How I Find Time to Read

How I Find Time to Read

If you’ve spent five minutes on this blog, you probably know I read a lot–because I love it, and because I depend on the bibliotherapy to get me through my crazy days. (Four kids, you know?)

I don’t know how other bookworms read like it’s their job, but here’s how I do it.

Choose good books. 

I keep track of what I want to read in Goodreads, but I also have a physical stack of books I want to read (okay, maybe three or four stacks) around the house. I always have books I’m excited to read within easy reach.

Also, if you have a list (or pile) of books you want to read next, that gives you motivation to finish your current read.

what I'm reading

Utilize the power of suggestion. 

I usually have a book (or six) sitting on my nightstand, a couple on the coffee table, and a Kindle in my purse. I always have easy access to a good read, but I also am surrounded by visual reminders that I could be reading–and that I have a ton of good books waiting their turn.

These ever-present books inspire me to pick up my current read, because there are plenty of good ones to replace it when I’m done.

(Hey mamas–this works for kids, too. My kids will read almost anything if I leave it on the table and don’t try to sell them on it.)

Seize the moment. 

I’m okay with reading in ten-minute bursts. If I only read when I had a big chunk of time to devote to my book, I wouldn’t read very often. I’ll catch a few minutes before dinner, or waiting for ball practice to end, or while my kids are entertaining themselves in the backyard.

Read several books at once. 

I almost always have several books going at once. There is an art to doing this without going crazy, but I recommend it because if I’m not in the mood for the novel, I can read the nonfiction. If I don’t have time for a whole chapter before bed, I can read a poem. And when I finish a book, I don’t experience decision paralysis when I have to choose my One Next Read.

My current selections are pretty typical: I’m reading a novel (Maisie Dobbs), nerdy nonfiction (Predictably Irrational), a book about the craft of writing (Escaping into the Open), and a book of poetry (The House of Belonging). I also started Jane, Actually: or, Jane Austen’s Book Tour on my Kindle last week, but I haven’t touched it since. (Out of sight, out of mind.)

How I find time to read in the midst of a busy life

Find a rhythm. 

I almost always read a chapter or two during our daily rest time to decompress after homeschooling my kids all morning. (I used to feel like this was indulgent, until I realized I’m much more productive after a reading break.)

I typically read fiction to relax before bed, unless I think I’ll have trouble putting it down (a common problem). Memoirs make good bedtime reading, as does any book that’s best read a few pages at a time. (I couldn’t get into The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction until I started reading it a few pages at a time, right before bed.)

I also keep a stack of books by the bed that are easy to dip in and out of. Right now, that includes The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (it’s amazing), The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives, and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. These books are enjoyable, but I don’t have any problem closing them and going to bed–unlike a great novel where I might feel compelled to begin the next chapter.

Do you read a lot? How do you find the time?

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80 comments

  1. Meg Evans says:

    I love that you shared this! I also keep loads of books stacked around the house, and I have no problem reading a few pages while waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil. I also read a couple of books at a time, and it’s much easier to do when it’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction.

      • lisa says:

        I remember those days and getting through the day with a newborn is trying, but spend that nursing time looking in their eyes and connecting with them. Cell phones already take us away from many of their waking hours…….The time really flies and the years are gone.

  2. Jillian Kay says:

    I take public transportation, which is when I do most of my reading. Metro rail has become the key to my sanity since I had kids.

    I have been making a real effort to relax more on weekends, which probably sounds weird to some, but is really hard for me. My most successful method to force relaxation is to read non-fiction during the week and fiction on the weekends. If it’s a story I really like, I have no problem finding the time to sit and read the whole thing on Saturday and Sunday. (I’m also a really fast reader.)

  3. Amanda says:

    Like Allie above, I started reading while I’m nursing. I take advantage of the apps on my phone and read on there-easy to keep my spot and I usually have it with me! Lately I’ve been trying to read before bed as well. I’ve gotten into the habit of scrolling through Pinterest or something on my phone, and I’ve been trying to replace that with an actual book. Much more relaxing.

