5 Ways to Make More Time to Read

This is a guest post by Robert Bruce, a full-time web writer for Dave Ramsey and a book blogger at 101 Books, where he is currently blogging through Time magazine’s Top 100 English-Speaking Novels. You can follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

“I don’t have time to read.”

When I tell people about my blog, that’s one of the comments I usually hear in response. The implication—or at least the way my possibly oversensitive mind takes it—“You must not have any life to read that many books … loser.”

Young Man Reading on His Bed - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages, Image #14518282

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages

Of course, I exaggerate. But, really, it’s a tension a lot of people in our overworked and overstressed society deal with. They understand that reading is important—after all, their second grade teacher made that clear. But nobody has the time to read a Dr. Seuss book, much less To Kill A Mockingbird or (gasp!) Infinite Jest.

In the last few years, I’ve dramatically changed my lifestyle. I’ve trained for five half marathons and two full marathons while working a full-time job. I’ve read 30 novels since last September. And, on top of all that, my wife and I had our first child last June. Kids have a slight effect on your schedule. Maybe you’ve heard?

Life is hectic around our house. But I’ve somehow managed to make time to read in the middle of all that. And I say that not to pat myself on the back but to show that, even with a busy life, it is possible (and important) to make time for hobbies you’re passionate about.

Here are a few tips that have helped me:

  1. Sacrifice something. You’ve got 24 hours in a day. You spend 8–10 hours (hopefully not much more) working. You spend 6–8 hours sleeping. You’ve got family and friends to spend time with every day. All of this doesn’t leave much time for other interests, like reading. So your golf game, like mine, might take a hit. You might have to turn off the television after 9:00 p.m. But, if reading is a priority, you’ll make time for it. As Jon Acuff puts it: “Be selfish at 5 a.m.”
  2. Make a routine. If I say I’m just going to “find time to read,” then it will never happen. I have to make time to read. So here’s what I do: I read during my lunch break, and I read at night, beginning around 8:45, after family time, after the wife and little guy are in bed.
  3. Set a goal. You’ve heard this so much that it’s clichéd. But it works. My goal is to read 101 novels. Usually, I would’ve given myself a deadline, but I didn’t want to speed read through the books, so I just chose to read them as they come. At my current pace, I’ll reach my goal in three more years. Maybe you should set a goal to read one book a month. If that seems unlikely, then make it one book every two months. And take it a step further—tell someone about your goal. Or, if you’re crazy like me, start a blog about it. There’s nothing like that extra accountability to keep you moving.
  4. Have fun. You don’t have to read a book simply because a friend suggested it, you know? Think about your hobbies, interests, and passions—then go and read about those subjects. I once spent five months reading nothing but casual, behind-the-scenes books about restaurants and chefs. I’m a chef groupie, I guess. Once you’ve read a few “fun” books, then dabble into the more serious, thought-provoking stuff.
  5. Mix it up. Once you get into the flow of reading, branch out of your comfort zone. If all you’ve read is nonfiction business books, then relax a little and pick up a novel. If you’ve plowed through Stephen King’s entire catalog in a few years, maybe it’s time to give a leadership or inspirational book a try. The point is: If you read the same style of book over and over, you’ll eventually get burned out and go back to watching two hours of Brady Bunch reruns every day…unless you’re reading 101 books for some crazy blog, of course.

As a result of these basic steps, I’ve dramatically altered my lifestyle over the last year. If I’m not at work or spending time with family or friends, I’m probably reading. At 9:00 every evening, you can probably find me in my “man cave,” in my chair, lights dimmed, reading a book or updating my blog. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hopefully, one day, my mind will thank me for the daily exercise. As Dr. Seuss says, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

And who’s going to argue with Dr. Seuss?

Question: How could you make more time for reading? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Heather

    As I college student I can totally relate to all of this. My friends will catch me reading a book non-school related and gasp because they just dont see how I could possibly have the time to do such a thing. For me it’s a matter of keeping my sanity. With all of the reading that I’m forced to do for school I need to chose something for myself that I can just enjoy. It’s a way of relaxing while still letting my mind be active, whereas watching a movie means becoming a vegetable for
    A couple of hours. I normally take 30 minutes everyday or every other day, depending on the homework load for the week, and just dedicate it to my book of choice. I switch between more difficult authors, like c.s Lewis, and easier more modern day novelists. (I’m just a lover of a good story). The last one that I read was The Help by: Kathryn Stocket and I must say it was so fantastic.
    I will also say that having my iPad makes reading so accessible when traveling. I still prefer the feel of a real book, but ebooks have become a huge part of my life.

