Wednesday, 12 June 2013

How to Cultivate a Reading Habit (Yes, You Do Have Time to Read)

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other
room and read a book.” ~ Groucho Marx

Find your reading nook. Image from
I went shopping with my Mum and brother last week. We had run out of shops to visit, when I suggested a trip to the bookshop. "Why would I want a book?" asked my brother, who had once made habit of taking a torch to bed so he could re-read the Harry Potter series.

"Reading?" asked my Mum, who was so enthralled by Captain Corelli's Mandolin after her divorce that she finished it in a day, "How could I possibly have time for reading?"

Cultivating a reading habit should not be limited by our perceptions of how much time we have, nor influenced by any other negative factor. We all deserve (and need) time for ourself, and settling down with a good book is one of the best ways to achieve this.

Reading also comes with the added benefits of expanding our knowledge, finding reassurance from characters in similar situations, and becoming aware of different cultures.

I currently ensure that I make time for reading every day, and choose books that positively affect my mental health. Because of literature, I’ve come to understand not only myself better, but also my past experiences. Reading is one of the best ways to find reassurance or to relate to another, particularly when a book is well chosen.

But how can you form a reading habit? Yes, we all have prior engagements to attend to, people to consider, and perhaps a demanding job, but we can still look for empty slots in our day - no matter how small - to fit in a good book.

How to cultivate a reading habit and find motivation

  1. Always carry a book with you. Choose one that you actually enjoy reading, and one that isn't too hard to read small amounts of at a time. Remember to read while you're waiting for appointments, public transport, or during any empty time slots. If the book you're carrying isn't one you look forward to reading, change it.
  2. Make a list of the books you've always wanted to read, or the books you've heard good things about. Carry it with you.
  3. Dedicate set times to reading. Perhaps before lunch, while the kettle is boiling, or in bed before you call it a day.
  4. Start a book blog. Share your literary meditations with others. This is time consuming, and for the people who really love books, but it adds another level to your reading. 
  5. Set goals. I've set myself a target of finishing one hundred books in 2013.
  6. Keep records. Try Goodreads, or perhaps a reading journal.
  7. Read compelling books. And don't worry about "guilty pleasures".
  8. Don't be afraid to give up a book. If you don't find yourself wanting to read beyond the first fifty pages, don't force yourself.
  9. Make it a shared activity. Read at the same time as your partner, or read aloud to your kids.
  10. Think about how much TV you watch. An hour less of soap operas a day could let you finish a novel a week.
  11. Schedule bookshop or library visits. Make this a regular part of your week, and allow yourself to look forward to quietly browsing through recent paperbacks or rare editions. If you have a local library, reading can be great budget activity.
  12. If you find an author or genre you love, find more. Read series, prequels, and similar texts (perhaps look on Goodreads or ask a bookseller for recommendations)
  13. Make it a joyful experience. Settle down with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and class it as dedicated time to treat yourself.
  14. Find your reading nook. Make it comfy, quiet, and free from distractions (laptops and phones included).
  15. Learn to immerse yourself in a good book. After getting the important things done for the day, let yourself focus solely on a good book. Remember that minor chores can wait.

I believe you can always find time to read, even if only five minutes a day, and reap endless benefits from doing so.

Do you have any tips for finding time to read? What about for forming a reading habit?


Brian Joseph said...

Great post Lucy. I think that you got to all the essentials.

I often hear that folks have no time to read, many watch
several hours of Television a day or play a lot of video games.

Personally I have a lot going on in life. Other then a
little public affairs programing and book TV , both of which I only watch while
eating breakfast, I have given up television entirely as it cuts into my
reading time, which is actually way too sparse.

I am not so sure about starting a book blog though, it is so
time consuming :)

tolstoytherapy said...

Thanks for the comment, Brian.

I often hear the same! I guess watching TV is a mindless activity, which may seem like the best thing after a long day at work.

I only occasionally watch catchup TV, and as a result free up a lot of time for reading, writing, and other activities I find relaxing. That makes my day feel a lot more productive, too.

Book blogs are time consuming! I guess that option is for the real bookworms...

Fiona said...

