Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

10 practical tips for finding time to read

If you’ve been following the Interview with a bookworm series, you’ve noticed that almost every interviewee has responded to question “How do you find time to read” with basically the same answer: they make time. 

It’s true. If you want to read, you’ll find the time. If it’s important to you, you’ll find the time. If it’s a priority to you, you’ll find the time. But that still begs the question of how you do find or make the time? 

I understand that, in people’s busy, hectic lives, reading books is something that they long to do but never quite get around to doing. Because it’s relaxing, it’s leisure, and we’re so jam packed and overscheduled, we forget sometimes to fit in activities that make us relax (I could espouse the benefits of reading here and why you should find the time to do it but you can read this post instead. It’s a neat little summary of the highlights I would hit). But you should stop doing that. Instead, here are some ways to fit reading into your day (or week. I like the concept of looking at things in 168 hours rather than 24. Thanks for that tip, Laura Vanderkam, whose new book I’ll be reviewing next week on August 11 for Show Us Your Books):

  • Carve out a set time. Or simply fit it in where you can. Whether it’s 15 minutes in the morning or during your lunch break at work or while you’re sitting in your car waiting for your kid’s lesson to finish or during a plane delay or even on the toilet, designate a specific time every day to read. If you can find 15 minutes to creep on Facebook or Instagram, you can find 15 minutes to read. It helps if you keep a book with you at all times so then there’s no excuse not to have it. Don’t want to lug around a book? Put the Kindle app on your phone or use the iBooks (or whatever Android equivalent) feature.
  • Read the right books at the right time. If you’re reading a book that’s labor intensive, like a business how-to book or something like The Science of Interstellar, trying to do so right before bed probably isn’t the greatest choice (I mean, it might be) and it might put you to sleep before you’ve even finished half a page, leading you to believe you’ll never get any reading done. But if you read something a little lighter, you might make it through a chapter or two which will then snowball into you finishing the whole book before you know it.
  • Establish a “pages read” goal. Rather than deciding you’ll read for 15 or 30 minutes, tell yourself that today you’ll read just one chapter of a book. Or 20 pages. Or set a goal for the week of 100 pages. Or whatever seems manageable. Breaking it down like that make it easier to schedule the time, especially if you write the goal down as one of your weekly goals because you make the time to achieve your goals. No weekly goals? Write it on your daily to-do list. 
  • Trade one TV show for a book. DVR is a magical, wonderful invention. If you’re like me and hate commercials, you’d much rather record a show and watch it later on (even if later on is precisely 5 minutes after it ends) so you can skip said commercials. Well, while you’re waiting for the show to record, read instead. It’s a super simple trade off and you still get to do both. 
  • Use audiobooks. I swear they’re not cheating. Plus, if you spend a lot of time in a car or on a train and get nauseous while you read (or if you’re the one doing the driving), this is a perfect way to read books without vomiting on your seatmate. They’re also great for doing household chores like laundry or cooking. 
  • Don’t compare your reading speed to someone else’s. I read a lot of books every month. I always have. I’m a moderately fast reader. But I’m not nearly as fast as other people. That’s totally fine. If I tried to keep up with someone else, I’d talk myself out of reading because it can be intimidating (“oh, well, I can’t keep up with her. Might as well not even try”). Instead, read at your own pace. It’s not a competitive sport.
  • Read what you enjoy. If you’re trying to read books that other people tell you you’d like or books that you think you “should” be reading even if you don’t like them, you’ll a) never enjoy reading and b) never want to make the time to do it. So, read whatever you want. Because if you like what you’re reading, you’ll make sure that there’s time to read it. Bonus tip #1: don’t let anyone’s opinions on what you read make you ashamed or feel like you shouldn’t be reading those books. If they make you happy, read away. Bonus tip #2: if you don’t like a book, even if you thought you might at first, don’t be afraid to let it go and throw it in the DNF pile. Nothing will deter you more from making time to read than trying to force yourself to read a book you hate. 
  • Okay, this one pains me to write but I’m putting it down anyway. Admit that it’s not a priority and stop making excuses for why you can’t find the time. Almost no one will judge you for not wanting to pick up a book. If reading isn’t a priority for you and you’d rather do something else, that’s fine. It’s your time to use how you’d like. But to make excuses that there isn’t time is kind of, well, incorrect. When you say to me “OMG, how do you read 7 books a month? I barely have time to read my child’s permission slips!” and while that might be true but I see you endlessly scrolling through your phone or hear you talking about what happened on the most recent Dr. Oz, then I know you do have time. You just choose to use yours differently than I do. 

having time

The time to read is there if you want it. You just need to approach your time with a plan. 

