Pile your TBR stack higher because I'm about to share my most effective tip for reading more than you ever thought you could.
I've been debating writing this post for months because my honesty might make me sound brash or abrasive, but you're here because you love books and it seems silly to keep my best advice to myself.
People say to me all the time, "I wish I had more time to read. How do you read so much?" They're probably thinking I don't have a social life (wrong), or I don't work full time (wrong), or I don't have any responsibilities at home (wrong; I have as many as any childfree adult has), or any number of lucky circumstances that gives me more time in the day, most of which simply aren't the case.
The truth is, I just try to cut down on the biggest time suck I know: social media.
I don't think social media is some inherent evil or anything, I just went through a phase where I was spending waaaaay too much time on it at the expense of my reading time. So I devised a plan.
When I'm tempted to check social media, if what I actually want to be doing is reading, I ask myself, "Do I really care?"
It may sound harsh on the surface---after all, these are friends and family whose updates we'd be seeing---but it's a worthwhile question. Consider this: It's mostly just political rants and random videos on Facebook, promoted brand shit on Twitter, and photos of meals you're not eating, animals you're not petting, relationships you're not having, and other things that make you feel bad about yourself on Instagram.
You're not asking yourself "do I really care?" about the people posting these things---you're asking yourself whether you really care about the content they're posting. I so rarely see people share important life updates on social media anymore, so I assume that if we're close and it's important somebody will text me.
For me personally, it's rare that I see something on social media that truly adds value to my life or makes me feel good about myself. Between image crafting (or the curation of shared updates so as to make one's life look better than it really is) and super styled photos, most of the time I leave social media feeling like I'm not cool enough. And logically I know that's just ridiculous. (Honestly, if it weren't for the Off the Beaten Shelf Book Nerds Facebook group, which is AWESOME, I'd delete my Facebook right now.)
To be clear, I'm not some anti-internet hipster or disillusioned Millennial who thinks the internet is just a fad. I love the internet---it's how I find out about new books coming out, things happening in the book world, and how you're reading this blog (which I appreciate; thank you). I think you can find value in the things posted on social media, you just have to be willing to wade through some other potentially worthless crap, which takes time. And if time is what you're lacking, it may not be worth it in the long run.
If you're reading this and thinking, "but wait, I actually do like social media and it does add value to my life," let me ask you this: how often do you start scrolling through social media only to look up 20 minutes later and think "where'd the time go?" Ask yourself: do I really like social media or do I just like giving my brain a break from whatever I'm currently doing? Waiting in line, cleaning, some tedious task at work, etc.
But here's the kicker. If it's really a mental break you're after, why not fill that time with reading? It accomplishes the same goal. And if you're worried about being caught taking a break from work with a book in your hand, but the ebook on your phone and read on your phone. Make people think you're checking social media. I've found that short stories, essays, and books with short chapters are particularly conducive to being read on phones.
Of course, I don't have quantifiable numbers. I didn't measure my time spent on social media before, then compare it to the time spent on social media after asking myself "do I really care?" and going back to reading. But I do read a lot and I attribute a good chunk of that to just being focused on the act of reading.