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It’s that time of year again when we’re all trying to figure out how to make time to read, even when we feel like there’s no time to read books. I hear you. Busy mom reader of two small kiddos over here!
Figuring out how to make time to read books and maintain a reading habit is quite the challenge, especially if you have a busy schedule.
First, embrace the mindset shift for finding time to read.
Before holding yourself accountable to lofty or vague goals to read more books or read more effectively, we have to know our “why” and really experience a mindset shift.
Reading is self-care.
There are many benefits of reading, and when you consider those benefits and start seeing the habit of reading as a radical act of self-care in a world of constant gratification and distraction, the desire to make time to read exponentially grows.
Once we grasp our “why,” it’s time to make some sacrifices and some significant (and small!) intentional changes.
If you’re a reader who wants to read more books or read more often and you don’t think you need to change your TV watching or phone scrolling habits, chances are you will not meet your goal of making more time to read.
Get honest with yourself about your goals.
This is a great place to start! Envision the life you want where you do, in fact, make more time to read.
Get really honest with yourself about what this goal is going to to look like—slowly, in bite-sized changes and habits—so you can make it a consistent lifestyle change.
Don’t ever be without a book. Ever.
It’s every bookworm’s nightmare to suddenly have time to read and not have a good book at hand. Even so, we miss so many opportunities to read in the cracks of our day!
Always keeping digital or physical books on you is one of the biggest game-changers if you want to find more time to read books.
Personally, I used to carry my Kindle Paperwhite or a physical book with me in my purse, but now that I have limited space (thanks, diaper bag!) and a child in tow, I rely most heavily on the Kindle app on my phone.
Figure out the best way to keep a book close by, whether that’s through Apple Books, Google Books, Kobo Books, the Libby app, Libro.fm, Everand . . . the apps are endless for every format of reading!
- Read in the carpool line (duh, when you aren’t moving).
- Read at the doctor’s office while you wait.
- Read in line at the grocery store.
- Read before the movie starts.
- Read when you’re nap trapped.
- Read when your water is boiling, at the kitchen counter.
- Read in the bathroom.
- Read on your 15-minute break or lunch break.
There are natural lulls in our days. When you decide to keep a good book on you and opt for reading instead of scrolling on your mobile devices, you will start to read more books in a year or month, even in five- to ten-minute chunks.
Read in different formats.
If you really want to figure out how to make time for reading books, you need to make it stupid simple to reach for a book. That means reading in different formats that fit naturally into whatever it is you’re doing or what that point in your day looks like.
If you are commuting, folding laundry, washing dishes, or walking, listen to audiobooks. I always have an audiobook going.
You can read on the Kindle app if you’re on the go. I like to read on my iPad or my Kindle Paperwhite at night so I can see in a dark room. When I was breastfeeding or nap trapped, the Kindle app was essential.
When I unwind for the day, I like to read my physical book—mainly because my eyes are tired of looking at screens and I actually have a moment to sit down. I also love to annotate books, so keeping a physical book close by is a priority for me.
But in general, figure out how to access books digitally and physically.
You can even read Kindle books as audio through an accessibility feature on your phone, if you like that. I personally find it a bit too robotic, but some avid readers find this hack helpful.
Read in small pockets of time.
I’ve already mentioned reading during the natural lulls in our days when we’re out and about, but you can apply this rule at home, too. Reading in small pockets of time really adds up throughout the day, month, and year.
I used to view reading as a luxury I only got to enjoy when other things were finished, like cleaning the house, meal prepping, that sort of thing.
But now that I view it as self-care, I prioritize it more. I still struggle to put it before other things—and it’s a balance, right? We can’t all be reading for several hours a day when we have other responsibilities. Set time limits if you need to.
Setting a timer for ten minutes before cleaning up the kitchen at night or choosing to read five pages before falling asleep really can make a difference in the long run. And that may be the only time you can read that day!
✨ Reading Tip: Build “reading sprints” into your day, for even ten to twenty minutes. This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can even do it with other readers! If you like the idea of reading sprints, join my book club. We have virtual cozy reading nights every month, reading sprints included!
