Reading...for fun? Who has time for that?

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I don't have time to read for fun. I've heard that so many times and it's definitely an excuse I've used. When I was in college, I remember weeks when I’d have 800 pages of assigned reading and by the time I got through everything, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up another book. I used to think that I just didn't have the time for it...and then I met someone who read about a book a week (yes, really) while doing a million other things and shouldering a pretty heavy academic load. I was intrigued. If this person could accomplish so much in 24 hours, what was stopping me?

Having this interaction forced me to confront, head-on, all the excuses I made regarding my reading habits. Some analysis quickly revealed that it wasn't so much that I didn't have time to read, but that I no longer found reading fun. I would rather watch Netflix mindlessly, than pick up a book. As a kid I used to love reading; I would plow through books and I think part of the reason was that when I was younger I didn’t have a phone to distract me, no cable, no video games—nothing. If I didn’t read, I had no entertainment. After countless book reports and insane amounts of required reading, however, the joy I used to associate with reading faded. Unfortunately, I think this is something that a lot of people experience. 

According to recent statistics, in the U.S. people are spending about 5 hours a day on their phone—more than they would have spent engaging with a T.V. screen in the past.[1]Don’t believe me? I’ve started tracking my screen time using an app called Moment…it’s a free and quick download and you can easily see just how much time you’re spending on your phone. Once I saw that, I couldn’t use the “I don’t have 30 minutes excuse”—if I have thirty minutes for Instagram, I definitely have thirty minutes to feed my brain. 

Now, I’m not saying it’s an easy fix. To combat this reading ennui, I've done a couple of things. First, I've set aside (at least) 30 minutes per day to read. As soon as I walk through the door after work, I sit down at our couch, phone out of reach, book in hand. I leave my book on the coffee table the night before so I don’t have time to go to my room and get distracted by my laptop or to-do list. It’s become a nice way to unwind after work and a good way to start my afternoon routine; the thirty minute break helps me refocus. 

I also started listening to audio books this year. I used to think audio books weren’t for me. However, this year my commute to work included a 45 minute bike ride, both ways. It was a pretty big block of time that I didn’t want to waste and so, at a friend’s insistence, I decided to give audio books a go. They’re not my favorite way to get my reading in, but it’s a good way to make a dent in particularly challenging or lengthy books (2x speed is a godsend). Because I currently live abroad and I couldn’t bring a ton of books with me when I moved, I invested in a Kindle (check out Amazon Prime Day for great deals on this…2018 Prime Day will probably happen sometime around mid-July). It was the best decision I could’ve made. I actually like not knowing how many pages I've read and find that I actually get through books more quickly when I read on my kindle. 

Lastly, I only read things I enjoy. Whether you’re a beach read, sci-fi, dystopian, or biography person (or all of the above) don’t try to force yourself to read things you don’t find interesting. If won’t help you rekindle your appreciation for words. Sometimes a book won't be your cup of tea and that's perfectly fine. 

If you’re not an avid reader or maybe, like me, lost your love of reading somewhere along your academic way, it might be hard to get back into it—at first. We don’t like to do things that feel uncomfortable, that’s just the way our brains operate. But I firmly believe that the longer we stay in that uncomfortable space, the more we grow. Give reading another try, push through the discomfort, you might just be amazed at how much you learn and how consistent reading can really change your life. 

 

[1]Perez, Sarah. “U.S. Consumers Now Spend 5 Hours per Day on Mobile Devices.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 4 Mar. 2017, techcrunch.com/2017/03/03/u-s-consumers-now-spend-5-hours-per-day-on-mobile-devices/.