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Our Reading Lives

Finding Time to Read When You Work All the Time


Staff Writer

Deya travels a LOT. In between countries, cities and the pages of books she reads. She has a master's degree in human rights law and works on gender-based violence, conflict and public health. Deya grew up in Calcutta, India, where her bookshelves stretched and multiplied every year, much to the chagrin of her mother. Currently, she lives in Bangalore, India, with her partner who has taken umbrage at the fact that, a long time ago, she DNF-ed The Bourne Identity (please don't judge her - she had her reasons!). When she's not shaking her fists and explaining feminism (for the gazillion-th time) to a colleague at work, she can be found listening to podcasts, binge-watching Doctor Who, making lists or baking - basically, avoiding all human contact. Blog: The Fiction Shelf Twitter: @LadyLawzarus

This is a guest post from Deya Bhattacharya. When Deya was a talkative toddler, her mother bought her books to calm her down. Years later, now, Deya’s mother regrets that decision, as Deya continually runs out of shelf-space. Deya is a human rights lawyer researcher who travels to obscure places for work, and is therefore thankful for the invention of the Kindle. Her real life, needless to say, is in all things books. Follow her on Twitter @LadyLawzarus.

Eight years ago, at the start of law school, I was told that the schedule is going to be so rigorous that there was a huge possibility that I’d have to give up reading. I am quite proud to say that I read far more in law school than I had ever read before – I was proving people wrong and the great thing was that this was not at the cost of my grades. Throughout my five years studying law, I discovered newer genres and more well-written characters. I also made a close friend whose life revolved around books: we hit it off immediately. My roommate read a lot too. So, I figured, that these wisecracks were wrong: you have plenty of time to squeeze in some reading despite your long-winding reading list for courses and the insane number of credits per semester.

Cut to life as it is today, I admit I barely have enough time to read. In between a full-time job that requires intense traveling and other adult-ish things, sometimes there’s no other option but to choose between what you want (more reading, some reading, any reading!) and what you need (some sleep, please, a little sleep!). A new (and seemingly bad) habit is staying up way past my bed-time to keep reading. While this was possible in my early twenties, now that I am at the wrong side of twenty (gasp!), it gets difficult to stay up all night and then go to work in the mornings. Yet, I am most obstinate and read only at night – hours after my partner has succumbed to sleep, I will keep blinking into my Kindle until I get through “one more chapter.” Or I will begin an audiobook, convincing myself that I will fall asleep in between but that seldom happens.

Therefore, I’ve become a part of the infamous “Sleepless Elite” – I read until two or three in the morning and I am awake again around eight to complete my tasks for the NGO that I work with. In between, during the commute and sometimes during lunch, I sneak in some more reading. But I’ve noticed that I read faster and better at night, when there’s more peace and quiet. This has, of course, changed my circadian rhythm and my schedule in a way that it seems that the harm cannot be undone.

Unfortunately, I am not the only one. I know at least three others who are ruining their health because a work life incorporating books is often difficult, and workplaces in India often do not take into consideration that reading is a personal development imperative and must be encouraged. My workplace, for example, is one that believes in the idea of integrating work and life which means that  work and life do not have to be these rigid, watertight components that do not intermix. Instead we are encouraged to take up our passions and interests along with our regular roles within social development. For example, my boss knows I read a lot and always asks me what I am currently reading; she points me to libraries I would love, and books she is sure I will enjoy.

Some measures I’ve taken to integrate my reading life to my work are simple. The first is that I have begun to forgive myself when I don’t stick to TBR lists or cannot concentrate on certain genres. Secondly, since commute times to work is a lot, I prefer to keep a paperback as well as an audiobook handy. Thirdly, I watch BookTube as a means of knowledge and entertainment – in the beginning, I used to compare my reading with some booktubers’ but that did not seem fair, neither to me nor to them. Lastly, I’ve begun to enjoy the vagaries of being a mood-reader: I often pick up the right books for the right times.

What are some ways that you incorporate reading into your work life? Are there any suggestions that will help me?