroom routine and reading ten mins a day. I WILL REACH MY GOAL IN NO TIME. Thanks this was very helpful in many different way.


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