Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul. — Joyce Carol Oates
As a kid, when I would read the rest of the world would cease to exist and I loved it. No surprise, I went on to study English in college where keeping up with five books at a time wasn’t really a big deal. After graduation I had 40 minute train ride twice a day that left me plenty of time to read and was probably the very best way to start and end a workday.
Then I went to grad school and that all changed. After working all day in an assistant-ship, attending class in the evenings and reading for class at night and on weekends, reading for pleasure lost all its appeal. I would save up for holiday breaks and then go on a reading bender, staying up all hours of the night and reading multiple books in single settings day after day. It threw off all my healthy reading habits and I’ve spent the last six years trying to recreate them so I can get back to something that I once enjoyed to the exclusion of anything else.
As I’ve been on that journey, here are some of the things that I’ve learned.
Use Your Daily Commute: If you live in a place where you take public transportation to and from work everyday, I envy you. Your daily commute is a great time to get some reading in. For those who are operating their own vehicles, the audiobook can be a great option for staying zen while navigating traffic.
Multitask Your Workout: This may be a bit controversial, but I think the gym is a great time to read. I have always found it incredibly tedious to work away on a cardio machine. If you are someone who is really into physical fitness, this may not work for you, as reading can distract from a serious workout. However, if getting to read your book is going to be the motivation you need to go to the gym at all, then I say go for it.
Power Down: When I realized that I was, in fact, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I decided to cancel my cable. Without the television to keep me company, I turned to books just as I had intended. Between reality t.v. and social media there are a lot ways that we mindlessly spend out time. If cutting the cable cord permanently sounds like your worst nightmare, consider alternatives to going technology-free (minus your e-reader of course). Whether it is powering down at a certain time every night, declaring Sundays your tech-free day each week, or just taking a tech vacation once every couple of months, powering down has been shown to have numerous benefits, only one of which is that you can use that time to read real books. If you are like me and needs some assistance with impulse control check out Freedom where you can schedule a regular internet shutdown or SelfControl where you can block your own access to your most distracting websites for a period of time.
Join a Book Club: Yes, everybody is doing it because they are awesome. Book clubs are a great way to make a solitary activity (reading) a social one (by discussing with others). Provided your club doesn’t just use a book as a guise for exclusively getting together to drink wine and gab, book clubs can also be a really great accountability mechanism. Just make sure you have a core group of people who have a similar vision for what the club should be. Finally, it’s also a great way to explore all different books that you wouldn’t seek out on your own.
Read What Appeals to You: After only reading fiction my entire life, I went on a two-year stint where I could only read non-fiction. For some reason at that point in my life I couldn’t deal with reading about things that didn’t exist, so it was all about biographies and memoirs. I’ve really come to appreciate that the mental space you are in significantly impacts how you experience a story. Like any art form, what the observer brings to it is critical.
Read In Spurts: If you have a hard time reading for hours on end, start with short stories or collections of essays. It is amazing what writers can accomplish in shorter-form works. You can experience excellent writing and story-telling while feeling a sense of accomplishment and closure each time you put down the pages.
Go on a Reading Bender: If you are like me and love getting sucked into a good story, living an alternative universe for a little bit and letting a whole day or weekend slide by while you experience it, then a reading bender is for you. You just have to be intentional with that time. I am fortunate to travel frequently for work and find that plane time works well for me in the interim between vacations. I’ll usually work one way and read on the other. And I always make sure that I have a list of books ready for when I am on vacation.
The world is full of stories and I have always loved how reading can connect us to experiences we may never get to have otherwise. Reading provides quiet time for reflection as we consider a protagonist’s dilemma and how we might respond in a similar situation. It allows us to deepen our understanding of human conditions and build empathy as we experience the circumstances of another through their point of view. And sometimes we just need to experience something beautiful and be in awe of the way words come together in a magical expression of something we’ve always felt but never know how to articulate.
What are your tricks for building reading and unplugged time into your daily schedule? Give us some suggestions in the comments!
Ask Levo Mentor Amanda Pouchot, Co-Founder of Levo League, how she makes time to read and recharge in her schedule which takes her across the country!