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Tips for Making More Time to Read

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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!

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Topics:

Career Advice College #Books Lifestyle Work-Life Balance
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Great ideas!
I went through a non-fiction phase once, and now am back to reading (mostly) novels. It's just important to not let anyone make you feel bad about what you like to read. It's all about having fun, whether that means biographies, cerebral literary stuff, or the latest thriller.

These are awesome! I like the idea of powering down. I waste so many hours scrolling through Facebook or watching TV. I really need to just cut it all out and turn my attention to something more fulfilling!

I'm so guilty of binge reading and this article is a great reminder that small bites on a daily schedule can be good too!

Elana Gross
Elana Gross

I don't normally read books on the subway because I'm busy reading The Skimm and The NYT Headlines Digest but that all changed when I was reading Gone Girl. During the summer I like to sit outside (preferably in Central Park with Iced Coffee) and read - it is great to be engrossed in a good book!

This is one of my favorite articles. I am a huge book worm and I ALWAYS go on reading benders. During the school year my busy schedule doesn't allow me to read often so school breaks and summer vacations are my go-to reading time. These are great tips to make more time for immersing yourself in another world. I also love the part about only reading nonfiction; I've been on a nonfiction kick for the past year so it's nice to know I'm not alone!

This article is perfect for summer because I think a lot of students have the intention to read more in the summer (as opposed to during the school year when the majority of what we read is assigned), but sometimes find it hard to follow through!

Thank you for this article, Abbie! As a fellow English major who just graduated from college, your advice hits home. I am thrilled to have time in my schedule to read "for me" again. What a novel idea...! Unplugging from social media has been the key for me to really lose myself in a book these days. It is interesting to think about my reading habits pre-college, when I did not have a smart phone and was not an avid social media user, and post-college, when I am reading often, but almost always on my smart phone. I think it's time to mix things up!

Cool tips! I sometimes go on a reading frenzy too, sometimes even reading 3 books concurrently (one during commute, one right before bedtime, and one just to keep it interesting when I find like my mind's wandering around). What I've discovered is, at least for me, is that it doesn't always have to be the actual activity of "reading" per se. If you're really after the knowledge and learning, I've learned that audiobooks are your best bet. They work best for long commutes, when running, or just generally moving about the house. It's great and so far I've gone through audiobooks in 3-4 days while also having time to do actual reading. Of course I also notice that doing a binge doesn't always prove to be effective. I think taking some time to reflect and just absorb all that information is worthwhile.

Keep a book by your bedside for moments of early morning reading and right before you go to bed. Also, I have the Kindle app on my phone so whenever I'm in a waiting situation, I always have a book with me to read on my phone.

Love these ideas! My reading habits have been all off recently, but I'm looking forward to adjusting them this summer. I completely agree about reading when taking public transportation and reading only what appeals to you. I went through a similar non-fiction only phase recently and it was so freeing not to be strangely judging my fiction choices (which lead more towards the so-called light reads).

Book clubs really do work! It was hard for me to stop looking at it as an assignment but once I did, it actually started to feel nice to have a set end date in mind.


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