ed note: Meg is one of my best friends from college, and she’s always been an avid reader – and consequently, one of those people who’s well-versed on so many topics and can hold her own in any conversation. Since she’s juggling a busy career as an artist, writer, and creator, I knew she’d be the perfect person to answer the question that so many of y’all have sent in: how can I make time to read more books?! She didn’t disappoint. Take it away, Meg! – CS
I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait for summer because the library would give out a book list that was basically just a sheet of paper numbered 1-100, and kids were challenged to read as many books as they could and write them down on the list (basically keeping kids coming back to the library all summer to check out books!) I was the type of kid who couldn’t wait to fill in my list with all the books I’d read over the summer. Nerd alert!
I loved escaping into stories as a child (Sweet Valley High or Nancy Drew mystery novels anyone?) and even as an adult, I’ve found that reading not only inspires me, but reading teaches me how to be a better writer and opens up my creativity. Reading is also a time where I can focus on something that transports me somewhere else that has nothing to do with social media.
The benefits of reading are numerous, but for me it’s not only a way for me to keep learning and feeding my curiosity, but it’s also a way for me to unwind.
Someone recently asked me how I read so much and when I read. I have several answers and tips for this but my most important advice is that you have to find the time and make the time because you want to. Here’s how I make the time to read several books each month.
Read all types of books.
What I mean by this is the manner in which you read. In addition to reading actual physical books, I also read digital books on my iPad, and listen to books using Audible and an app for libraries called Libby. Reading all different types of books gives you the option to read whenever and wherever you have.
Read multiple books at once.
Some people might not like doing this but hear me out. I’ve always got at least 3 going at a time. One (or more) physical books, one digital book, and one book I’m listening to. For me it’s easy to keep them all separate in my head because they are all usually very different on purpose so that I can keep them all straight. I might be listening to a novel, reading a physical memoir, and digitally reading business-related book.
Why do I do this? Because then I can read anywhere, at anytime. Wake up in the middle of the night with insomnia – I can read on my iPad or phone using my Kindle app without turning on the light and bothering my husband. Waiting in line at the doctor – whip out my phone and knock out a few chapters. When I’m painting a mural I always listen to books on my phone, and I almost always read a physical book before I go to bed each night, when I fly, and when I’m on vacation. Reading multiple books in different forms gives you options for every scenario in which you could read.
You don’t need a huge block of time.
Of course the thought of a rainy afternoon to cozy up on the couch and read for three hours is ideal, but it’s not possible all the time. If you really want to read a lot, you have to let go of this romantic vision of reading and get it in whenever you can. 20 minutes here, 15 minutes there. If you read during all those spare moments during your day (waiting at the doctor’s office, etc.) it really adds up by the end of the day and the end of the week. Get over having a huge chunk of time, and start filling the waiting times with reading instead of aimlessly scrolling Instagram for the 100th time.
No TV, ok less TV.
I don’t watch much TV (or streaming) at all. We haven’t had cable for YEARS. I’ll admit I’m a huge nerd and I mostly stream documentaries. Not watching TV frees up A LOT of time for me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching TV, sometimes zoning out with a show is exactly what you need after a long day (me too). But if you want to read be realistic about how much TV you watch and see if that’s where you can find some time.
Get in bed early to read.
Since I’m not watching TV much at night I try to get in bed early (before I’m actually tired) and read a physical book in bed. This is where I can knock out some pages and it helps me calmly go to sleep and not be on my phone. Also if I have insomnia, I’ll read a book on my phone in the middle of the night (turn the brightness all the way down, switch the screen to black with white text, and change it from blue to warm light, then it won’t bug your eyes as much).
Use all your time.
Read when you are waiting. In line somewhere, read. In the waiting room at the doc, read. Do you have a long commute, listen to a book or read if you aren’t driving. I listen to books when I paint murals, when I’m cleaning house, when I’m putting on my makeup, etc.
Dedicate time to read without the guilt.
On the weekends I try to carve out time to read. If it’s a nice day, I sit outside for a few hours with a book (go to a park if you need to get away from distractions). If it’s cold and rainy, I cozy up on the couch and I don’t feel guilty about it.
Read when traveling.
Travel a lot? I always bring a book when I fly. Trying to work on a laptop on a plane (unless you are in business class) is just so cumbersome. I like to take the time on a flight to read a physical book.
Modern life is full of distractions and we have to make an effort to eliminate them. Leave your distractions. Lock yourself in a room without your phone. Go to a park. Get away from the people and things that distract you. Everyone will survive without you for an hour.