If you’re an all-or-nothing person like I am, hear this, friend: You do not have to wait to read until you have an hour or two-hour chunk of time available to you.
Some reading is better than none. Don’t pass by those small pockets in your day, whether they’re something you can’t change like a ten-minute wait at the doctor’s office or something you put off until “more important things” are done.
Start a book club.
Joining or starting a book club is a great way to hold yourself accountable to reading more books in a year. Since launching my book club online through Bookclubs—a free web and mobile app that helps book clubs stay organized and discover new books—I have found I’m way more motivated to read.
Bookclubs provides all the tools you need to just start—and trust me, starting a book club will enrich your reading habit, keep it front of mind, and diversify your reading!
Committing to read with other fellow book lovers will keep you on track to make time for reading.
✨ Reading Tip: Want to learn more about Bookclubs, my favorite tool for reading more books with other book lovers? Bookclubs currently serves more than 65,000 book clubs worldwide and makes managing a successful book club so organized and enjoyable.
+ Invite members with a quick link (so easy for busy people like me!)
+ Automate meeting reminders and calendar invites so you can focus on reading more
+ Create interactive member polls so you can quickly vote on your next pick without hassle
+ Track reading history and host discussion so everyone keeps their reading goals front of mind
Set bite-sized reading goals with habit stacking.
Other than setting bigger goals like how many books to read in a year, create smaller, more intentional goals. Maybe you have a daily goal of advancing 10% in your audiobook, or maybe you want to read a chapter before bed.
Whatever the goal, make sure it’s something you can stick to consistently. After reading Atomic Habits by James Clear and implementing some habit formation changes myself, I highly recommend habit stacking.
What is habit stacking?
Habit stacking is another form of implementation intention. Rather than saying, “I’m going to commit to this one task at this time of day,” you pair the task with a current habit. Think about what habits you already do with your eyes closed.
For example, I take my medicine after I brush my teeth every single night. I’ve stacked these habits to help make sure I do it.
Here are some examples of habit stacking to help you build a reading habit every single day:
- After I unstack the dishwasher, I will read for ten minutes.
- After I brush my teeth, I will read five pages.
- After I make my bed, I will put a good book on my pillow for later in the evening.
- After I prep kids lunches in the evening, I will put my book on the kitchen counter next to my coffee mug.
Do you see how these small, new behaviors are placed directly into your current routine? This is about habit formation and bite-sized goals or intentions rather than getting to X number of books a month or year.
You’d be surprised how these small habits every single day build momentum over time!
Keep books in high traffic areas.
If you want to create a habit to make more time for reading, you have to start with your environment. How can you make reading books easier and keep distractions at bay in the places where you spend the most time?
For me, this obviously looks like keeping a book with me at all times, but it also means keeping books on my bedside table, in the kitchen, in the living room, in the upstairs family room, and even in the car!
This goes for children’s books, too. It sounds silly, but if I have a moment to read, and I’m in the playroom upstairs, I’ll probably struggle to go get a book downstairs before the moment passes. As readers, why wouldn’t we want to surround ourselves with books anyway?!
Don’t forget your digital environment.
Surrounding myself with books means I also need to do a digital cleanup as well. Currently, my social apps on my phone are hidden in a folder I have to swipe several times to get to, and all of my book apps are on my first page, easily accessible.
Listen to audiobooks throughout your day.
I’m going to shoot it to you straight. If you want to figure out how to make time for reading books and you’re an insanely busy person, you have to embrace the audiobook.
I respect that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea—and you may even find you aren’t an auditory learner and struggle to comprehend what you’re listening to.
What if I don’t listen to audiobooks?
In those cases, yes, I get it. Audiobooks may not be for you. But if you want to bolster your reading life and start listening to audiobooks, there are ways you can get better at it, like working out a muscle.
- Try nonfiction audio first: Start by listening to propulsive nonfiction narrated by the author. I find this is the easiest way to start, and it feels like you’re getting coffee with a friend because it tends to be more conversational.
