How to Read When You've Got Shit to Do
Despite having gone on a mini blog vacation, my time off was go-go-go in the best possible way. I'll have a detailed post about my adventures on my personal blog, but---long story short---I found out my boyfriend got a sweet job in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, so I had to pack up my life in Birmingham, Alabama and see all my family and friends before heading out. Then there was the moving part. You know how that goes. (We still have boxes lying around.)
Sometimes life just gets crazy and you don't have extra time to spare. Since the majority of people who enjoy reading but don't do it often cite lack of time as the primary detriment, it can be tempting to abandon books when things get hectic on the home front. But there's another way.
Even with all the stuff I had going on, I finished 2 whole books and am about to finish another. Rather than letting your schedule dictate your reading, you can conform your reading to fit your schedule. Here's my personal reading practice and what I've found works best for squeezing in reading time even when I've got shit to do. It's taken me years to get this down, and it may not be what works best for you, so feel free to try it and figure out your own reading practice.
How I Do It
In essence, I have 3 books going at any given time and I strategically pick the story and format of those books so I don't mix up plot lines.
My recipe for these 3 books is:
- 2 audio, 1 print/ebook
- 1 audiobook is my "car audio" that I only listen to in the car. 1 audiobook is on my laptop, which I only listen to at home or wherever I might take my laptop. The 1 print/ebook I read before bed and carry around in my purse.
- Mix type and medium wisely to avoid confusion. If I have 1 fiction print/ebook, then I can have 1 fiction audiobook and 1 nonfiction audiobook. Or if I have 1 nonfiction print/ebook, then I can have 1 nonfiction audiobook and 1 fiction audiobook. I found that reading 2 fiction audiobooks, 2 fiction print/ebooks, 2 nonfiction audiobooks, or 2 nonfiction print/ebooks at the same time just left me confused. However, if you only read one or the other when it comes to fiction and nonfiction, it helps to choose stories that are vastly different.
For your car audiobook, you'll want to consider your driving style. Do you drive every day for about the same time every day? Do you typically have other people, such as small humans in the car with you? Do you not drive all that much? Based on these and other factors, I've got a few tips.
If you typically drive by yourself, great! Choose something you love that you feel will hold your attention. If you're new to audiobooks, I recommend starting with nonfiction since that can be easier than a complex Game of Thrones-esque fiction book.
If you tend to have other people in the car when you drive, get them in on the fun. If you have small humans, there are a ton of great young adult books to choose from, and if they're younger than that they probably don't care what you're listening to anyway. Plus, it's been scientifically proven that young kids' language skills develop faster when they're being read to, even if it's not you doing the reading.
Got a partner or set of carpool friends? Choose something funny and don't be afraid to stop the audiobook to laugh or talk. Need ideas? Check out the humor section at the library. I really enjoyed Sloan Crosley's I Was Told There'd Be Cake earlier this year.
If you drive about the same amount of time most days, then take that into consideration when checking out audiobooks from the library. You can look at how long the audiobook is and calculate how long it'll take you to listen to it.
If you don't drive very much, perhaps choose a book of short stories or a shorter audiobook and stay away from things that are long and require a lot of attention and memory to keep straight, like mystery and fantasy.
I get the sense that most people think of audiobooks as something to do while commuting---I know I did for a long time---but you'd be surprised how much listening you can do around the house. Washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, organizing, doing laundry, preparing for the next day, post-shower primping, and more. And if you're using something like Overdrive from your library, you can download the Overdrive app and listen while you're on your lunch break at work, grocery shopping, waiting in line at the bank and pharmacy, pumping gas, etc.
There are a million moments throughout the day that can be filled with audiobooks and, before you know it, you'll have another book squeezed into your brain. It takes some practice identifying these audiobook moments, so start with something short if you're new to audiobooks or haven't listened at home before.
If your house has a lot of other people in it, especially people who need regular attention, this may not be possible. In such cases, skip the laptop audio and just do the car audio and print/ebook. The key to reading more is book polygamy in different mediums, so two books is still better than one.
The print/ebook is great to read before bed because it can slowly wind your brain down for sleep, but it won't lull you into sleep then keep going like an audiobook. It's pretty annoying to fall asleep while listening to an audiobook, then wake up hours later and have the thing still going, then have to remember where you were and rewind. I usually give myself 30 minutes where I sense I'm getting tired and don't want to or have the energy to start another task, but I'm not immediately falling asleep. Prime reading time!
I also carry the print/ebook around with me in case I happen upon unexpected reading time that, in absence of a book, I might otherwise stare at my phone. Going to lunch with a friend or client and need some incentive to get there early? Take a book. Then if they're late, you won't be as disappointed. Get stuck waiting at the auto repair shop? Read. Waiting to pick up food at a restaurant? Get in a couple of pages. Print/ebooks are great for those moments when you need your ears engaged (such as waiting for your name to be called to pick up something), but your mind is otherwise free to wander.
And because print/ebooks don't lend themselves to multi-tasking as easily as audiobooks, they're the perfect format for relaxation. There's nothing quite like curling up with a book and having some "me" time.
So there you have it! That's my personal reading practice and how I'm able to read even when I've got a ton of shit to do. Find what works for you and knock out that To Be Read list!