More on Books: Practical Tips for How to Make More Time for Reading

We are finishing up the week talking about books.  Thank you to so many of you who have emailed with additional suggestions for books I should check out!

Today I want to give you 7 tips for carving out more space in your day for reading.  I mentioned before that I have on my 2013 list a desire to spend more time growing my mind through reading.  Here’s the blunt truth.  At the end of a long day, getting the kids off to school, taking care of errands, consulting with a client, writing on this blog, querying publications, helping another writer with his work, exercising, meetings, then picking up the children from school and taking them to and from their various activities, cooking dinner, cleaning up, bathtime and bedtime, I am spent.  

I am asked the question a LOT.  WHEN do you have time to read?!  

If I’m honest, even though my days are very full, I do spend a lot of time each week on relatively meaningless, brainless activity.  I actually think I could read significantly more than I already do!

Please note, I don’t believe every single moment of our day needs to be in an intense “growing yourself” exercise.  I place high value on community, rest, and simply ‘being.’  But I know we all have our little time suckers in a given day.

7 Ideas for Carving Out More Time for Reading 

1. Reduce your intake of social media and replace it with a book.  Zoe Fox said in this article that the average user spends 7 hours a month on Facebook. 7 hours.  Now, I read fast, about 45 pages in 60 minutes.  So if I cut my Facebook time in half, I could get another book in each month!  I spend even less time on Twitter than I do Facebook, but I do occasionally find myself sifting the Twitterverse in evening before bed, and to be straight, I don’t even know why I’m there.  What am I looking for?  I think I’m simply bored.  I should either close my eyes and go to bed, or pick up the excellent book on the nightstand.  Nothing on Twitter or Facebook at 11 pm cannot wait until the next morning.

2. Shake up your routine.  Just like exercise, if you want to add more reading into your life, you need to determine ahead of time when you will do it.  Decide to wake up 15 minutes early.  Drink your cup of coffee with a book instead of your iPhone.  Pack a book in your computer bag, purse, or briefcase and use 15 minutes during your lunch break to go outside, sit in the sunshine and read a few pages.  Choose to go to bed 20 minutes early, and take your book with you.  Decide one day during the week where you devote your lunch hour toward reading (and stick with it).  Take a book with you in the car for those 15 minutes while you sit in the pick up line waiting for school to get out.

3. Go audio.  Bookguy “reads” almost entirely via  He downloads books to his ipod, and then listens to them when he exercises in the morning (45 min).  He also listens to them to and from work in the car.  He has a relatively short commute (10 min each way), but that’s 20 minutes of extra reading he gets!  Finally, he often listens to books while he’s in the shower and shaving and getting ready in the morning.  This is how we enjoyed Jon Acuff’s Quitter.  I am a visual learner and I love to mark up books with scribbles and underlines and smiley faces (sometimes I even draw in the margins) so this might not be your learning style.  But if it is, it’s an extremely effective way to boost your reading time.

4. Turn off the TV.  The New York Daily News reported in September 2012 the average American spends 34 hours a WEEK watching TV.  That is mind blowing to me.  This means the average American spends about as much time at work as they do watching television?!  Choose a night during the week and devote it to reading.  No TV, iPod, iPad, iPhone or anything electronic.  You’ll be amazed at the peace and quiet. I dare say it’s a strange thing to sit in one room with your whole family with everyone turning pages.  Our little four-year-old can’t read yet, but he’ll lay on the floor in a pile of books and flip through looking at pictures, sometimes talking out loud making up a story to accompany each drawing.

5. Set a family goal.  Make a family ‘reading’ chart, and set a goal together for how many pages your family will read in a given week.  Set rules that every person in the family must contribute a minimum amount of pages a day.  At the end of the day each family member logs in the number of pages he or she read.  We have a 9, 7, and 4 year old.  A family goal could be 100 pages collectively a day, expecting each family member to read a minimum of 25 pages a day.  At the end of the week, total the number of pages.  Decide in advance “rewards” for your reading efforts.  Ideas for rewards could be, a family movie night, dinner at a favorite restaurant, ice cream sundae bar, Saturday morning donuts.  You could even have different ‘levels’ of rewards: gold, silver, bronze, for the number of pages read.  If you don’t want to do pages, you could set a goal of reading time each day.

