I’ve loved to read since before I can remember. I remember starting off with Ladybird books, then gradually moving to novels for kids, and then I started into my first mystery book series: Nancy Drew. These books carried me into my highschool years, where I unfortunately stopped reading for leisure for the most part. With the onslaught of homework, I had little time for reading outside of books for my English classes.
This continued into my university years, where the homework was piled even higher. Read for pleasure? Who had the time for that? I even tried several times to read my Bible, but the progress never lasted long; I was soon met again with assignments at every turn.
But then last year, I took a Fantasy Literature course, where I was required by my professor to read fantasy literature novels, and in doing so I came to a few new realizations. I loved reading them, and my childlike love for books was reignited. As a result, I’ve been reading consistently in my spare time ever since. Perhaps you have also struggled with finding spare time to read. If you have, come join me as I share some tactics that worked for me.
1. Change your perspective.
Part of the reason that I wasn’t able to keep up my leisure reading is that I viewed reading as a side-option. I can pick it up and let it go as I please. It’s not what we think of as “serious”; unlike work you bring home from your job or class, it’s not considered a priority. Reading relieves stress and allows your mind to recharge. It’s normal that when we get stressed, we cut out all the ‘non-essentials’. So when we consider reading for pleasure to be a non-essential—we don’t have it as a resource for when life gets stressful.
While books can be fun, you can also use books as learning guides. In fiction writing, characters take on new adventures, create solutions, and meet new people. You can be a wizard in Hogwarts or delve into the real-deal problems of a family of 6 going through a divorce. You discover things of what could have been or what might be. In non-fiction writing you can learn more about your history (i.e. true stories that have already happened), challenge your philosophy, or teach yourself how to create something.
Books from both fiction and non-fiction resolve conflict and give us new perspective. School may be very difficult right now. Your boss might be harder on you than others. Your family member may have been diagnosed with cancer. But reading allows us to see things in perspective and gives us hope. Your course is difficult, but it’s preparing you for the next step. Your boss is hard on you, but you’re becoming more patient and resilient. There is cancer in your family, but you and your family will be made stronger. And these things are easier to realize if reading is made a priority.
2. If you’re leaving the house, bring a light book.
Another complaint I’ve heard, other than forgetting to bring a book, is that books add too much weight to their daily cargo. That’s why you should choose a light book. Try bringing one no higher than the length of your hand and no thicker than about an inch. It’s especially useful to bring a book that’s light (and compact) so you can bring it with you without feeling like it’s an inconvenience. And you’ll also be less likely to forget it.
If you’re reading the Bible, I recommend downloading a Bible phone app. My fave is Bible Gateway, which can be used on both Apple and other smartphones. This one has all the bells and whistles like devotionals, reading plans, and a multiple of resources to use for your daily Bible study. However, this one does use some data to run. If you’re wanting to be offline, you can also use Holy Bible (NKJV), which does a pretty nifty job of doing what it’s supposed to: Bringing the word of God into the palm of your hand. I use this on my Samsung, but I hear it’s also available for Apple phones as well.
I also know that people recommend Kindles or reading on your tablets. This is fine too. Eventually I may get on that bandwagon if I ever actually own a tablet, but at this point, I love the feel of paper books too much to give those up.
3. Pull out your book any time you sit down for longer than 5 minutes.
Do you have an appointment to go to that involves sitting in a waiting room? Sitting on the train to get to work? Waiting for your bus? With a small book, you can read your book in these locations with ease. You can easily slide it in and out of your purse, backpack, or briefcase without bumping into others or feeling like a bother. Plus, you have the benefit of getting into the next few pages of your book. And if the novel is on your tech device, that’s even easier.
I’ve found that reading on the subway does wonders for my mood. I can allow myself to ignore the hustle and bustle of people, if only for a few minutes, and get absorbed in what I’m reading. It makes the trip much more enjoyable.
[Note: Some people find that reading while in a moving vehicle makes them nauseous. This used to be the case for me, too. But I’ve found that if I listen to music while reading, it distracts my brain long enough to get a decent dent into my reading for the day.]
4. Make it a point to ask people what they’re reading, and why.
This method works in two ways. First, asking other people what they’re reading reminds you keep a tab on what you’re reading. It’s like a sneaky way to be accountable for your own reading, because usually you will be asked in return what you are reading. And so you better have a good answer!
Secondly, you also get to hear what types of books other people like, and find tips on which books you might want to read next. Extra bonus: it makes for great conversation, and you might find your next new favourite author.
5. Remember that you’re a human being.
It’s easy to want to start (or re-start) a new hobby, and amp yourself up to succeed in making it part of your daily routine. But it’s also okay (and totally expected) to not read all the time. There are periods of life that are busier than others, and sometimes in those spare moments you have, you’re cramming in some extra study-time, or hammering out your presentation on your phone at the bus stop. And if you’re working/studying from home, sometimes life at home gets a little too hectic to focus your mind on a leisure book. Don’t expect too much of yourself, and don’t be disappointed when you don’t make the progress you planned. It doesn’t matter when you finish the book, it just matters that you’re trying when you have the time.
Have any more tips on how to read for fun on a tight schedule? Please comment below!