There is no such thing as "no time for reading". I see people often sitting down staring into space in waiting rooms, looking bored. I love waiting rooms and if whoever I'm seeing is running late... that just means more reading time. Long queue at the post office? Joy! Although, possibly when reading a biography of Hitler with his face taking up the entire front cover a bit disconcerting for everyone else... Reading on the loo, is also spare time otherwise wasted. Also, reading a book on the loo is more hygienic than using your mobile phone.

I always carry my book with me, even if it is a whopping big hardback which has given me shoulder ache. Although, I won't be dragging The Tale of Genji around with me as it is very heavy and I can barely pick it up. I am not looking forward to the time I'll have to hold it open and may have to accept that one day it will have a crease down the spine. I can feel the muscles on the back of my neck straining already as I can't hold it up to myself like I do normally.

Today I gave myself a long lunch in a lovely tea shop where I spent an hour munching sandwiches, tea and cake whilst reading. I just love lunches like that. In fact, I just love taking myself off to a cafe or tea shop just to read - by myself.

I also enjoy reading in graveyards. Strange, but very quiet and usually surrounded by nature. Saying that, one of the last times I got distracted by a couple of randy squirrels.

Saying that, recently I've become a very slow reader. Partly due to becoming a little addicted to video games and partly because my usual routine seems to have been taken up by new things. It isn't always that I don't have time but that I'm quite a fixed person. I'm getting back into being a better reader - and trying to relax over my reading choices.

I think reading is one of the more social activities you can do. Books give you something to talk about. To think about. It changes how you feel or teaches you something new - even if it is in small ways. I don't think you even notice it. On the other hand you could go down the pub, drink a pint of lager and have nothing much to talk about. With a book, there is also conversation.

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you for the comment, Fiona! I agree - I think anyone can make time to read. I find that you can't realise how much free time you really have until you carry a book around and read at spare moments. However, I can imagine The Tale of Genji would be a problematic book to carry! I have the same dilemma when I read War & Peace. It does result in some startled glances when I read it on the train too!

I can imagine graveyards would be a really peaceful place to read. Sorry to hear about the squirrels! I much prefer natural surroundings to urban ones when it comes to reading, although books do distract me from long and uncomfortable train journeys.

Lately I've been struggling with reading enough too. After finishing my university year I thought I'd have loads of time to spend with books, but I seem to be spending my time doing, well, nothing. Saying that, I am getting into more of a routine now (like you, I feel best when I have one). I'm making sure to read before bed, and as I've been choosing compelling books, often my reading time overlaps into my day-to-day activities.

I agree that reading is a lot more social than many expect. Books provide conversation matter and a reason for someone to strike up a conversation with you. I'm glad you feel the same way!

I'm also happy you've come across my blog - I hope you find my posts interesting and find the time to comment again!

Best wishes to you and your reading,

libeeading said...

Great post! I agree that almost anyone has time to read, though I'm sure there are exceptions out there. I do know that even when I was working seven days a week at two jobs I still found some time to read, though maybe that would have been different if I had kids.

Most often, I think people use the "I don't have time to read" line because they simply don't prioritize reading over other leisure activities/hobbies, and they don't want to sound as if they choose not to read.

I think you've also hit the nail on the head with your point about "guilty pleasures". A lot of people feel that some kinds of books aren't good or worthy, and that's a lot of pressure to conform to.

Jennifer Hartling said...

Yes, yes, yes! I love this post to bits! I've been asked (often!) "how do you have so much time to read?" I make time. I make reading a priority. That's how! :)

Thanks so much for this!

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you, Rayna! I'm sure there are people who have very good reasons not to find time to read, I agree. Yet the vast majority do use not having enough time as a sort of excuse. You're definitely right in saying that many people don't wish to lose their leisure time as a result of prioritising reading.

I'm trying to pay more attention to my own advice and not worry so much about the quality of books I read. I want to feel that I can read whatever I want, so long as I enjoy it, but it is difficult to do so. It's getting easier, however! I'm introducing myself to new genres and actually really enjoying the process. Letting yourself read "guilty pleasures" does so much to make reading feel like less of a chore.

Best wishes,

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you, Jennifer! I completely agree - making reading a priority is often all you need to make time for it. Often I have such a busy day ahead, but I remember to schedule time with a book, no matter how short. I find this helps me to get through busy times a lot more calmly, too!

Best wises,