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How Do You Make Time To Read?

When someone hears about this 101 book quest for the first time, I usually get the question, “How do you find the time to read that many books?”

It’s a valid question. After all, 101 books is a lot of books. I’ve got a full-time job, a wife, a nine-month old, a church I’m involved in, and an addiction to running in half marathons and marathons–all of which I would prioritize above reading novels.  So when do I find time to read?

Generally, I read about 1-2 hours a day, and I don’t find making that amount of time all that difficult. I read 30-45 minutes at lunch, and I read for about an hour at night, after my wife and my boy are asleep, before I go to bed.

For me, I guess it all comes down to priorities. At lunch, I could read a newspaper. I could talk on my phone. I could refuse to come up for air and continue working. But that’s not healthy. So I read.

When my son goes to sleep, and with my wife usually already in bed, I find it easy to read at night. Sure, I could watch the television or play my Xbox. But reading is so much better for me.

So if you don’t think you have time to read, you’re probably wrong. Most of us have the time to read, we just don’t make time to read.

A study by the Jenkins Group said that 42% of college graduates never read another book after college. Not only that, but 80% of U.S. families haven’t bought or read a book in the last year.

Here's a photo of a kid reading a book.

How is that even possible?  For some people, reading isn’t all that important. That’s a shame.

Mark Twain said: “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.” That’s such an outstanding quote. But I’m not saying that you have to read Mrs. Dalloway or Lord of the Flies or Catcher in the Rye or even fiction at all–even though I think fiction is more inspiring and creative.

But read something. Read the newspaper. Read the Bible. Read Winnie the Pooh. Read Dave Eggers. Whatever. Don’t just sit around and stare at the television and a computer screen all day.

Now, I’m not an anti-television person—far from it, in fact. But comparing reading books and watching TV is like comparing sitting still and jogging. One of the two is obviously so much better for you.

To me, reading is like marathon training for my mind. When I read, I become a better writer. My thoughts are a little more clear and crisp. I feel energized. Seriously, I even sleep better.

If you’re reading this post—on a blog about reading—then, chances are, you are probably already a reader. So I know I’m preaching to the choir.

You understand the importance of reading. You understand how to make it a priority above stuff like television and video games—but hopefully not prioritizing above relationships, family, and the other most important stuff in life.

In our fast-paced world, we’ve got to make some time to read. Slow down. Take a breath. Read a book.

Pass on your love of reading, and I’ll do the same.

How do you make time for reading?

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43 Comments Post a comment
  1. 2blu2btru #

    I have an hour for lunch, and I read every lunch hour for at least half of that time. After work on Mondays, I don’t turn my TV on at all–I read. That’s Monday’s entertainment (if I’m not working on something myself). Other days, it depends on whether or not I have something more important to do that evening, and if I have anything good on hand (which may necessitate a library/bookstore run).

    March 25, 2011
  2. I find that people tend to make the time for what they want to do. Like most people, I have a “busy schedule.”

    But I want to (and NEED! to) read so I carry a book with me nearly everywhere I go. I read in the bathtub, in the car when I’m a passenger, I listen to books on audiotape when I drvie, I read in bed at the end of the day, I read on the weekend, I read when I’m waiting on people. I read at the gym while I’m bicycling. Once I even read a book sealed in a plastic freezer bag while intertubing down Spring River.

    (It helps to find the time to read when you don’t have a television.)

    March 25, 2011
    • Agreed. If reading is important, you’ll make time for it…just like anything else.

      March 25, 2011
  3. alphabetagemma #

    it’s so important to make time to read. sometimes we forget, weeks go by, and we haven’t read a thing. i do a lot of reading in public transportation – on the way to and from work. plus i like to read before bed. i have some friends who complain that reading puts them to sleep. in my opinion, they’re just not reading the right books.

    March 25, 2011
  4. Hi there, discovered your blog by accident and loved your idea to read the times list. May well be do something similar myself but perhaps the 100 best crime fiction.

    I read “a lot” on the train, waiting at appointments, in queues, lunch time, bedtime, anytime. If there is a gap and i’m not doing anything I fill it with a book. I agree that reading can expand your mind in a way that television doesn’t.

    I feel lost with out a book nearby.

    March 25, 2011
    • Very cool. Welcome to the blog!

      Crime fiction–I’m sure Raymond Chandler would be on that list. Reviewed The Big Sleep a few months ago.

      March 25, 2011
  5. Eddie #

    I read from my Kindle for about an 45 min to an hour before going to bed. My clip on light is all I need, the wife can go to sleep, and I’m comfortable and relaxed… I agree, I sleep better as well.

    I also try to read at lunch.