Any other tips that I missed? 

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  1. kathy @ more coffee, less talky

    i’ve been toying with the idea of audio books now that i’m running more on the treadmill and would prefer to listen to something other than music…the other day i listened to a howard stern interview and by the time i knew it, i had run past my warmup time. do the people who do audio books use different voices for the characters because that would not fly with me.
    kathy @ more coffee, less talky recently posted…confessions [8-5]My Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think sometimes they do use different voices. I don’t know since I haven’t tried any audiobooks yet. I think time does go by faster when you’re listening to a podcast or interview, though, rather than music since it’s more continuous. Back before it got too hot outside to breathe, I was walking every day and listening to podcasts. Made the time fly by.

  2. Kay R.

    Definitely good tips. Im trying the audiobooks thing. I still think it takes heck long for the narrator to read it to me but I see the benefits and I really only use them in the car anyway!

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I haven’t yet tried the audiobook thing but I based that tip off of what others have said about them. I’m more of a read books/listen to podcasts kind of gal.

      1. Kay R.

        I haven’t listened to a full book yet mainly because the book is 19 hours long on audiobook and I spend 2 hours a day in the car so …. haha. But its ok. I think ill listen to the books Im not really crazy about reading and actuallu cuddle up and the books I want to read.
        Kay R. recently posted…7 Things I splurge on!My Profile

  3. Ali A

    UGHHHHHH. This post increased my reader guilt. I used to be a reading MACHINE and something happened lately where I just…stop. I have no excuse; I commute every day for 2 hours but since I am easily irritated by others I find it hard to read on the LIRR with all the “Background noise.” I also used to read on the beach but lately I’m rarely there alone and instead am joined by a whole slew of friends and family. I haven’t read anything in MONTHS and I need to get back into it. On to Goodreads I go! (are you on there?)
    Ali A recently posted…Have I ever written about how much I love my family?  Oh, just a…My Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      Reading on the LIRR would make me crazy, too. Maybe try putting in your ear buds and reading a few pages? Not the whole ride but maybe for a little bit in the afternoon? That could help.

      OF COURSE I am on Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9322578-jana

  4. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    Totally important to know if you’re not reading the right book at the right time. If I’m not getting through it quickly, that’s usually the reason. Because I don’t want to read it right then.

    Speaking of books, email coming your way re: new link up pic!
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…When I was youngMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I feel the same way. If I’m dragging reading a book, it’s either the wrong time for me to read it or a really bad book.

  5. Amanda

    I tend to get so caught up in reading that I don’t make time for anything else! lol

    1. Jana (Post author)

      Reading is my first priority most days. #noshame

  6. Kati Rose

    When I first started working full time it was so hard to find time to read but then I made it a priority to go to bed 30 minutes earlier each night and carved that time out. It’s all about making it something of importance. (Now my biggest problem is learning to put the book down when it gets good so I get a proper amount of sleep.)
    Kati Rose recently posted…With Your Love, Nobody Can Drag Me DownMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      HAHA! Yes, I have lost many hours of sleep to a good book!

  7. Nadine

    These are great tips!!! My biggest thing that I do, is just read a little here and there when I can. I might not have an hour to sit and read…but I always have a few extra minutes here and there when i am waiting for water to boil or a few minutes before bed to just calm down and relax. I also read on my lunch break nearly every day.
    Nadine recently posted…Deep Thought Confessions and a Link Up Announcement!My Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      YES! There’s always a few minutes to squeeze in a chapter or two. Even during commercials if you watch live TV 🙂

  8. Kristin

    Just like working out or cooking instead of ordering takeout: you have to make the time.
    Audiobooks are my biggest secret. They make me feel so accomplished. But getting Kindle books from the library has changed my life. All of a sudden, getting my hands on books is a million times easier.
    Kristin recently posted…Food I Love (and Food I Hate)My Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I haven’t yet delved into audiobooks because I’m terrified of the narration but I know it’s a great alternative. And I get about 1-2 eBooks per month. Resistance has been futile.

