First up, it has been a few years since I read as consistently as I have read in the past few months so if you tell me you have no time to read, I’ll believe you. I set a Goodreads Challenge to read forty books this year, so far, I am on track. But I have only been able to do that by making time to read. This has made me think about the strategies you need if you want to read more. Scratch that, if you need to read more.
When I first had my baby (he’s six now), I was still a member of a book club with University friends and would turn up increasingly late and having read increasingly less. My husband’s schedule often meant I couldn’t go, so I dropped out. (Sorry lovely friends, no grown-up time for me) And with that, I have read less and less.
Being a parent is very full on at times. My son isn’t the biggest fan of sleep and my first foray back into reading was listening to audiobooks on my phone, sat on the floor trying to keep him settled at night. He no longer needs me to sit in the hallway just outside his bedroom to all hours. This may explain why some of my brain power has started to return. Just a little more sleep than a few years ago. At that time, I mainly enjoyed books I had read in the past: classics like Pride & Prejudice or Anne of Green Gables, not to mention Harry Potter which whiled away a fair few of those uncomfortable hours sitting in the dark.
I always read a lot on holiday by sharing the childcare, but it shouldn’t have to be one or two weeks a year where I can do this. So, I have been analysing when I can read and making time to do so.
The evening should be a good time to read (on the nights my son decides to go off to sleep at a reasonable-ish time.) But as well as trying to overcome the fatigue of my day, clean up the house, the TV goes on when my husband gets back. Even though he has work to do still, he likes a background of rubbish TV. So I could say turn off the TV, but this isn’t realistic for everyone, particularly if you just have one main room in your house like we do. One solution: we have some of those headphones that connect to the television so he can listen, and I can read or write.
There is also the time before bed. I give myself an earlier bedtime than the husband so that I can read. But you know what happens if you’re too comfortable, falling asleep is what happens. I suppose that instead of always saying I should use my evening, I have had to be more realistic about finding little pockets of time to read.
Not unlike my article on trying to find a place to write, my top tip would be to leave the house. This may seem like the ultimate indulgence, fancy going to do something you love in a comfortable café or even, as does not happen often, having a weekend away. But the thing is if you want to write, you have got to read.
One way I justify taking time away from home to read is by reading in genres that I am writing in. I say genres because I cannot decide and have several works started. Creative butterfly that I am, I am as happy flitting from one book to another as I am writing one book and then another.
As I read more, I learn more about the genres that interest me, whether psychological thrillers, fantasy, historical or literary. None of this research is wasted. Not least because it makes sense to spot trends in publishing whether the bloody books ever get written or not!
Another massive change I have made since the beginning of the year is organising my house more. This has partly been inspired by Marie Kondo but also by great Youtube influencers who share their routines (see suggestions below). I find that having simple routines in place has really helped to keep on top of the basics around the house. By gradually working through the categories set out by Kondo, I am quite literally making space in my life for what I want more of. In this case, the time to read.
I have been much stricter about always having something to read. Instead of using some of my commute or housework-time to listen to podcasts, I juggle this with reading. Although I think that there is amazing story-telling to be found in Podcasts so I don’t discount time spent doing this (even if it doesn’t count towards my Goodreads total!) I have my kindle app, I have my kindle and I have (gasp) real books. I have identified those books that I want to read through the Goodread apps and then I flit between them.
Flitting may not be for everyone but the truth is that on the ten-minute bus journey to work, I have a few minutes for a self-help book by Gretchen Rubin or a lightweight comedy. I can’t bear having to cut off a scene of great tension so these I keep for times when I have escaped with my book and have a set half an hour to read.
As part of my resolution to read more, I have set up an app on my phone telling me how much I use my phone. The statistics are horrifying! But now I can see the Kindle usage go up, I feel better about the whole thing. Though the stats they give you may show you spend way too much on there generally, it has made me more mindful about what I want to use the phone for. Keeping up with friends and reading being two priorities
Although I still think social media can help with your goal to read more. There are some great book lovers #bookbloggers and the #writingcommunity on Twitter and an invaluable source of help and support. Not least to increase my TBR (to be read) pile. As well as my reading challenge, I have shared the books I have read online. All of which adds some much-needed accountability.
If you’re a Mum like me, how do you find time to read? Do you feel guilty if you take the time? I listened to a great podcast recently, Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival also shared how she makes time to read. An important point she makes reminds us if we want our children to grow up readers, it’s good for them to catch us reading. Happy reading!