    March 25, 2011
  6. Jen #

    Totally true. I’m an avid reader, and I average somewhere around 50 books a year. But in addition to that, I’m writing my own novels, working a full-time job, working out, and trying to spend time with a husband. Still, I find time to read, and it’s an integral part of my day. It relaxes me, and I’d much rather read a good book than watch TV or movies on most days.

    March 25, 2011
  7. Great post.

    I used to smoke. Smoking takes up a lot time when you put together the 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there, etc. When I quit smoking (10 years ago), I started carrying a book with me instead of cigarettes. Whenever I have to wait for something, I take out the book and read. I also read at lunch and before going to bed. It sure beats smoking and it’s so much better for me.

    March 25, 2011
  8. I used to be able to read a book a week (when my position at work allowed me to read in between calls on the job. Now I am lucky if I can get through a book a month; as I, like you, have to pick the moments when I can get back to reading a book.

    The thing I do that makes it even more difficult, is the fact I read multiple books at the same time; right now I am in the middle of three books, at other times I have been in the middle of four to five.

    I also now have all these great blogs, like yours, to contend with :D. Oh what a terrible lot I have in life ;).

    March 25, 2011
  9. Carrying a book with me when waiting for the bus or train is always a plus. Also, reading on said trains is better than sleeping. Though it’s not always the case.

    March 25, 2011
  10. I read on the train to work and back. I read while the kids are in the tub. I read while I cook. I read in the tub. I read before going to bed. I read in line at the pharmacy. I read in waiting rooms. I read any time I can be still for a few minutes. It’s just my favorite way to pass time. And I think it’s because of how I was raised. Reading has always been my favorite way to pass time. I really want to understand how someone like me came from the same family as someone like my youngest brother who loves television and video games instead (although he’s picked up reading later in life so maybe it’s not a lost cause). I would love to get more involved in getting kids into reading. My oldest son is like me– reads all the time even when walking! I need to figure out what I did right with him and then spread it like a virus!!

    March 25, 2011
  11. Diane #

    I don’t watch very much TV, so most of my free time at home is spent reading. I find that even on days where I am really busy it relaxes me to read before bed. No matter how tired I feel, I usually read a chapter before going to sleep.

    Those statistics about college graduates and families are crazy! I guess I knew that many people don’t read, but I didn’t realize how high that number really is.

    March 25, 2011
    • I’m always leery of statistics, but even if those are close to being true, that’s pretty revealing.

      March 25, 2011
  12. yearningtoread #

    Ok, I’m going to send this article to people who ask me the same thing… People ask me this alllll the time and while I do say something like, “Priorities – like sports is a priority to you.” I’ve never been able to elaborate quite like you did…
    Thanks so much for the enlightening post! :)

    March 25, 2011
    • Thanks for reading!

      March 25, 2011
  13. I often get asked the same question. “How are you a full time teacher, a part time student, and a blogger, AND find time to cook, clean, read and maintain friendships?”

    The answer is simple- priorities. I have a facebook account, but I don’t waste time on facebook. When I go to the gym, I get on a bike and read. I think about teaching when I am with my friends, and I think about what I am going to cook for dinner with I’m driving home.

    It may not be easy, and I may be busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Power to you!

    March 25, 2011
  14. I actually usually read when I have other things to do. I always fine time to read. But, when I’m really busy with schoolwork and such I usually just leave the book untouched and read it sometimes when I find time.

    But, sometimes I usually read a few pages before I go to sleep as well~

    March 25, 2011
  15. Patti #

    I read aloud to my family members – otherwise my husband would never do fiction. I also make use of audiobooks. I do need to convince myself, however, that I DO have time to sit and hold a book in my hands and read just for myself.

    March 25, 2011
  16. Those statistics are quite shocking! I’m surrounded by readers, so I forget that not every one is a reader.

    I read novels at night after the rest of the family is asleep. I read a lot of non-fiction (articles and editorials) during the day as mini-breaks from my work. I also read a lot for work, but it isn’t quite the same.

    March 25, 2011
  17. Wonderful post (again)!
    I love that quote from Mark Twain. It has been the “About Me” quote on Facebook for several years. We should all be life long learners and there is no easier or enjoyable way to continue to grow than reading. Keep up the good work, I’ve really enjoyed your writing.

    March 25, 2011
  18. Fortunately, I’m a “stay at home” with two kids in school, so I have a lot of time to read during the day. Then I read some more at night, after the kids have gone to bed. I’m also not anti-TV necessarily, but I personally choose not to watch it (with the exception of college basketball season). Reading is an important part of my household, for everyone involved. That’s how my husband and I were raised, so we’re raising our children that way, too. We ask our kids to read one hour per day, the hour of they’re choosing, but they end up reading more on their own. The statistics you gave in this post are disheartening.

