It is more surprising to come across someone who is not experiencing burnout than to find someone who is. If I listed all the reasons it would probably just exhaust us more. Let’s just say we’ve been through a global crisis, our culture rewards constant output, and our lives are ruled by pocket computers that give us confusingly equal amounts of pleasure and pain. No wonder we’re losing our spark.
Below I’ve gathered some tips to help if you’re looking to reclaim a reading habit in the midst of all this chaos. Try one, try them all, or take a break! You deserve it.
Find Your Why
This is a very important question. Why are you trying to start reading again? Really, why? If you say it’s because reading makes you feel better, or because you notice that you’re more able to cope when you’ve spent some time with a book, then great. You are right to explore ways to bring reading back in. However, if your answer has a single “should” or “have to” involved, pause. Reading is a hobby, like video games or playing ping pong. It is not inherently good. You do not have to read to be good. You are already good. Figure out why you want to read through burnout, and you’ll be one step closer to feeling better.
Reread A Favorite
If you’ve decided you’re going to keep exploring the reading route, it’s likely you’ve had a solid reading habit at some point in your life. One of my favorite ways to beat reading burnout is to reread a favorite book. Some people cannot tolerate rereading, but it’s a huge part of my reading life. It might be something about already knowing what is going to happen, so I can just enjoy the story, or reliving the positive feelings I had when I read it the first time. Rereading can be a nonthreatening move that soothes the soul and makes the task of picking up a book less daunting.
Read With Your Ears
Audiobooks are a staple of my family’s reading habits. My sons are getting to a point in their messy preteendom where they’re far less likely to pick up a book than even just a year ago. I’m trying not to let my librarian heart panic, because this ebb and flow is extremely normal. To get some good reading in, we turn to audiobooks. This is a great reading hack because you can listen in the car, while doing chores, or even while building with Lego or coloring. While reading is often solitary, I love reading audiobooks with my family and speculating on plot points together. You can even stack this idea with the rereading trick and get a new perspective on a book you’ve read before.
Try A New Genre
Switching it up can save a burnt out brain. If you tend to stick to one type of reading, trying something new can be a great way to get excited about books again. I read a ton as a child, but I was in my late 20s when I fell in love with YA literature. Between that personal interest and the reading I do for my work as an elementary librarian, I read a lot of books meant for kids. After my most recent bout of reluctance around reading, I started reading romance novels. This new genre completely upped my chances of picking up a book.
I have a busy life and very poor time management skills, so I’m constantly reading articles about being more productive. One of the biggest tips from that arena is a concept called habit stacking (a term coined by S.J. Scott in their book Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness) and it can be very helpful if you’re truly striving to bring reading into your daily life. In a nutshell, you add the habit of reading to a routine you already do without thinking. I use habit stacking to stretch while my coffee brews, but you might choose to read an audiobook while you take a shower. Small and achievable is a best practice when you’re habit stacking, and once you have something established, you can build from there.
There is no wrong way to be a reader. You can be a reader even if you’re taking a break from books. If burnout is keeping you from your reading habit, don’t fear. You can try some of these tips I’ve mentioned, or you can listen to your subconscious and take a break! Be gentle with yourself. The books will be here when you’re ready.