Whether it’s platitudes like “leaders are readers” or biblical exhortations to remain studious and devoted, reading is something that most people appreciate – and something they want to do more of.
Yet it’s difficult to find time to read. Good intentions get swallowed up by the busyness of our days.
What are some ways we could read more? How can we find time to read?
First, it’s helpful to understand reading as only part of the information that we receive throughout the day.
In addition to (hopefully) reading books, perhaps you’re reading blog posts or internet articles, listening to audio books or podcasts, watching movies or TV, or viewing videos on Hulu or YouTube.
One of the best ways to find time to read is to replace some of your lower-value media consumption with reading.
This isn’t just reducing TV time, but possibly even picking up a book when you’re tempted to click around on facebook for a few minutes. Although I don’t watch hardly any TV, I’ve still been able to read a lot more by cutting down on worthless YouTube videos while I’m taking a break.
As an aside, I want to point out there’s nothing magical about printed books. Reading an edifying blog post or listening to a convicting sermon online is a much better choice than reading a trashy novel. Don’t be too snobbish about including blog posts, podcasts, etc. as part of your information diet.
Maximize Contexts by Reading Multiple Books
You can fit in a lot of reading throughout the day if you can take advantage of those little chunks of time here and there. But it’s been disastrous for me when I’ve tried to read deep, thought-provoking books in small increments like that.
The solution is to read multiple books at a time. You can have books suited for different environments – not only different physical environments and different time constraints but different mental environments.
Deep books require large, unbroken blocks of time. For example, I’m reading Calvin’s Institutes in large, scheduled chunks (more on that later).
Certain books (like some of Seth Godin, for example) are able to be read in short bursts of a few minutes. For instance, I take my Kindle with me to band practice at church and read while others are tuning, going over their parts separately, etc.
I like to read casual, lightly-written biographies of great saints as I go to bed. These center me on Christ as I go to sleep, and I find them easy and relaxing to read as my mind winds down.
On my Sabbath, I’ll read fiction for an hour or two at a time to relax me.
There are other books (like books I’m reading on productivity or on Christian living) that I would feel comfortable reading in any of these environments.
The key is thinking about what you want out of reading and the contexts in which you have to read – and then matching the two up appropriately.
Plan Ahead and Have Material with You
Take a book with you if you’re going to be waiting at the DMV or the doctor’s office. Take a few with you if you’ll be flying or riding a long distance. Taking advantage of these times is just common sense.
But take it a step further. Some people carry a book in their pocket wherever they go just to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. I, for one, am a fan of the Kindle app on my iPhone.
Some people claim to “read” a lot by listening to audiobooks while they exercise, run errands, commute, etc.
I’m a huge fan of this form of multi-tasking, particularly during activities like driving that don’t require anywhere near 100% concentration.
But I’m not a fan of audiobooks. Books were meant to be read not heard. A lot is lost when you try to switch the medium.
Podcasts, on the other hand, were meant to be heard. So I prefer to listen to sermons or podcasts instead of audiobooks. But perhaps you enjoy audiobooks – whatever works for you.
Schedule a Time
I saved the hardest – and probably the most powerful – tip for last.
Reading is something you ultimately will need to make time for, not just find time for.
Realize that this is going to be difficult. If it wasn’t, you’d already be reading a lot.
You may need to move things around in your schedule. You may need to cut out some activities from your day. There’s no magic bullet.
I try to take an hour during the middle of the day to read. I normally do this as a break right around 1:30 to 3:00 – whenever I’m starting to feel like I’m frazzled and could use a mental breather.
But a little creativity can help with this.
For instance, Mondays are “book nights” in our house. This is something I’ve just started with my family. For an hour or so between dinner and bed for my four-year-old and two-year-old, we read books with them.
I’ll also pull out some of my deeper material to read for an extended period of time while they thumb through books on their own. My hope is that this will teach them the joy of reading and model reading to them – but it also has the benefit of giving me a little more reading time.
Ultimately, finding the time to read – or rather, making the time to read – is all about priorities. The first step in making the time to read is wanting to make the time read.
Tony Reinke puts it well in Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books
“Reading is a discipline, and all disciplines require self-discipline, and self-discipline is the one thing that our sinful flesh will resist…Book reading is not just a matter of time management; it’s a matter of warfare.”
What are some tips you have about how to read more?
Photo Credit: Arria Belli (Creative Commons)
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