Hands up who struggles to find time for daily pleasure reading? Oh goodness. I certainly do—and we’re not alone. A 2016 Pew Research study found a quarter (26%) of Americans haven’t read a book (whole or even partial) in a year—not even in digital or audio form. But the sad point remains: Reading for pleasure relaxes and enlightens us. This blog provides tips from the experts (and from regular folks like you and me) on finding time for a vital, often overlooked pleasure that’s fallen to the wayside.
Understand the Health and Emotional Benefits
Poor tech habits at night challenge my ability to read for pleasure. I’m also—like many of you—reading for my work. When I write and edit for my living, reading (even for pleasure) can feel like a task.
However, when I recently vacationed with my husband (our very first without our children) the zen-like effects of long, prolonged reading came back to me. On one particular day, I read Katharine Graham’s memoir (uninterrupted) for five hours. (I couldn’t recall reading for this long in 20 years.)
Afterwards, I felt comfortably quiet. I took a nap (when I’m not a napper). I also felt stimulated to write and publish my own books because Graham’s beautiful writing exposed me to delicate prose and exquisitely crafted sentences. (Her use of em-dashes felt especially impressive.)
Reading’s no joke. Look at these benefits:
- Our stress reduces by 68% according to University of Sussex researchers.
- Reading books at night (not digital ones) signals to the body it’s time to wind down and can induce sleep.
- Studies show elderly patients who played games or read daily became two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Make Reading A Ritual
One trick to finding time to read becomes creating a ritualistic day in your week for that one task—reading. One Pittsburgh-based marketing executive devotes three hours of her Saturday morning to reading the newspaper with a good coffee in hand. Others reserve bed time to reading and/or never leave the home without reading material in their bag. Any time spent sitting and waiting, be it car pool, watching sports, or commuting becomes indulgent reading time.
Shut Off the Tech
Many of us can quickly increase our pleasure reading by leaving all IT away from the bedroom and avoiding looking at our phones when we’re out and about. So the Amazon window shopping time (or watching shows/You Tube from our phones) becomes the time for reading two chapters of your book. This step takes real self discipline; however, if you set up time before the reading session to briefly indulge in your favorite tech and set a time restraint, you’ll buy yourself quality reading time.
Find Books/Reading Material Of Interest to You
Sounds simple, but ensuring you have quality reading material nearby becomes hugely motivating as does visiting your local library. (The same Pew Research poll found 19% of Americans haven’t visited a mobile or public library in the past year.) Libraries also sell discounted books for $1 and quarter-priced magazines.
Set Small, Achievable Goals
If you’re one of the 26% who’ve not read a full book within the past year, then remain kind and motivate yourself by setting realistic goals. Perhaps you’ll start each day with five minutes reading and end each day with ten. Assuming you feel markedly happier from this small update, extend the time in five minute increments until you read for 30 minutes to an hour daily and more on the weekends.
Rearrange Your Day/Schedule To Read
At one faculty training summit, a delightful professor incredulously shared with me she reads one robust book a week. Asked about her magic, she said: “I do zero housework on my weekends and spread the work out over the week instead.” This genius strategy brought her ten hours of quality reading time on the weekend (five each day) and she started the week feeling rested, calm, and centered. Other ideas include:
- Sign up for fewer activities
- Politely say ‘no’ to some favors (particularly those that go unnoticed or thanked)
- Eat lunch solo (even once a week) and read
- Schedule your calendar to include blocked-out times to read
- Encourage your workplace to mandate reading time in ways that help boost morale and help the business grow. Read a leadership book (or a memoir of a great leader) for 15 minutes a day. Share what you’ve learned in a Lunch and Learn.
Start (or Join) a Book Club
We have Oprah to thank for enlightening us of the power of a good book club. Meeting to discuss a book you’ve all collectively read provides massive incentives to reach the end and then delightful opportunities to dissect and analyze the material. If a club feels daunting, then read a book with someone near and dear.