“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.”
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:
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?