6. Find a new reading spot.  I can read for hours sitting in a corner at Peets.  In my house, however, not so much.  Laundry is staring me in the face, children are interrupting, I’m distracted by the tyranny of the urgent.  I’ve tried to convey to Bookguy before what it is like for stay-at-home working mothers to “Sabbath” in their house.  Imagine trying to rest or relax or refuel sitting next to your desk with piles of work staring you in the face.  That is how I often feel in my home, if I’m being frank. To remove myself from this environment makes all the difference.  Bookguy has a spot too–a reclining chair in our living room by our fireplace.  Sometimes simply having a location where you habitually go to read, where your work isn’t a distraction, can make all the difference.

7. Join a book club.  Everything is better in community, isn’t it?  If there’s a book you’re interested in reading, see if another friend would read it at the same time.  My friend Marie and I have talked about reading Prodigal God together.  My next door neighbors read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly at the same time as we did (which afforded some excellent conversation!).  It always works well when Bookguy and I are reading a book at the same time.  Google to find book clubs in your city or area.  Join an online book club (if you’re a woman) with the ladies at or for co-ed, secular book clubs, or (of course) there’s always Oprah’s book club on Goodreads.  Books don’t have to be a thing that withdraw you from friends.  They can, like movies, become something you enjoy together.  And then you don’t feel like you are choosing between community or reading, but you are actually multi-tasking, saving time by doing both together.

What do you think of these ideas?  If you have any thoughts to add, please share!  I’m always open to hearing from you!  


  1. So many books and sooooo little time!! =( I read about 20ish minutes most nights, and while it’s not a lot, and while I’m a SUPER slow reader, it’s enough that I’m able to get through a number of books. ps: I find that tv statistic revolting.

  2. I used to LOVE reading. I devoured books voraciously. but that joy dissolved over the past few years of constant change and heartsoreness, and I miss it. I’ve tried “forcing it” by making myself read… but then it’s a chore rather than a love. I have a stack of books I am determined to get through this year (everything Brene Brown’s written, in my journey to own my enoughness…), but ultimately I just long for it to be something I enjoy again. I miss that part of me.

  3. Thanks Alece for sharing. 🙂 I do think we go through stages where we have it ‘in us’ more than others. Maybe its time for you to simply get out some old classics with delightful story lines and chuckle once again with a book in hand: Alice in Wonderland or Huck Finn or Anne of Green Gables. Something light and airy for your recovering heart … dig you.

  4. These are great suggestions! My parents, brother (18yo), and sister (7yo), and myself (23yo) had “No Media Monday” for a while last year. It meant that after dinnertime on Mondays we played games, read books, and hung out together instead of watching TV or playing on our phones. It was great! And it really is for all ages – just look at me and my siblings! 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing this advice! With trying to read 50 books this year, your ideas should help me get some extra reading in and hopefully finish the book I am on right now so I can move on to another! 🙂

  6. Great ideas in this post! I typically read 30 to 60 books a year – mostly non-fiction and educational. Some people are flabbergasted by this! Yet, like you “If I’m honest, even though my days are very full, I do spend a lot of time each week on relatively meaningless, brainless activity.I actually think I could read significantly more than I already do!”

    I am a naturally fast reader. I also familiarize myself with a book before starting it. I read the back cover, the table of contents, flip through to look at any charts, pictures or chapter summaries, etc. I find I read better (and faster) when I begin already having an idea of what the book is about and what to expect regarding the books layout.

    Years ago I always felt like I had to read every book carefully and not miss anything. Now I read different books differently. I ask myself “why am I reading this book?”. Depending on why – I may read a book quickly just trying to get the big ideas, and another book I may read slower and carefully. This has helped me be a better reader too.

    Oh – years ago I also felt like I should only read one book at a time. But now I usually have 2 or 3 books going. This helps me get more reading in, because I can pick up the book that best fits my mood, energy level, etc.

    Thanks for this post! I think your ideas are helpful.

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