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    Robert, thanks for the great advice.  I especially liked #5-”Mix it up.”  This is a good thing for me to hear… I typically read a narrow range of books–non-fiction, mostly.  I’ll have to look into some fiction books :)

  • http://www.joyfullythriving.com Kristen

    What a great reminder of ways to make reading take precedence in your life. Last year, I started writing down all the books I read and found that I read 97 books. I was so disappointed that I didn’t make it to 100! That’s my goal for this year…and I’m almost there. Making reading a priority is so important. Thanks for that reminder!

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Love the post, Robert!  If you look at the statistics at how much television the average person watches – most people would have plenty of time to read – they could just turn off the tube!  Great ideas, though, on how to develop the discipline of reading – thanks so much!

  • shellyanglin

    Wonderful! I love the thouht that “finding time,” is impossible and “making time,” is imperative. Of all the reasons we have for not living the very life we most desire, “I don’t have time,” as if we are victims of the clock, is so defeating. At the very least, we need to accept our own choice and say, “I prefer to spend my time elsewhere.”

    I appreciate you reminding me! Thank you!

    Shelly
    http://www.areyoulivinginjoy.com

  • Jared Detter

    Read while you’re doing things you already do.  I read while I brush my teeth.  I have an electronic toothbrush that runs for two minutes.  If I read one page every time I brush my teeth, I will read an additional 730 pages per year.  If the average book has 300 pages in it, I’ve read almost 2.5 extra books that year.  If the average book has 200 pages in it, I’ve read almost 4 extra books that year.  I also take a book with me when I work out.  Instead of just staring at myself in the mirror for 30 seconds as I rest between sets, I read one page.  Apply that principle to stuff you already do, and you’d be surprised how you come up with opportunities.

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  • http://momonthegoinholytoledo.com/ Kat

    I think setting a goal is a great idea.  I am a work from home mom of 3 (toddler, preschooler, and kindergartener) and I am currently reading 2 different books.  I have made it a routine that I only read one of the books while I wait in my car to pick up the kiddos from school.  I have found that I am always early because I enjoy reading as many pages as I can before school let’s out.  So, reading has actually made me punctual for pick-up. The other book I tend to read here-and-there but I have found that escaping to the laundry room to read a few pages quietly to be highly effective.  It seems to be the one room in our house that only mom dare to enter. You have inspired me; I think I will set a goal.  But will I succeed? With advice like this yes! Yes, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)

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  • Akinsjob

    Thanks for this Michael.

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  • Anonymous

    My goal for this year is to read one book a month (that is besides the textbooks I must read and the devotional that I read each morning). I am also posting this goal on my blog. Again,  this post is just what I needed to read! 

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      You’ll accomplish that with no problem Vanessa! Just break it down into easy to accomplish steps like how many pages a day you will need to read, use any spare time you have, and try not to fall behind.

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  • http://www.odd-news.net/ weird news

    Awesome idea, definitely i’ll give it a try. Thanks for share. :)

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  • http://twitter.com/Chyzob chibuzo ogbonna

    I am totally new here and gbam … I’m totally sold to this blog.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dawit.w.degefa Dawit Worku Degefa

    I have to love reading first, the concept of reading, and then no matter what reading will be one of my basic needs.

  • http://twitter.com/Nathan_Roten Nathan Roten

    I have found myself struggling with this very issue.  Thanks for the insight!

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  • Xuan96-smile

    i shall read after dinner… having my homework completed as the only term XP
    thanks for the motivation :)

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  • Prem

    Great tips. I love reading, but started struggling to finish books. A few months back, I started rising early – 4 am and after a light session of Yoga, started reading books I love. The quiet is amazing and I could read better. I am much happier nowadays. Cheers

  • Roso2son

    IF you are in your own house, go dress up & put your shoes on. That way when you start reading, you don’t just lie down on your couch & read for 5 minutes & sleep on w/ your book for an hour! I find this “ritual” as self-restraining, to avoid what must be avoided: snoring. Or better, I leave the house  & swing by the nearest Starbucks coffee shop. That you know it aint your house & you are not suppose to sleep in a public place like the coffee shop. Besides, caffein & your fave book are good chums. For me, I find both ways effective & practical….

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  • Fabian Markl

    I have another Dr. Seuss for you, whenever you have finished a nice novel:

    “Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened”

    This article is great! Because you have exactly one life to read the greatest books on the planet.
    On average, a person reads merely one book per year, which means that most people may never be able to do what you are doing, and know what you are knowing.

    I have been an average reader (and I am a graduate student) most of my life, but in the past few years I increased my reading amount from 10 books per year to 100 books per year.
    It keeps growing year by year.

    Some simple almost primitive reading techniques helped me to double my reading speed in few weeks by myself.

    Enjoy, your novels!

    All the best,
    Fabian Markl.

    http://www.rapidstudents.com/