Readers, let's talk about reading habits today! I've always been a reader, but when 2014 ended and I realized that I had only read three books that year (two of which I never actually finished), I knew I had to change something. Between starting a new job, getting engaged, and starting a Masters program, I had a lot going on and wanted to prioritize reading because it's something that I enjoy. In 2015, I made it a goal to read at least 15 books (and finally finish the Harry Potter series) and succeeded. In 2016 I vowed to only read female authors and ended up reading 28 books. In 2017 I wanted to hit 30 books, which I did. In 2018, I told myself I would read 50 books and surpassed that by reading 72 books.
Being on #bookstagram has been a huge motivator in my reading life. When I first joined the #bookstagram community, I was quite shocked at how many books people read in a month (and, admittedly, still am). Then, over time, I slowly started seeing my monthly number climb up as I incorporated some new habits in my life. Here are four ways that I find more time to read.
1. Replace TV with books
This habit has had the most significant influence on my reading life. It is undoubtedly what allowed me to read 72 books in 2018. Towards the end of 2017, my husband and I were coming home from work, eating dinner on the couch while watching TV, and staying in that spot until bedtime a few hours later. We didn't like the routine we had fallen in to, so we decided that our resolution for the new year should be to not watch any TV. When my husband suggested it, I was skeptical at first: "What will we do with all that extra time? What will we talk about? (lol) Won't I be behind the times if I don't watch TV?" He gently eased my fears and assured me it would be okay.
New Year's Day rolled around, and we tucked the remotes away and actually sat at our dining room table for dinner. We made a nice meal, lit candles, and then retired to the couch with our books in hand. I won't lie that it was weird at first, but we decided that we would commit to it for at least one month and see how it went. Cut to 13 months later, and we haven't watched any TV since! Now, to be clear, we have watched plenty of movies on weekend evenings but our new weekday routine is to make dinner, eat at the table, and then read. These days my husband is often doing schoolwork, and sometimes I get sucked into a puzzle, but for the most part, I spend about 2-4 hours each evening reading after dinner. This has helped immensely with reading more. It's funny how quickly I realized that a typical book takes 4-8 hours to read, so I can usually finish a book in 2-3 nights. And - spoiler - I don't miss watching TV at all.
Now, I get that not everyone wants to make that lifestyle change. But I do think it's worth assessing how much time you are dedicating to screen time. Perhaps you devote one night per week to reading instead of TV. Or you decide to read for 30 minutes each night before you turn your favorite show on. I also like to keep an eye on how much time I'm spending on my phone by setting up the Screen Time notifications so that once I have hit a certain amount of time on my phone for the day, it will notify me.
2. Read while you eat
I frequently will read a few pages while eating breakfast or lunch. Even though I may only get 10 pages in, that adds up! Plus, it's a nice break from my computer if I read over lunchtime, and reading over breakfast is simply the loveliest way to start the day.
This tip can also translate to reading during your commute (mine is pretty short) if you commute via train or are an audiobook fan and can listen while you make your way to work.
3. Read what you want
Do you have a stack of books staring you down but you have zero interest in them? I actually find that having books around that I feel like I 'should' read but don't actually want to read can really zap my motivation. Additionally, forcing yourself to read something you aren't enjoying can really slow you down as well. Clean off your shelves and don't be afraid to put down a book that you're just not feeling. I've embraced the concept of 'not finishing' a book over the last year, and it's been great to put down books that just aren't for me.
If you're looking for a little inspiration on what to read, browse #bookstagram, Goodreads, or some 'best of' lists from various websites and then put the books on hold at the library. There is nothing better for reading motivation than coming home with a giant stack of library books, knowing full well that you won't get to read all of them before they're due. Plus, this saves you money as well!
4. Don't glamorize it
In the great reading slump of 2014, I realized that I was glamorizing reading. The more time that I spent away from it, the more I kept telling myself that it had to be the perfect situation to read. I had to have literally nothing else to do, preferably it was raining, I had a big chunk of time, and I could light candles and put cozy socks on and get under a giant blanket. While that situation sounds lovely, and occasionally happens, that's not the everyday reality of how I read. I was telling myself that reading would take too much effort (more so than watching TV) and I realized that I'm never going to feel completely calm, stress-free, or carefree every time I pick up a book. In fact, picking up a book usually gets me into a better headspace if I am feeling those emotions. It's a great escape, stress reliever, and empathy booster. So, if you're trying to get back into reading, I suggest just diving in and picking up that book at any time of the day.
What are some ways you incorporate reading in your every day life?