This is a guest post by Jessica Woodbury. Her professional life has taken her to prisons, classrooms, strip clubs, and her living room couch. Jessica is a lapsed lawyer who now spends too much time oversharing on the internet. She’s a single mom to 2 small children living in the Northeast. She has a soft spot for crime novels and unreliable narrators. Follow her on Twitter @jessicaesquire.
People often say to me, “I don’t know how you make time to read.” I admit, it takes a lot more effort than it used to now that I have a full-time job, two young children, some gigs on the side, and a busy social calendar. But if you love books, you find time.
Still, people seem to find it legitimately mysterious that I can plow through several books a month and even throw in a couple ambitious reads a year. (Right now, Sister Carrie.) So I thought I’d share a few simple tips to be a truly dedicated reader even if you have a crazy schedule.
1) Read before bed. Every night. Screens are bad for you anyway, and the ritual of laying in bed and reading a book is really calming for me. I often read for 30 to 45 minutes in a single night if the book is good and I’m not too tired.
2) Read during your commute. If you drive or walk, audiobooks are great and they probably have hundreds at your local library so you can get them on the cheap. If you take public transit, keep a book or e-reader in your bag. Sure, you may only get a little bit in here and there, but it adds up. Sister Carrie has really short chapters, I can almost always finish one on the train.
3) Read at lunch. In my first real job, every day at noon I’d close the door of my tiny, window-less office, pull out my sad little sandwich, sit in a chair, put my feet up, and read. Those quiet moments where the entire world disappeared made lunch a truly lovely thing. These days, like a lot of people, I often work through lunch, but when I can, I try and take 20 or 30 minutes with a book. Since my building doesn’t have a lot of space to eat and I no longer have an office, I tend to eat early or late to avoid the rush and get a little peace.
4) Read in bed on sleep-in days. Nothing makes a lazy day like staying in your bed for an extra hour or two reading a book. And if you were reading before bed it’ll be right there waiting for you. Sometimes I read for an hour and then go back to sleep, it’s ridiculously decadent.
5) Take a break from television. Maybe you’ve been binge-watching a lot. Maybe you keep hours of shows saved up on your DVR. When I dial back tv, I have a little more time with books and it’s time I enjoy a lot more than an hour of Scandal. Don’t get me wrong, I love some bad shows to just let my brain turn off, but it can get habit forming. If you find you’re multitasking when you’re watching television, then it’s definitely time to think about this. A book won’t let you multitask, and it feels pretty nice to let your brain really wrap itself around one thing.
6) Give yourself access to books. This may mean you get an e-reader or a library card. Or that you pop in to your local bookstore once or twice a month to browse. If you already have more books than you know what to do with, take them to your local used book store to trade or set up a book swap with your friends.
7) Get social with your reads. Join a book club. Join Goodreads or Riffle or another reading social network. Start following some book blogs or podcasts. Ask your friends what they’ve read lately. Hearing about something from a friend and being able to quickly add it to a “To Read” list does wonders to make sure there’s always something new on the horizon. This also lets you keep track of what you read and recommend books to other people, which can add an extra level of enjoyment to the whole process.
These may seem like the kind of habits that take a lot of commitment, but they really don’t. If you make reading a habit, the kind of thing you incorporate into your day even if it’s just a little bit here or there, none of these things will seem hard. They’ll seem more like second nature. And that’s what makes you a real reader.