  4. Karlyne says:

    My secret to reading a lot is to always have a book on or near me. I don’t go anywhere(either in the house or out) without a book. (What if you get stuck in road construction? Or have car trouble? Or, horrors! have to wait for someone who is late?) My favorite book, of course, is a nice paperback, so that I’m not toting an 80# History of the World around with me – although I suppose as long as you switch your carrrying arms, that might be a nice way to get in some weight-training…

  5. Tuija says:

    Best time for reading: when my son has gone to bed and I’m waiting for my husband to finish whatever he’s doing so we can have our evening chat/prayer time.
    Other good times for reading: any waiting times, short or long. (Like someone mentioned: while the pasta water boils. Or the time between my saying “dinner’s ready” and everyone getting to the table.) I take 2-page toilet breaks – or longer. 🙂
    And I sometimes listen to audiobooks while walking/jogging/driving.
    One thing I noticed: when I limited my internet activity this summer, I suddenly had a lot of time for reading…

  6. Brianna says:

    I love to read but my problem is finding good books. I like books that grip me, and I get distracted easily (I wasn’t always like this, just since I had a toddler running around). Since I don’t BUY books, I got to the library, I find it extra hard to find good books.

  7. Carrie says:

    I read about two hours a day, not counting reading aloud with kids for homeschool or pleasure. I used to read in the middle of the day, but then I realized that I needed to have the discipline to reserve reading for when I was tired (or I wouldn’t get enough writing and blog work done). So now I mostly read in the evenings when I’m brain dead. 🙂

  8. Jessica says:

    I try to keep books on CD from the library in my car to listen to during my commute. I’m often listening to NPR, but when I need a news break, books on cd are great.

  9. Kara Fleck says:

    Yes, keeping several books going on at once. (I do something similar with knitting, too). If it seems like I’m always finishing a book, it might have taken me a few weeks or even months, but I always have a variety going so I can read whatever I’m in the mood for when I actually have a free moment.

  10. Magdalen says:

    I’ve been working on the finding time to read thing, having just moved into a dorm and finding my schedule completely turned on its head! I try to establish some reading time, though–either before or after dinner almost every day I’ll go outside to sit on a bench and read. I do let my required reading count for that, since right now it’s the Iliad and I love it so much it’s not a chore.
    What I’ve done lately that helps me make the most of my reading time is to cut out a lot of the “fluff” reading I’d do previously just because I needed something to do. I’ve been sticking to classics, and I feel like now I get a lot more out of my limited free time.

  11. Stacey says:

    Great suggestions! You are my bookworm hero 😉

    I tend to get most of my reading done at night. I go to bed about an hour before I plan to actually sleep, because that’s about the only quiet time I ever get to read!

  12. Anna says:

    I could have written this post exactly. In fact, I think I have a draft in WordPress about this waiting to be posted someday. I don’t think I’m quite as fast of a reader, but I use all these same tricks to get in my reading. The other thing I point out to people is that I *need* to read. It gives me energy second only to being completely alone. If I can get them together, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot!

    • Anne says:

      “The other thing I point out to people is that I *need* to read. It gives me energy second only to being completely alone.”

      Exactly. I’m the same way. 🙂

  13. Brittany says:

    I keep Grammar Girl’s book on my desk :). I love these tips and I’ll have to remind myself that if I only have 10 minutes, that’s still worth cracking open my nearest book in progress. These are great tips! Thanks!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Believe it or not, I have been beating myself up because I have several books going at once, and feel like a loser because I should finish one before I start the next, so thanks for affirming that it is okay to have several going at once!!!! What a relief! 🙂

    • Molly says:

      Someone once told me, “If you can keep track of what is happening in multiple TV shows, you should be able to keep track of what is happening in multiple book plots.” Since then I’ve almost always had at least three books going simultaneously.

  15. Molly says:

    I have bus ride in the mornings and afternoons and usually keep one fiction and a nonfiction book with me for each ride. Usually nonfiction in the morning and fiction in the afternoon. If I’m between books it’s my knitting time!

    p.s. My MIL just gave me some of the Maisie Dobbs books to read – but not the first one! I still need to track it down at the library.

  16. 'Becca says:

    I read while eating, mainly. I grew up being forbidden to read at the table and hated it, so in my home now, the only rules are that you must stop reading if someone’s talking to you, and you may not leave your reading material on the table when you’re done.

    I also read during my commute on city bus, but since it’s only 3 miles and I usually don’t have to wait long for the next bus, that’s not very much time.

    I like to read on the porch in warm weather, or under a blanket on the couch in cold weather, but that doesn’t happen every day and sometimes less than once a week.

