One of the greatest tragedies of being a booklover is that no matter how many books you read, you always wish that you could read more! Maybe you’re someone who reads a couple of books a year, or maybe you read a couple of hundred. Whatever your reading habits may be, you probably wish you could find a way to fit more reading time into your busy schedule.
Luckily, I’m here to help! As a person who constantly struggles to make a dent in my TBR, I have come up with four simple rules that help keep me reading even when I’m feeling too busy, tired, stressed and/or distracted to pick up a book.
1. The Two Pages Rule
I’ll let you in on a secret. If it weren’t for the two page rule, I probably wouldn’t ever finish a book. This is a trick I developed when I was feeling low on motivation to read. You might feel you have more pressing demands on your time like family, friends, cooking, gardening, exercise, work etc. Or maybe you prefer to use the little bit of free time you have each evening to squeeze in some extra work (workaholics), quickly check Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (social media addicts), or watch something on Netflix (literally everyone).
Nobody ever feels like they have enough spare time to devote to reading, but here’s the thing: you shouldn’t even think of reading time as “spare time.”
Reading time is reading time. It is as vital for your mental health and wellbeing as exercise is for the body. If you have a busy and demanding schedule, it may seem impossible to sacrifice time for something as indulgent as reading. But this is where the sneaky genius of The Two Page Rule comes into effect…
You have to trick yourself. Tell yourself that you will only read two pages of your book. Two pages! It will take you about 5 minutes. If after two pages you don’t want to keep going then that’s fine! Put the book down for the day and you can read another two pages tomorrow! Here’s the thing though … unless you’re reading a very dull book, two pages is usually enough to get you engaged in the story. And once you’re engaged, you might suddenly find that you’ve read 4 pages, or eight pages, or maybe even a few chapters! Much like physical exercise, the hard part about reading is making the decision to pick up the book and get started. Once you’ve started, however, it becomes more of a Pringles situation and you’ll find yourself struggling to stop!
So there you have it. The Two Page Rule. Commit to two pages a day (or if you really don’t have 5 mins a day to spare then okay, commit to two pages a week, or a month, whatever you can squeeze into your busy schedule!) and before you know it you’ll be finished that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages and looking for a new one!
2. Remove yourself from easy access to screens.
This is perhaps the most challenging rule. It’s especially difficult if you happen to be reading on your phone or tablet. The easiest way to manage this is to read in a room without a TV and to leave your phone (if possible) in another room. You might be tempted to read in the bedroom but I would advise against this. As soon as you lie down, you’re going to start feeling sleepy.
If you’re already panicking, then this is the perfect time to remember The Two Page Rule! You only have to be separated from your phone for a few minutes. Just long enough to read two pages (and then hopefully get hooked and smash through a few chapters … but don’t think about that right now! Just think in terms of minutes and pages!).
It’s just a couple of pages, right? A few minutes away from Netflix and Twitter isn’t going to kill you! Just a few quick minutes of quiet reading time and then you can switch on the TV if you reaaaaally want to.
Of course, maybe after a few pages you might find you don’t really feel like watching TV anymore? Maybe you might just read a few more pages, or a couple of chapters even? Oh, look at that! It’s midnight and you’ve accidentally finished your book! How did that happen?!?!
3. Pick books you actually WANT to read.
This might seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this! When you only have time to read a couple of books a year, people often get caught in the trap of thinking they must use that valuable time to read the latest bestseller that everyone has been talking about, or that super awesome self-help book that is guaranteed to change your life, or that terribly impressible-sounding literary novel that won all the awards, or that beloved classic that everyone else has already read.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Any one of the above choices would be perfectly fine … provided that deep down in your heart of hearts, you genuinely want to read that bestseller/self-help guide/literary novel/classic. You have to want to read it because if you don’t, your motivation will be sooooooooooo loooooooooooooow you’ll just make things harder for yourself. I’m all for tackling a challenging book – we should all read outside our comfort zone as often as possible – but save the challenging reads for when you’re at the stage of devouring a book per month (or thereabouts). Until you’re at the stage of reading regularly, don’t make things harder by picking a book you think you should read. Pick books you want to read and before long you’ll be such a bookworm you’ll subconsciously start seeking out more challenging reads.
4. Find yourself a good reading buddy and/or book club!
Many people have, at some point in their lives, attempted to join a bookclub. Maybe you’re one of those people? Maybe you’re even one of the lucky ones who joined a book club where people actually read and discuss books on a regular basis?!? I’ve heard that such book clubs exist, though sadly, I’ve never been part of one.
Every book club I have ever joined usually starts out with a lot of enthusiasm for books and ends with people deciding they don’t have time to read, and wouldn’t it be better to join a wine and cheese club anyway because isn’t all the wine drinking/cheese eating really the best part about book club?
The reason book clubs so rarely work is that it’s actually quite hard to read books that have been chosen by other people. It’s also hard to read books when it feels like homework for your book, wine, and cheese club.
If you are a member of a good book club then hold onto to it for dear life, because such miracles are very rare in this world and should be treasured! However if, like me, you have given up on book clubs then do not lose hope! There is another solution! All you need is a good reading buddy! Simply find someone in your life – a friend, relative, partner or co-worker – whose taste in books, movies, or TV shows is similar to yours. Then ask that person the following question:
“What is your favourite book?”
When they eventually settle on an answer (fair warning: if this person happens to be an avid reader they are likely to reply with a Top Ten rather than a single favourite) your job is to take notes! Write down the titles of any books they recommend and then pick one that appeals to you the most. Let your friend/relative/partner/co-worker know that you are reading one of their favourite books, on their recommendation. They will be overjoyed at the prospect of discussing it with you. Voila! You have found a reading buddy! If things go smoothly, you will soon be giving each other reading recommendations, borrowing each other’s books and getting matching literary tattoos!
And that’s it! All the tools you need to help you read more books. These 4 simple rules are not hard to follow, and I promise you that they definitely work (especially the first one!)
The most important thing to remember, however, is never to feel bad about the number of books you read. There’s no point feeling guilty about how fast you read, or how many books you have read. Guilt only leads to lack of motivation! No matter how many books you read you will always, always feel like you could be reading more. There are simply so many amazing books in the world, no one person will ever be able to read them all. All you can do is set aside a little bit of time each day to read the books that call to you … whatever they might be. Just a few pages a day can have a hugely transformative effect on your life.
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About the Contributor
Sarah McDuling is Booktopia's Category Manager for Children's and Young Adult Books. She has been in the bookselling game for almost a decade and a dedicated booklover since birth (potentially longer). At her happiest when reading a book, Sarah also enjoys talking/writing/tweeting about books. In her spare time, she often likes to buy a lot of books and take photographs of books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instragram @sarahmcduling
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