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Tips for busy bibliophiles who have trouble finding time to read

When I was a child, I remember looking around my school library and vowing to read every single book on the shelves. As a grown-up, I’ve discovered it can be a challenge sometimes to find time to read. I rarely get the luxury of reading an entire book at one sitting anymore.

What I’ve learned: that it’s not so much about finding time to read as making time to read. And as Stephen King pointed out in his On Writing book (which I’m rereading right now), writers need to make time to read. “If you don’t have the time to read, then you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

Here are some useful tips on how to make time to read: some I use myself, some I’ve found in the resources listed at the end of this post. Find something that works for you. And if you have a tip of your own, please do post it in the comments section!

Read more than one book at a time. I have multiple books going at the same time, in print and digitally, depending where I am in our house or what I’m doing.

Embrace the content, not the format. I love the physical experience of holding and reading a print book, but I also love my e-readers (on my iPhone, iPad and Kindle Paperwhite) because the latter enables me to be able to read even in poor lighting. 

Listen to audiobooks. I am subscribed to and also borrow audiobooks from the Toronto Public Library as well as using several audiobook apps. I listen to audiobooks at night when I am insomnia, while doing chores, on flights and trains where the ride is too bumpy for me to easily read (I get motion sickness easily). I confess I was initially skeptical about the idea of “reading” an audiobook and whether the format would be too distracting. But then I listened to Shadow Divers on a long car trip with my husband (he is totally into audiobooks) and found myself completely immersed in the story. I find the narrator is super-important – if someone’s voice or reading manner irritates me, I can’t enjoy the book. Always listen to a sample before buying or borrowing an audiobook! One audiobook I highly recommend, especially if you’re new to audiobooks: The Help. Fantastic narrators.

Read for pleasure in addition to work-related reading. Ideally, your work-related reading is also pleasurable…but sometimes it’s not. You may be reading a book because someone else expects you to or because you feel you should be reading it. This is fine, but be wary of ONLY reading this type of book. Seek out books that appeal to YOU, for whatever reason.

If you’re not enjoying a book, stop reading it and find another book. As Donalyn Miller says in her “So many Books, So Little Time” article, don’t waste your limited reading time and mental energy reading books you don’t enjoy.

Read less random news (and pseudo-news) articles on social media. It’s so easy to get sucked down the link-clicking timesink of social media.

Turn off social media notifications. Do you REALLY need to know right away as soon as someone mentions you on Facebook or Twitter? 

Spend more time reading books, less time reading social media. In the pockets of time when most people are checking their social media, spend that time reading instead.

Spend less time watching tv.

Spend less time doing <pick some other activity> so you can spend more time reading. There are only 24 hours in the day and a big chunk of it is already allocated to sleeping, working and other essentials. Think hard about how you spend the rest of the time.

If you have trouble focusing while reading, start small. Instead of aiming to a ton in a single sitting and then getting frustrated when you’re finding it hard to focus even when you do have the time, aim to read a single chapter at a time. Or a few pages. Or a few paragraphs. 

Schedule in regular time for reading. Sounds odd, I know. But if your schedule is constantly being filled with other activities (hand feebly waving here), this may be a necessity. For instance….

Read before going to bed. Instead of browsing social media or watching Netflix as your bedtime ritual, READ.

Talk about books you like with other people. Find a bookish friend and talk in person or online about what you’ve been reading. Find someone who has similar reading tastes to yours and exchange book recommendations. 

Join or start a book club. Pick books, set deadlines, get together on a regular basis to talk about the books you’re reading.

Join an online reading community like GoodReadsLibraryThing or Shelfari.

Keep a reading log. Write down the books you’ve read so far this year, what books you want to read. Set goals (even if it’s just a few chapters of a certain book a week? a book a week? etc.). 

Always have a book with you. This tip is easier for those of us who always carry some kind of bag. But even when I’m NOT carrying a bag, I always have my iPhone. I have read entire books via iPhone (yes, the type is small but certain apps let you enlarge the typeface), usually in bits and pieces when I’m commuting or in line-ups. I have learned how to read an ebook on my iPhone, turning digital pages with one thumb when necessary, while holding onto a subway train pole with the other.


So Many Books, So Little Time: Tips For Reading Strategically by Donalyn Miller

How To Make Time To Read – by Lauren Jessen

How To Fit Reading Into Your Schedule and Actually Finish The Books You Want To Read  – by Thorin Kiosowski on Lifehacker

Five Ways To Make More Time To Read – by Michael Hyatt

How Busy People Make Time To Read – And You Can, Too – by Laura Vanderkam on Fast Company

Finding Time To Read – Farnam Street

Online Communities For Book Lovers – kate McMillan

How To Find Time To Read – by Oliver Burkeman on The Guardian

How You Can Find More Time To Read Books – by The Everygirl

11 Ways Busy People Make Time To Read – by Eva Lantsoght on