  17. Breanne says:

    I love that you answered this question because I get the same question a lot and I wonder how other people find/make time to read. I read in the evenings, always have a book (and notebook) in my purse and have several on the go, at all times. I read to unwind and to learn and I love it. =)

  18. I do pretty much all the same things you do! Although lately I’ve been bad about turning to my cell phone, instead of a book, when I only have 10 minutes (curses upon you Candy Crush!) and it’s crazy how my reading rate has plummeted.

    P.S. Are you loving Maisie???

  19. Enjoyed Masie Dobbs– and love the Grammar podcsts– didn’t know she had a book!! Thanks for the tip! And also like seeing the library books among your photos of book piles. I’m a big library fan…

  20. Nicole says:

    “I used to feel like this was indulgent, until I realized I’m much more productive after a reading break.”

    Hm, interesting. I think this might apply to me, too, and now I’m curious to see if I am indeed more productive when I give myself some reading time.

    I think honestly my main problem is being distracted by social media. Sometimes it’s easier to scroll thru IG instead of reading a few pages when I have some downtime. Of course the kicker is that I never regret reading but I often feel like I wasted my time when I got sucked into FB or something. I’d love to know if you set limits on social media to protect your reading time or if it’s not really much of a battle for you?

    Thanks for sharing, Anne!

  21. Melanie B says:

    Your list is very similar to mine. My biggest secret is the pile of books in the bathroom. I also started reading in brief chunks and reading multiple books at a time. I like the idea of always having a book of poetry going. I do on occasion, but that’s the genre I’m mostly likely to let fall off my radar.

  22. Melanie B says:

    Oh and I forgot to mention that I totally agree about leaving books around for the kids. I find that’s the best way to gt them to read the books I want them to read. Much better than nagging.

  23. Rachel says:

    I was wondering this whole post if you ever read any of Elizabeth Berg’s posts. Then I realized Escaping into the Open is one of hers! I recently saw her books in the library and decided to try one. Fell in love and am now on y 4th of her novels 🙂

    Also I feel like we are reading soul mates.

    • Anne says:

      Yay for reading soulmates!

      I read Escaping into the Open, but haven’t read any of her novels—yet. The Art of Mending is on my nightstand right now.

      • Rachel Komlo says:

        Art of Mending is amazing. So is Year of Pleasures. I’m just starting What We Keep. Her books are so good for the soul 🙂

  24. Shelley says:

    I tend to sneak some time in (30 minutes?) before making dinner….late afternoon. I NEED that downtime before embarking on evening activities. Often after dinner, my whole family will sit on the couch and read independently there before my husband and I read to the kids. I also often read after the kids are in bed, only watching TV here and there when something really worthwhile to me is on. Many nights, books trump TV.

    I also always carry a book with me for those in-between moments and YES, I too read while waiting for the water to boil! 😉

  25. LOVE these tips! Thanks for sharing. I do all of these, too, except the reading multiple books at once – I just can’t do it unless one is nonfiction/anecdotal and the other is a fiction novel. But I do always have a REALLY good book on-deck that I want to get to. My Goodreads account is linked to my Facebook feed, so friends are constantly asking me how I read “so much.” I really don’t think I read THAT much – during my lunch break at work every day and a few times a week before bed – but I those short spurts add up! And it’s a priority for me; if I don’t get to read during my lunch break, my afternoon is just never quite as good.

  26. Krista says:

    I am a little late to the game here, but I’d like to chime in. I also read several books at once, in case I need to shift my focus. One other thing I do is to always make sure I have a book on my iPhone. I check ebooks out from the library and I have ebooks I’ve bought from BN and Amazon, so if I find myself waiting at the doctor’s office, in line at the post office or grocery store, or anywhere else where I only have five or ten minutes to read, I can read! (Those books are usually books that require less focus because it’s hard when you’re only reading five or ten minutes at a time to pick a really “deep” book!)

  27. Jaime says:

    I enjoyed reading this! I never understand when people say they don’t have time to read. I thought maybe I was just crazy in the way I devour (most) books.

    The biggest thing that helps me read all the time is owning a Kindle Paperwhite (and the Amazon Kindle app on my phone, though I prefer my actual Kindle. It’s nice though, they sync up so I always have a “book” with me). It’s small, I can carry it around and read it anytime – outside, in bed, while eating, in the bath (just don’t drop it!).

    I never thought I’d like reading on a screen, but the convenience outweighs any cons. I remember all the times I attempted holding a book while eating or the crazy wind at the beach flipping my pages. Also when traveling, I always argued with myself over packing books because they took up so much room. The Kindle Paperwhite takes away all those problems. I love it!