- Find the speed that works for you. Strangely, I focus more when I listen on 1.75x speed or even 2x speed. Something about the faster pace grabs my attention more. If you’re just starting to get into audiobooks, start at a slower speed, and once you’re immersed in the story, see if you can increase the speed gradually.
Please take time to read and understand what you’re listening to! Again, reading isn’t about burning through as many books as possible that you hardly enjoy or remember.
It’s all about enjoying the act of reading! But if you want to save a lot of time, audiobooks are where it’s at.
Limit your distractions. I said it.
The truth is, if we wanted to figure out how to make time for reading, the first thing we really *should* do is chuck our phones out the window.
But technology has been kind to readers, too—there are so many incredible books and opportunities for reading at our fingertips!
Even so, we can find ways to limit distractions with screen time (TV and social media). Maybe you need to give yourself a schedule for TV and movie watching (only on the weekends? Only one episode a night?).
I don’t know what the rules need to be in your home, but if you want to significantly change your reading habits, these distractions need to go or at least decrease. And I’m telling myself all of these things, too! It’s not easy.
For me, this means removing notifications from social media apps and/or email. I hope to restrict social media to an hour a day (eventually!), but I’m working myself up to this habit. Limiting distractions is a highly personal endeavor.
Maybe your distractions aren’t even screen-related. Whatever they may be, pinpointing what keeps us from reading—naming it, so to speak—is the first step in pivoting to a habit we actually want to create and stick to.
Build reading time into your routine.
This seems so simple, but one of the biggest ways to actually find time to read books is by building it into your schedule—and maybe your family’s schedule, too. Put it on your to-do list to schedule reading time!
Look at your calendar and prioritize reading as though you were scheduling an appointment or getting coffee with a friend. Seriously, who has free time anymore?
For a busy mom like me, this is how I get the bigger “chunks” of reading into my day. My daily reading may happen a little bit at a time, but I schedule bigger reading days well in advance.
Again, we have to remember the mindset shift for self-care. For me, this looks like scheduling an hour or two a month to go by myself and read at a coffee shop or for a slow morning at home. As long as I schedule it in advance, I can make sure I have enough time to read.
Consider energy management.
When do you read? Building reading into my daily routine meant I had to be realistic about my energy levels throughout the day. When is the best time to read—for me?
I so desperately want to be a night reader—the one time of day I don’t have a toddler pestering me for snacks!—but by the end of the day, my mind is mush, and I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow.
As far as building a daily habit goes, night reading just doesn’t work for me. And that’s okay.
Finding more time to read means considering the most effective ways you can add reading into your day.
For me, my energy is much more creative and receptive to reading in the middle of the day or early in the morning. This means I’m reading during my lunch break while the girls are at school, before they wake up, or during nap time.
✨ Reading Tip: If your energy is low but you still want to read, try reading a physical book or e-book while listening to the audio to stay engaged. I call this tandem reading, and it’s a great hack for people who want a truly immersive experience but don’t really have the energy to physically read.
When you think about your routines and rituals, where would reading naturally fit?
- Maybe this happens while you’re enjoying your cup of coffee in the morning or while you’re winding down for bed.
- You may get your best reading done during your lunch hour at work.
Personally, our family’s rhythm is to enjoy “DEAR time” during my youngest girl’s nap of the day (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.). During these hours, every day, we Drop Everything and Read or Relax. We added that extra R since our youngest can’t read on her own yet 😉. For her, right now, this is “rest time.”
Some days other things take priority, like work or cleaning, but lately, I’ve been making a huge effort to sit down and read during this time. It’s not usually for the full two hours, but it’s the biggest chunk of reading time in my day.
Part of this is because I want my four-year-old to grow up seeing me read. I think it’s really important to foster an environment of reading if you want to raise readers yourself.
Try to add reading to your routine every day, even if it’s a short amount of time. This helps avoid inertia, especially right after you finish a book.
Tap into a reading community.
