I’m the first person to eye-roll whenever I see yet another post or list along the lines of avoiding family members during the holidays to make time to read, or sneaking in some pages during sports events, etc., because I actually like spending time with my family, going to parties, and watching sports games. But that doesn’t mean that setting time aside for reading is any less important to me during the crazy holiday season.
There is room for both, and as hectic as the month of December can get, you should be able to get that reading in with some careful planning. Here are some tips which, incidentally, don’t necessarily apply to just the busy holiday period at the end of the year. Also, it’s kind of a given for me that if you have a spouse or partner who is joining you in this stuff that they’d be on your side (within reason, of course):
Establish a hard cut-off time.
This should be a habit any time of the year, but especially when we’re all frantically trying to get our holiday shopping done, making plans, baking cookies, and whatever else comes with the season, it’s easy to lose track of time. As a freelancer, I’m pretty much always “on the clock” and am tempted to work myself through the evening and into my bed time nearly every day to meet or get ahead of deadlines. There are plenty of “guides” that tell you if you aren’t busting your butt at all hours and depriving yourself of sleep, you don’t “want it” enough. I say routines and self-care are really, really important: just as important as not taking on more projects than you can fulfill at a given time.
Accept that there’s only so much you can accomplish in a day, and establish a hard cut-off time when you’ll stop what you’re doing and leave it for tomorrow, and give yourself some reading time. Whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour, if it’s important to you to wind down with some reading before bed time, make that time and stick to it.
Smuggle some snacks into your room.
It’s likely that there’s a general, sometimes unspoken “schedule” of when everyone is getting up during the holiday stay at a family’s place (or when you’re expected to arrive from your hotel, etc.). What I often do is wake up early and just hole up in my bedroom with a book until it’s closer to whatever the wake-up time is. Thus you achieve your goal of getting some pages in (plus, it’s a nice, slow, and quiet start to what’ll probably be a tiring day) while also being considerate of the “family time.” Bonus: the old “flashlight reading under the covers” trick never gets old.
An alternative: lately, I’ve been kicking off my morning with a bit of listening to an audiobook or podcast. Instead of snoozing through three alarms, I punch on Audible after the first alert and just listen until it’s time for me to actually get up to make breakfast and get ready for my day. Incidentally, I’ve almost been late to work as a result, so be aware – you probably still need to keep all your alarms and alerts on, or at least set a timer on your player.
Choose your books and formats wisely.
You may or may not have wifi or the kind of phone coverage you’re used to, so unless you’re totally sure you can depend on it, don’t plan for it. Do you typically listen to audiobooks or read short stories? They’re your friend during the busy season when there’s a lot of driving/walking/waiting to be done. You don’t have to, but re-reading is also a great habit to form for the holidays. Sometimes, you just need something familiar to come back to when it’s finally time to slow down a little. Additional benefit: no worries about reading carefully or missing details because you’ve already been through it.
Of course, I should add that if you aren’t in the habit of carrying a book around with you at all times, you need to work on that. For those lulls and waits throughout the day, books are a great pastime. At least, I think it beats checking email, refreshing Twitter, or staring off into space, thinking about how you should have thought to pack a book.
Have any more tips for maximizing your reading time while also enjoying all of your family’s holiday rituals? Let me have ’em in the comments below.
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