Yesterday I posted what I’m currently reading, and I realized that it was a long list, and it might look like I do nothing but read all day.
I wish that were true; my fantasy life would be living in my own library and occasionally having great meals with people I can discuss the books with. Great meals that someone else prepared and served and cleaned up after!
Sadly, this is not the life I live, and cooking, cleaning, and other chores take up more of my day than I would like. Also, the whole four homeschooled kids thing – a freely chosen occupation, and one I love, certainly, but one that would take up every minute of my life if I didn’t specifically carve out time for other things.
Reading has always been my favorite thing to do, and, as a homeschooling Mom, it’s also a big part of my job description. I’m always reading about learning, teaching, parenting, and similar topics, trying to ensure that I’m doing the best job I can raising my kids. But, with the four of them constantly demanding my attention (and rightfully so), it sometimes seems like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done, let alone “luxuries” like reading for my own pleasure.
So what are some of the strategies I use to fit reading for learning and for pleasure into my day?
This is the first and probably most important one – I only have limited time for reading; I hate wasting even a minute of it on things that aren’t worthwhile.
Especially online – it’s really easy to get sucked into a black hole of vaguely interesting articles and come up for air a couple of hours later without having gained anything lasting from the experience. I’m not saying I haven’t learned really valuable things from online reading; just that the signal to noise ratio online is low, and selectivity is especially important.
But even with books, there’s an easy trap to fall into – reading books because I think I should or because someone else liked it. With popular fiction especially, I’ve found that my tastes don’t necessarily align with other people’s, and so reading something just because everyone seems to be reading it has sometimes (often?) led to regret.
So, being really picky about what I read is the first strategy.
I’m a member of a local book club, an online book club, and a Bible study (and I might be joining a second reading/discussion group soon). The reason I do this is to make sure I prioritize reading time. If I need to have a certain amount of a book read by the time book club meets, I’m going to meet that obligation. On the other hand, if I have a book I want to read just for myself, it is often bumped on the priority list by things like chores, errands, and other “more necessary” things. The downside of this strategy is that I need to find the right groups that want to read the same kind of books I want to read. (There’s also the double benefit of it being social time, which, even for an introvert like me, is helpful, even necessary, when I spend most of my days surrounded by little people.)
In another twist on this strategy, whenever possible I will borrow a book from the library rather than buying it. The deadline pressure of needing to return it by a particular date gets those books read ahead of the ones I own and can keep forever.
I also put the books I’m reading on my to-do list, so that I need to check it off.
This is the most practical-minded of the strategies. I make book reading convenient by literally having books everywhere I sit.
I prefer reading actual paper bound books, but if it’s a book I have to read, say for a book club, I’ll often get the e-book version because then I can read it on my computer or my phone during downtime for other tasks.
The physical books I have spread around the house – upstairs in my reading nook, downstairs in the living room by the couch, one on the dining table that I read while I’m eating (this is an especially good spot/time for magazines). Weirdly, I don’t have any books on my nightstand, because I don’t find it comfortable to read in bed.
I sometimes wish I could make better use of audio-books, but I find that I’ll often get distracted from what I’m listening to by whatever printed material catches my eye; I guess I’m more of a visual than auditory processor. I have successfully used them in the car. I do use them a lot for my kids – they are very much auditory learners and pick things up best by listening to them.
Attention and Distraction
This isn’t so much a strategy as something I try to be mindful of. If I’m just reading short bits of books in brief snatches throughout the day, I’m obviously not as focused on it as I would be reading it in a longer stretch in a quiet house, say after the kids go to bed, or before they wake up.
So, I save the books that need more attention for those times, and read things that are easier, shorter, less important, during the day. Or I’ll read through books quickly the first time this way, and then again slowly if I feel there’s material in there I need to process further. I also take notes to help me really pay attention to what’s being said. That way, it might take me slightly longer to get through the book, but I know that my notes contain what I want to remember from it, and I don’t need to reread it.
Those are my major strategies for getting my reading in. Oh, I guess there’s one more that I should mention. If I am reading something, and my kids interrupt for a non-emergency reason, I will make them wait until I come to a good stopping point. I’m not above saying, “I will read you your book when I’m done reading this chapter of mine, or you can read it yourself now.” My kids know that reading is a priority of mine, and I think it’s helped them want to be readers too.
How do you find time for reading? Any favorite tips you have that I didn’t mention?
What are the distractions that keep you from reading as much as you want?