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 child, I’d lose myself in the pages of books, and it was an escape like no other – utterly transporting me to another realm. It should come as no surprise that I chose English in college, given the fact that keeping up with five books at any given time was not a difficult task for me. After I graduated, the 40-minute train ride that I took twice a day was an excellent way to begin and conclude my workday. Such lengthy commutes allowed me ample time to immerse myself in reading while getting from one place to another.
Once I started grad school, a blissful pastime of reading drastically vanished from my life. With an assistantship and night classes demanding most of my time, combined with all the studying required on weekends as well, devoting pleasure to books was no longer part of any priority list for me. I’d save and wait all year for my holiday break, and then I would indulge in a reading frenzy. I’d stay up late into the night, consuming book after book in one sitting day after day. My healthy reading habits were drastically disrupted for the past six years, and I have been striving to restore them so that I can relive my joy of reading which was once unparalleled.
As I navigated through this journey, there were some important lessons I had to learn along the way.
Use Your Daily Commute: If you’re fortunate enough to take public transport daily, my envy knows no bounds. It’s a perfect opportunity for some leisure reading! For those of us behind the wheel, however, audiobooks can be an ideal way to stay relaxed whilst driving in rush hour traffic.
Multitask Your Workout: Although it may sound contentious, I think the gym is an ideal opportunity to take some time for reading. While many find a cardio machine all-encompassing and dull, I believe that with a good book in hand, you can make your workout much more interesting – as well as educational! If you’re an avid fitness buff, reading while exercising might not be the best option. On the other hand, if it’s what encourages you to go to the gym in the first place and helps keep your workouts going strong, then why not give it a try?
Power Down: As I was suddenly awakened to the fact that I had been wasting my time watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I decided it was past due for me to cut my cable subscription. Since television no longer filled up hours of my day, books became a go-to source of entertainment just as initially planned. With all the reality TV and social media outlets, it’s easy to get lost in our screens. But if you don’t want to go completely tech-free (minus your e-reader of course), there are still ways for you to free up some extra time by cutting down on how much mindless scrolling you do. If you want to completely recharge, set a specific time every night or dedicate an entire day each week where technology takes the backseat. Even if it’s simply taking a tech-free holiday once in a while, powering down has been proven to yield countless benefits – one being that you can use this extra time now for reading actual books! Do you have difficulty controlling your impulses? If so, I highly recommend checking out Freedom or SelfControl. With Freedom, you can schedule regular internet shutdowns and with SelfControl, you can block access to the websites that distract you for a preset period of time. This will help keep you on track and focused!
Join a Book Club: Absolutely, everyone is jumping on board because they are discovering how incredible book clubs can be! Reading has always been a solitary activity, but with the help of a group discussion, you can now make it into an enjoyable social event. If your book club is about more than the opportunity to drink wine and chat, it can become an excellent source of motivation! A well-run book club gives members a sense of accountability that encourages them to reach their goals. It’s paramount to have a core group of people who align with your vision for the club. Moreover, it is a great avenue to explore diverse books that you likely would not encounter independently.
Read What Appeals to You: Over the course of two years and after only having ever read fiction, I made the conscious decision to explore non-fiction works. During that period of my life, I was not able to process stories that weren’t based in reality – thus books centering around biographies and memoirs became the only genre I could comprehend. I’ve come to understand the immense importance of being in a sound mental space when experiencing any form of art. After all, the observer’s mindset is vital and will shape how they interpret what they are viewing.
Read In Spurts: Don’t let lengthy novels intimidate you! If extended reading sessions are not your cup of tea, begin with quick stories or a compilation of essays. It’s truly mind-boggling what authors can craft in short stories. Not only are you able to immerse yourself in a captivating narrative, but also experience the satisfaction of closure each time you become engrossed in its pages.
Go on a Reading Bender: If you’re anything like me, then nothing satisfies quite as much as a beloved page-turner. It’s amazing how quickly time passes when you dive into another world and let hours or even days drift by in its captivating universe. If this is your kind of escapism, then a reading bender is made for you! You need to be strategic when it comes to managing your time. Personally, I’m blessed with being able to travel for work often and make the most of those hours spent on planes by getting in some quality leisure time between trips. I tend to work in one direction and read in the other, ensuring that I have a lengthy list of books with me whenever vacation rolls around.
Our planet is teeming with stories, and I have always been enchanted by how reading can bring us into the lives of people we would never come to know otherwise. Reading provides a tranquil chance to reflect and contemplate the conflict of a character, enabling us to fathom how we would act in their place. Reading not only broadens our understanding of human situations and enables us to construct empathy, but also allows us to gain insight into another’s perspective. Oftentimes, we yearn to come across something spectacular that speaks directly to our hearts and soul. We crave a meaningful phrase that accurately epitomizes the inexpressible sensations deeply embedded within us; words carefully crafted together in an awe-inspiring manner.
Share your best tactics for carving out reading and tech-free time in the comments below! What are some of your go-to strategies for sneaking a few moments to yourself?
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