Talking about the good book you’re reading makes you more invested—whether that’s in a fellow book lover’s DMs, on Booktok, Bookstagram, BookTube, a book platform like Bookclubs, some other online social community, or a local library, bookstore, and author event.
Embracing the identity of “reader” was huge for my reading life. Suddenly, I had a group of book besties who could inspire me and talk with me about what I’m reading. Again, this could be a book club, social group, or just a fellow reader.
Read what you actually like and build a TBR you’re excited about.
It’s so funny to me how many people I talk to who say they want to make more time for reading but try to read books they think they “should” enjoy.
You may want to dig into that nonfiction book or heavy-hitting New York Times literary fiction book in theory, but if it’s really contemporary romance or other “popcorn reads” that you enjoy right now, why try to read something else? Read your favorite books, people—not what you think is the “right book.”
Gravitate toward what you actually want to read, and keep those types of book in your reading list. Of course, it’s okay to challenge ourselves as readers, but we’re trying to build a habit of reading here. Read what you like, full stop!
Don’t be afraid if you DNF (did not finish) a book.
In a similar vein, don’t be afraid to DNF or set aside a book. There are so many books and so little time. Why spend time on a book you aren’t enjoying?
I have a 50-page rule, but you can set any guideline for yourself. If I am not pulled in by the 50-page mark, I set aside the book.
And listen, setting a book aside doesn’t always mean you hated it. Sometimes it was the wrong place at the wrong time. I speak from experience; I’ve read books and loved them after putting them down for a period time.
If you’re a completist reader, this might be a hard adjustment. But I promise you: DNF-ing a book is a win if you want to read more books.
Read more than one book at a time.
This goes hand-in-hand with reading multiple formats, but I find that reading 2 books at a time (or more!) helps keep the reading slumps at bay!
If you have trouble jumbling the stories in your mind and feel like you won’t be able to focus, try reading books that are completely different from each other.
For instance, maybe you have a physical book in the fantasy genre, a memoir audiobook going, and a romance e-book on your Kindle. Or perhaps you like to have a morning book, an evening book, or an on-the-go book to help keep everything organized in your brain.
Set some guidelines for yourself and see if you are able to focus on multiple books after all.
Personally, I don’t have an issue with this, and I actually like to pair books on similar topics. I will say though, as a book editor, I can’t edit a book anything like a book I’m reading for fun, so I get how it can be a hard time.
Track (and celebrate!) your progress.
Some readers don’t love tracking their progress, and I get it. It’s not about how many books you read, but the enjoyment of reading, right?
But sometimes it’s nice to track your progress, whether that’s by the number of books you’ve read or the number of pages, etc. You don’t have to publicly track your reading life. In fact, I prefer tracking my reading life in my physical reading journal.
Tracking my reading progress as well as keeping track of book reviews, books I want to read, and reading challenges enriches my reading life so much—and it’s just for me, which is how I like it after having such a public reading life most of the time.
If you want to track your progress digitally, Bookclubs has extra app features aside from book club management. There’s a reading goal function and a Bookend feature, which gamifies your reading similar to Spotify Wrapped, but with books!
Here are some other book tracking apps to check out:
You can also track your reading through Notion, which is one of my favorite organization and note-taking tools.
Join a reading challenge
If you want to make time for reading, consider monthly reading challenges! You can find them all over every bookish online community, and there’s usually something for every type of reader.
Even if you can’t commit to a monthly reading challenge, maybe you can do a 24-hour reading challenge, a genre-related challenge, or something similar.
How to Start Reading More Books in 2024
Saying there’s simply no time to read books isn’t really an option anymore. you have to make the time for reading, and just like anything in life that takes work, you have to prioritize it.
You get to prioritize it. Because that’s the best part of being a reader, right? Turning those have to’s into get to’s is kind of the dream.
I understand how it can feel like we don’t have much time to read. But by building small reading habits into our everyday routines and rituals and setting aside distractions, we can learn how to make time to read, even as busy humans.
Let’s go into 2024 with a new reading habit and clear reading goals and expectations so we can read more effectively, more efficiently, and with greater enjoyment.