How to Make Time for Reading

I just frittered away thirty minutes of precious morning time deleting emails, staring at the day's schedule, and reading portions of 3 different articles. Portions. Because I was in a hurry and didn't have time to read the whole article.  So I bookmarked them and I'll come back to them later when I have more time.

I am giving away my days in ten minute increments. I need to stop talking about when I have more time because the days are not actually going to get longer.

It doesn't have to be social media or internet rabbit holes that keep me from getting important things done: I can polish the counter before I make dinner, move a pile of laundry three times before just folding it, or wander around the grocery store without a plan and a list.

There are all kinds of ways to waste the days or the minutes, and some time-wasting is perfectly ok because God didn't design us to be automatons and life doesn't have to be all about efficiency and production; but important things get crowded out in the wasted days.

There are things that require sustained focus and attention, and they are the first to go in fragmented days of distracted living.

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. {Psalm 90:12 NKJV}

Reading is not the most important task, but it is symbolic of the things we don't make time for when we're distracted.

Statistics show that the average American read 4 books in 2015, but my goal this year is 24.  This is highly ambitious because I am The World's Slowest Reader, but I have the accountability of 11 students whom I tutor on Wednesdays to keep me in check.

Besides accountability, scheduling a Reading Day has helped me get more focused reading done.

I generally try to grab 15 minutes here and there to make progress in my reading, as well as using Audible to listen to several books a year, but I have a hard time sitting down in the middle of the day to read for an hour or two. I get tired when I sit (sometimes I stand or walk around the house while reading) and it's also mentally hard for me to stop during the day.

Making an event out of reading gives me the sustained time to read that not only helps me with my goal of 24 books this year, but also disciplines me to develop focus—something I lack. (See Deep Work.)

What is a Reading Day?

Last summer I took my youngest daughter and her friend to a huge used bookstore, where they spent several hours and a large wad of their own cash. It was glorious. I told the girls they had to actually read the books they were buying, not just line their shelves with great titles and beautiful covers, and I immediately felt convicted by my own words.

I collect books and don't read them all.

In an effort to hold us all accountable, I told the girls we'd schedule a day to just read books and chill, and our first Reading Day was on.

I invited reading-friends. We wore comfy pants. Everyone brought something to read and something to snack on, and maybe a crochet project or other activity to break up their reading. I provided coffee and a quiet house and we blocked off several hours for reading our books. There were no book discussions required. We just set aside the time to make progress on our reading.

We have done this twice now and it has worked out to be a quarterly event, so our next Reading Day should be sometime in June. We can hit Christmas break, spring break, beginning of summer and back-to-school this way.

A consistent reading habit is not something that occurs only every 3 months, but it's a start, and making an event out of it ensures that I will follow through.

Here are three steps to getting to those things you've been meaning to do:

  1. Put it on the calendar.
  2. Make it an event.
  3. Involve other people.

Maybe your goal is not more reading, but you have a project. Maybe you want to be more intentional about dating your spouse or taking your kids on individual outings or catching up the family photo album. Whatever comes to mind when you think I need to make time for..., it's possible that you already have the time for that thing but you are allowing everyday distractions and obligations to overwhelm you. Schedule an hour if that's all you have, but honor that hour as a legitimate appointment.

Put on comfy pants and make fancy coffee if it helps.