    • Anne says:

      I just bought a few 800 page books for Kindle for just that reason: I LOVE long books but I HATE lugging them around! (I’m glad you love your Paperwhite and that it helps you read more. 🙂 )

  28. Anne–thanks for this. Ben is a lot like you; but, lately hasn’t had as much time to read. I forget what book he read ages ago, maybe it was the Paradox of Choice. In it the author spoke of the people who are “maximizers” and those who are “satisfiers.” I fall into the maximizer camp and him the latter. I wonder if you’re a satisfier; because, it’s all about being satisfied with the choice one makes without second guessing there is a better choice. They tend to be more content. While maximizers will weigh out all their options, and try to make the best possible choice. This typically leads to more discontent and lack of actually making a choice.

    I say all this in thinking of books. I get so overwhelmed by my choices that I don’t know where to begin or what if I don’t like my choice. I like your ideas here and I’ll begin applying them. I could definitely do 10 minute increments.

    • Anne says:

      That IS The Paradox of Choice, and I have been working for years to beat my inner maximizer (100% my default nature) into submission. I still struggle with this with reading a wee bit, but not too much. An abundance mentality helps: I spend a lot of time reading; there’s always time for another book. But that moment when I have to choose my NEXT read is still a little paralyzing. 🙂

  29. Kristen Stez says:

    I thought I was the only crazy person who read 6 different books at one time:) When people ask me how I find time to read, I tell them that I don’t watch much television, don’t have a Netflix subscription, and I keep my time on the computer to a minimum. It works for me!

  30. Caroline says:

    Nearly all the reading I do these days is out loud to my kids. One exception to this would be date nights with my husband. I truly believe that our best conversations happen over books!

  31. Deon says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I keep a pile of books by my bed, but never thought about keeping non-novels by the bed. I also have the problem of getting sucked into a bed time read, so something like a collection of short stories or nonfiction would be great idea.

    I’m also glad I’m not the only one that does stacks of books. I’ve got a stack of about six books on my night stand at home.

  32. Brittany Remme says:

    I am a full time nurse anesthesia student and I find time to read a book every 3 weeks. I will usually pair the paper copy with the audio book I check out from the library for free. This way when I am walking my dog, doing my dishes, laundry, sitting in traffic I can read my book. I love having the paper copy and this way I have a choice of mediums. Plus the audiobooks are free!

  33. Michelle says:

    I love your ideas and have many that are similar. I came across your blog about a week ago and fell in love. I was an English Major in College (many, many moons ago) and love nothing more than a good spring day, and good book, and a place to read. I have evolved my reading since college, now I vacillate between being a 10 minute reader (sometimes I get places early so I can have a half hour to read in the car!). Love the blog, love the book suggestions. I am just starting a blog as place to chronicle my love of reading for myself, what I read and when, as well as a few humorous tidbits of life along the way. Thanks for being inspiring!

  34. rhea says:

    wonderful thing to write about.. as we grow older the mind gets more crowded and so does the hours in a day.. very nice site Mrs Darcy..

  35. I wrote a post on my blog about finding time to read too, I suppose this is why your post stood out to me on pinterest this morning. 🙂 I work full time outside of home and have two boys and a husband. I rarely have quiet or down time to read, so I am really starting to love audiobooks. I get more things done at home because I want to keep listening! I do enjoy opening an actual book, but it’s not as convenient (or affordable) having a great selection to read. The library is great, but I don’t make it out there as often as I’d like; so at this time in my life, listening to free books on my kindle app or overdrive app is very convenient. ~Yessel

  36. Jennice says:

    I read at least 6 books at a time. I read them 100 pages at a time in rotation. I keep track of them on Goodreads as well. I always read a book that will fit into my purse when I have to go out. I read before bed, and during commercial breaks, and sometimes I will spend the entire weekend reading in my room while my daughter ignores me watching youtube.

  37. polly says:

    I enjoy your blog and, like you,I have a hodge podge style of reading.I have a book by my bed- or 2- and One I take in the car with me for waiting rooms, red lights,traffic, etc.I’m very pleased that 4 out of 5 of my kids take after me in this way. My husband isn’t in love with reading as a hobby, but every sop often he finds an author or a fiction series and reads everything he can from that author. then he’ll go months just reading the daily newspaper and the 2 magazines we get , Time and The Week, which all our kids also read when the new issue comes in and is on the counter, from our 7 yr old to our college kids, when they’re home.:)

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