The benefits to reading books are countless. Reading provides mental stimulation which will improve cognitive function and fight diseases like Alzheimer’s. It’s also great for gaining new knowledge and skills, reducing stress, and getting exposed to new cultures.
But despite all of these fabulous effects of reading, a quarter of Americans haven’t read any books in the past year in any form. The average American only reads 12 books per year. (It’s only April and I’ve already read 12 books this year. I’ve accomplished this despite being a college student with an internship, a blog, freelance writing work, and moving apartments to deal with.).
This isn’t necessarily because people don’t want to read. Novelist Jody Hedlund took a poll on people’s TBR (to be read) piles and found that the majority said they had a huge amount of books on their TBR piles. One person commentator even had over 1,000 books on their TBR.
A huge obstacle to reading is lack of time. Here are some ways to devote some small and large moments of time to reading.
If you don’t like it, stop reading it.
If you do nothing else, do this one. Too many people put off reading because they don’t like the book they’re currently reading but they feel guilty abandoning it. Or they never felt excited about reading it in the first place, but felt like they “should” read it because everyone else was reading it or because it’s an “intellectual” book.
If you don’t even want to read the book, you will always find something better to do. Think about everyone who says they are going to clean out their closets and go to the gym. How often do they do it?
Unless the book is required reading for a class, ditch it if you are still bored after the halfway mark. No one is making you muddle through Tolstoy except you. While it’s good to try new genres and authors, it’s also good to know when a certain book isn’t for you. To get excited about reading again, read a book in your favorite genre. Don’t know what your favorite genre is yet? Look at what types of movies and TV shows you like and go from there.
It’s okay if you would rather read The DaVinci Code instead of Heart of Darkness. You will still be getting the benefits from stress reduction and mental stimulation (yes, even escapism is more mentally stimulating than TV and clickbait articles).
Don’t go on social media before noon.
I’m not telling you to cut out social media completely (let’s not get too crazy, here) but the average person spends two hours a day on social media and that number is only rising. Teens spend on average nine hours a day on social media! Imagine if half that time turned into reading time.
A lot of the time the first thing people do in the morning is check social media updates. They will check social media in the bathroom, during their commute, and on their breaks. All of this time mindlessly scrolling could be better used.
Turn off notifications for social media. Every time you think of opening Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or any other social media site, pause for a second and check the time. If it’s before noon, open your Kobo Books app instead, or reach for your print book (always have one on hand if you don’t like ebooks). It might be difficult at first to read for only a few minutes at a time and actually absorb the content, but thanks to neuroplasticity, it will get easier with practice.
Your sister-in-law’s birthday photos will still be there in the afternoon. Too much social media is bad for mental health anyway, so why not cut some of that out so you can better enjoy the benefits of reading?
Use one of your commutes for reading
People spend a lot of time commuting and have to somehow make up for the tediousness of it. Many who take public transportation scroll through social media, play games, or check emails and many who drive listen to music.
Take one of your daily commutes and devote it to reading or listening to an audiobook. This will give you a lot more time to read and do wonders for your TBR. About a year ago, I had classes on a campus in a different town and I took the bus to and from that campus twice a week. The commute was about two hours one way. I read the first four Harry Potter books in about a week just by reading on the bus (and my stress level plummeted pleasantly when I stopped trying to do homework during my commute).
While this example is a bit extreme, even half hour commutes can make a difference. So take a paperback (or your Aura reader, or phone with the Kobo books app) with you on the bus. If you drive, then listen to an audiobook using Libro.fm (or use a free audiobooks app if you’re thrifty). However, this is not recommended for inexperienced drivers or those with particularly treacherous commutes. And by only using one of your commutes to read you still have the freedom to rock out to your favorite tunes or play trivia games on Givling for the other commute.
Remove one episode from your TV marathon
It’s so easy to binge-watch some of our favorite shows, whether you’re watching the new season of Jessica Jones or getting nostalgic over Simon and Simon.
When you’re settling down for a nice binge-watching session, either on the weekend or in the evening (for these purposes let’s say three or more episodes counts as binge-watching), take an hour or half hour to read (depending on if you are watching a drama or a sitcom) before you turn on the TV. Don’t try to do it at the end or in the middle of your marathon because you won’t do it.
It depends on how often you binge-watch shows, but you will probably add at least another hour to your reading time (and unlike TV, reading is ad-free).
Read for at least five minutes before bed
Looking at electronic screens before bed is horrible for our sleep patterns. Luckily print books and certain ereaders like the Kobo Aura don’t have the artificial blue light that messes with our circadian rhythm and melatonin production.
It’s difficult to do the recommended 30–60 minutes of screen-free time before bed every night (I certainly can’t do it yet) but even a little bit of time away from an electronic screen can help. So take at least five minutes to read a print book or an e-ink ereader before bed. Not only will you get more reading time in, but you will also get a better night’s sleep.
How do you get more reading time in? Let me know in the comments.