I know that for many people reading 40 books in one year is nothing special, but, well, for me it is.
I love reading. But like many, I often find it hard to find the time. I consider myself a reader – I have a list longer than my arm of books to read – yet somehow I find days pass without me even cracking open a book.
Not only that, but for some time now I’ve realized that my reading attention span has weakened. As a child and teenager I could easily sit and read for hours (I also had the free time to do so). Now when I have to sit to read something longer than a blog post (hello!) I find my attention waning. I realized I was falling into the stereotype of the Internet age: attention-deficit young adults who salivate at the dings and pings of technology but can barely keep a conversation going.
I didn’t want that.
So, as I geared up for a baby and maternity leave and all the new that that entailed, I also promised myself that I would use that time – whatever time – to read. I didn’t know what to expect, and in the anxiety that so much change can bring I clung to reading as a lifeboat. It was leisurely, a luxury, and just for me.
I snagged whatever chances I could get!
Besides the fact that I wasn’t working, there were a few key things I did to read so much (because it’s so easy to just turn on the TV with that free time, isn’t it?).
How I read 40 books in one year:
I unsubscribed from emails that were wasting my time.
Weekly newsletters I felt obligated to read and magazine ads and Internet clickbait. I released myself from the feeling that I had to read every article that ended up in my inbox with a semi-interesting title.
I read while I breastfed.
Of course, breastfeeding is a wonderful moment to connect with your child, but it’s also long and tedious and when your baby is an infant, you’re breastfeeding more often than not. I didn’t zone out in front of the tv, instead I forced myself to read.
I switched to the Kindle and got ebooks from the library
I’ve always preferred paper books, but I switched to the Kindle so that I could read hands-free – a blessing while breastfeeding or rocking a baby to sleep for hours. I’m convinced I read dozens of books more just from that one change. Not only that, but with my American library card I had free access to hundreds of titles in English, something I didn’t have before considering I live in Italy.
I kept track
I didn’t give up every last ping and ding from social media just to read. Actually, I used Goodreads to set my 2017 reading goal of 30 books, then I religiously recorded and updated each time a book was finished. There was little more satisfying for my Pavlovian mind than declaring a book read.
I began to listen to my news
While eating breakfast, or doing chores or going on walks, I listened to the news with various different podcasts instead of reading it every morning. I still read some, but now my first activity was reading a few pages, rather than scrolling headlines
Essentially, I wasted less time, read less useless Internet. Instead, I opened my book.
I slowly broke the mindless habit of grabbing my cellphone to scroll through Facebook or Instagram or any of the other dozen or so apps I have on my phone with behavioral rewarding dings and stars and I opened a book instead.
When the laundry was done or I was waiting for water to boil or Adeline had finally fallen asleep, I opened a book.
I gave up on the idea of having a solid 90 minutes to leisurely read in peace each night. Whatever time I managed to carve out ten free minutes, I opened my book, and even when I had no time to carve out, I sometimes had my book open all the same.
There’s nothing life-changing here. Nothing others haven’t already said. Austin Kleon from Steal Like An Artist is a prolific reader who has many ideas on how to read more, including, of course, “I will turn off my fucking phone”. But this time, I actually did it.
Now with a 10-month old, a full-time work schedule, an online course, a household to run and friends and family to, you know, occasionally see, reading has fallen down a long black tunnel again. It seems impossible – certainly 40 books is a stretch – but I’m not discouraged. After this year’s experiment I can say with confidence:
I know how to make time to read.