  9. Jaina

    Awesome tips, especially carving out a set time for reading and reading what you enjoy reading. While I think/wish I could probably spend more time reading, there’s only 24 hours in the day. My reading time is in the morning, before I start work. It used to be before I went to bed, in bed. But I quickly learned that I’d start nodding off after only a few minutes of reading, because, BED. I’ve now usually got an hour before I get to work when I can eat my brekkie and read in peace. It’s what I look forward to each morning.
    Jaina recently posted…Portugal – my home away from homeMy Profile

  10. Lindsay

    I guess it’s like anything else in life, you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find the time. Like the excuses people give for not getting to the gym or getting some physical activity in..: never thought of it quite like that before….. Thanks Jana 🙂

    I need to give up a tv show me thinks…..
    Lindsay recently posted…What’s up WednesdayMy Profile

  11. Julia @ Grace Makes New

    Love this! Such good tips. I’ve always been a really fast reader, but only when I really enjoy and get into what I’m reading. Lately I’ve been struggling to find books I really love like that. Plus I feel like technology/social media is taking too much of my time, must find a better balance!
    Julia @ Grace Makes New recently posted…ConfessionsMy Profile

  12. Kristen

    exactly! i have things that simply aren’t a priority to me and they are 100% a priority to other people. i totally agree about comparing, i think i read a ton but there is always someone else who reads more and i find myself thinking well damn, i only read 20 books in a month and she read 25 and then i try and read more but i burn out. i hate that, because reading is my happy place and i hate when i force myself and then hate it. great post Jana!
    Kristen recently posted…Saving Money at Amazon using CamelCamelCamelMy Profile

  13. lisacng @ expandng.com

    I like the “carving out time” tip and relating to taking 15 min to creep on FB so you can do that with reading too. I totally do that! I read in small chunks when I can, usually a chapter at a time. I also like the tip to exchange on TV show for a book!
    lisacng @ expandng.com recently posted…5th birthday {photos}My Profile

  14. alyssa

    Yes to all of these, especially the last two. I get so frustrated when I see people chipping away at sinfully boring books that they have no actual interest in because some college professor drilled it into their heads that Dickens is the greatest author who ever lived of anyone who doesn’t enjoy Faulkner is a dolt. Find what you like and have at it. Don’t worry about what the “greatest hits” are. Unless you’re being graded on the text, it doesn’t matter one damn bit. Read good stuff that you like, and you’ll be amazed at how much time you’re suddenly able to make for reading!
    alyssa recently posted…True ThingsMy Profile

  15. Erin of TexErin-in-SydneyLand

    I’ve said it quite a bit, I am fortunate to be a train commuter. I am given 2 1/2 hours a day for reading. I love the option to give up a tv show for a book. I’ve done that, and I’m happy for it. Also, I really like the piece of advice about not comparing what you read to what someone else reads. Great list, Jana!
    Erin of TexErin-in-SydneyLand recently posted…Fall Film Challenge 2015My Profile

  16. Amber

    I always mark out time to read. Granted, with kids, it can be difficult. But they usually know not to bug me if I’m reading unless they are injured. Otherwise it can wait.
    Amber recently posted…Things That Annoy Me Thursday: Delayed AirplanesMy Profile

  17. Kerry

    I totally agree with all of these, I find the time. I always read first thing in the morning and before bed. I love the idea of doing it while a show is recording the first 15-20 minutes than catching up. I agree the right kind of books make a difference, trying to slug through a book you think you should like just wastes your precious time.
    Kerry recently posted…Friday Favorites | Getting AwayMy Profile

  18. Kristen

    It took me a long time to realize that it’s okay if I don’t read as much or as fast as others. It sounds silly, but I used to worry that I was a slow reader simply because I could rarely finish a book in just a couple of days.

    I completely agree with so much of this, especially reading the right books at the right time and reading what you enjoy. These seem like obvious things, but I’ve been guilty of forcing myself to finish an awful book just because “it might get better” (it usually doesn’t, but, for whatever reason, I still can’t bear to just leave a book unfinished).
    Kristen recently posted…Things I Should Do This Month: My August GoalsMy Profile

  19. Gwen

    OMG, “you do have time, you just choose to spend it differently than I do” is something I say regularly, and not just about books. But in keeping with the topic, if it’s a priority, you’ll find the time to read. If it’s not a priority, you won’t. And that’s OK.

    1. Jana (Post author)


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