    March 25, 2011
    • (An hour of THEIR choosing… what a horrible, unconscious mistake to make on a book blog. Hahaha!)

      March 25, 2011
  19. Dannielle #

    Because I’m a teacher, I find I’m always reading something. And very often, I am reading more than one book at a time. Right now, I’m both working on The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo, but also Three Cups of Tea for my own blog. I’m lucky in that I have about an hour in the middle of my day where I am lesson planning. That very often translates into reading time for me. But I also find that reading before bed relaxes me and makes it easier to sleep. I still have TV time in the evening, but I also get some much-needed book time.

    March 25, 2011
  20. I ‘m always reading: while on the bus; waiting on line in the bank; while eating lunch; at the park; while watching t.v. Anywhere I go, I take whatever book I’m reading with me.

    March 25, 2011
  21. Charles Prokop #

    Back when I had a real job (university faculty) I read all the time, but not necessarily what I’d prefer to read. Now my time is more my own and I read what and when I want. I always have at least two books going, one in the morning and one in bed before I go to sleep. Typically the morning book is lighter, so I can read it in shorter bursts if my schedule requires. The evening book is typically more serious literature, nonfiction, or inspirational/religious.

    I once violated my system and had two nordic crime fiction books going at once – Karin Fossum in the morning and Arnaldur Indridason in the evening. I never could remember whether I was in Norway or Iceland, just that the world was always cold, dark, and full of confusing names.

    March 25, 2011
  22. Next time you get asked that, I’d reply “How do you make time to go to the bathroom?”
    Reading is as necessary to life as eating, breathing, and eliminating waste.

    March 26, 2011
    • Amen!

      March 26, 2011
  23. And if we all spent less time blogging, we could even read much more.

    March 26, 2011
  24. Pretty great advice concerning time management for the important things.If you really want to engage in reading you can. Those Jenkins statistics are pretty scary and sad. Wow! Just wow!

    March 26, 2011
  25. An interesting discussion I once had with a stranger on a train about time and reading:

    March 27, 2011
    • Some people seem proud of their habit of not reading. I don’t understand it. I’ve also heard, “I don’t watch the news. It’s too negative.” So you would rather stay uninformed? Crazy.

      March 27, 2011
      • I couldn’t help but saying: “Ignorance is a bliss” – but then again, I don’t think I’d ever would want to stay uninformed… but knowledge is of course a great burden, for some ;)

        March 31, 2011
  26. Very nice post! I must say that I’m surprised over the statistics – how few there are that reads for the sheer joy of reading. I recently graduated from the uni and I admit that I didn’t read much during my studies (besides that of the course literature). But now that I got my first employment and left the study books behind, I’m reading like never before! I absolutely love to read – both fiction and non-fiction – learning (through reading) is a way of life.

    March 28, 2011
  27. I am a bit of a shame. I’m 17 years old and I’m totally free for the next town months because of the vacation. However, I don’t read much as often as other people. I guess I just need a reading buddy but I can’t find one.

    Good Luck for the people though

    March 28, 2011
  28. What a fantastic post!

    I’m a teacher and I’m currently on school holidays and I just sat and finished reading “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen. What I loved about and why I did it was exactly for the reasons you’ve mentioned in your post – to slow down.

    I have become so acutely aware of the pace at which my brain flits from one thing to the next that I really wanted to remind myself that I can be still and I can focus on one thing at a time.

    I’m also a strong believer in making time and unfortunately my ability at making time to read has not taken as strong a priority as other things I’ve made time for (like half-marathon training also!)

    However, it takes 21 days to change a habit and I now intend to read for at least 1 hour a night before I go to bed. There really is nothing more satisfying than seeing my progress of a book and then finishing it.

    A great article. Thanks :)

    April 14, 2011
  29. I work an odd job. Most times I don’t get a lunch break, but at random times in the day things go dead around here. So, I usually sneak in a few pages here and there while I am sucking on a go-gurt or something. For a while I was reading for an hour before I went to bed. That was very restful for me. Lately, however, my husband has turned into a needy two year old who requires a lot of attention (he doesn’t have a job), so I read on the weekends for about 3 or so hours.

    I agree with how you have to “make time” for reading. Ultimately, like everything else in life, it’s a choice. I find reading to be just as satisfying as sleeping, if not more so. There are little nooks and crannies of time all day to pick up a book and read. Most of my reading time comes in the moments where I could be worrying over something or waiting around impatiently. For me, it builds my patience and makes me a more tolerant person to choose to wait and read, rather than rush and huff and puff. Reading instead is a very Zen alternative.

    March 14, 2012

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