Most of us moms are busy. Like too busy. Between kids, work and family life there doesn’t seem time for anything more in this season. Especially reading time.
Finding reading time, except maybe children’s books, seems to slip away from me as a busy mom. I used to be an avid reader. When my husband and I were dating we used to wake up on weekend mornings, drag a pile of books down to the local coffee shop and read. For hours.
Now that I don’t have much time to indulge in a good book, I remind myself of those quiet mornings sometimes. At the time, I thought we were just filling the hours. But now, I realize, how beautiful those mornings were. Just the two of us reading. It was actually kind of romantic.
The problem with letting reading go is that reading is a fundamental skill to starting and growing a successful business.
Most CEOs read an average of one book a day. That’s about 365 books in one year. I’m not even sure I’ve ever made a reading list that long.
Warren Buffet says that knowledge “…builds up, like compound interest.” He recently recommended reading 500 pages a day. 500 pages. Now he was referring to manuals and papers that you’d use in researching investing. I don’t read much of that any day of the week. I certainly can’t imagine reading 500 pages of it.
But when a CEO is talking about a daily reading regimen, they’re not referring to a web page or a blog post. Most of these CEOs are reading bona fide books. Those things you buy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble that come in paperback and hardcover. (Or take out of the library, listen to as you drive or even read on a tablet.)
In addition to just being smarter, there are other health benefits to finding time to read every day. The exercise is also noted to help us live longer, reduce stress and improve our emotional IQ (which we need after having kids).
But, how is a busy mom supposed to keep up with all of this reading time?
Don’t worry. Not all is lost.
Recently, I set out to find more time to read. Maybe not the “recommended” 500 pages a day (I can’t even imagine reading that much and there aren’t many manuals in the house any way), but at least more than a book a year.
Using these strategies over the last 8 weeks, I have completed 8 books and am currently reading my ninth.
Want to try to fit more reading into your busy schedule?
Here are the strategies that I’m following to add in time for reading as a busy mom.
Have a Reading List
One of the signs of a good reader that we discussed in my graduate school days was that good readers know what they’re going to read next. They have a plan and are ready to execute after their current book is complete.
Have you ever gotten to the end of a good book and just sat there not knowing what to pick up next?
This happens to me all of the time. I will waste weeks humming and hawing just trying to make the decision.
By the time I choose a new selection, I probably could have already finished a book (or two) if I’d started right away.
Instead of leaving your next selection up to chance (such as picking a random one from the library shelf that you stopped at on the way out with the screaming toddler – true story), create a book list.
I have two versions of this list – one on Evernote and a Pinterest board dedicated solely to interesting books.
When I am getting to the end of a book, I go to my list and choose what I’m in the mood for next. This gives me time to reserve it at the library, order it online or download the audio version. Then, I’m all set. No reading time wasted in between selections.
Sips and Swallows
One of the favorite autobiographies is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. He talks about the importance of finding reading time with small children and a busy writing life. His advice is to read in sips and swallows.
King is referring to those short, quiet moments of the day when you can read a paragraph or two. It might not seem like a lot of time, but those paragraphs add up to pages and the pages add up to books.
Have a book near you when you’re doing household chores, rocking the babies to sleep or doing the laundry. At a quiet moment, grab a sip or swallow. Just a paragraph will do.
I grab mine while I cook dinner, when the kids are getting ready in the morning or I’m waiting in the school pick up line. As long as you keep a book by your side, you’ll be amazed how much reading your can get done.
Turn Off the TV
Did you know that the average American in 2018 spent 71 minutes a day watching Netflix? That was more time than we spent bonding with our kids (about a half hour).
Supposedly, we only spent 17 minutes reading. Now, what if we traded those numbers? You could spend more time reading and bonding with your kids. Netflix can wait.
Most of us probably don’t realize how much time we spend watching television. There are nights that I can’t even imagine reading I’m so tired. I just want to relax in front of the tv and let it drone me to sleep. And, don’t worry, I do.
But if you find yourself doing this most evenings, try turning the TV off one night and read instead. Maybe make a goal of reading a couple of evenings a week. Slowly, you’ll probably notice that your pile of books to read gets smaller.
Babies and little ones love words. When they first enter this world, it doesn’t matter what you read to them. Just that you read. They love the rhythms of the texts and hearing all of the nuances of language for the first time.
When your kids are very small and trying to find even a few minutes of reading time, read aloud to them. From anything. I used to read recipes from the cookbook and excerpts from the newest book club novel.
My husband’s dad used to read the newspaper to him at the breakfast table. He was schooled in local and world events from a young age. But it also made him ask more questions and become very curious about the world.
Studies show that reading aloud all types of texts to very young children builds their vocabularies. It also let’s you get some reading time in and share the joy of books with your kids.
Remember, You’re the Example
I used to feel bad reading in front of my kids. Many times they love to play together and the last thing they want is a parent getting involved. So, I’d sit and watch them. Then, I’d clean.
Nowadays, though, I started reading my books in front of them. You are their first teacher and they learn about how to enjoy reading from watching you read.
Don’t feel guilty if you grab a book and start reading while they play. The housework can wait.
Your actions might even inspire them to pick up a book. I love cuddling on the couch and reading together as a family. Sometimes we even share about what we’re reading. It’s great to hear everyone get so excited about their books.
Keep a Reading Journal
I know, I know, you’re not in school any more. But, keeping a reading journal is a wonderful activity no matter what stage of life you’re in. It’s a great way to interact deeper with the book and compile your thoughts.
The best part about having a reading log as an adult is that you don’t have to share it with anyone. The ideas inside are all yours. You can write down your thoughts, emotions and how you connect with the characters. It’s also a great place to keep a list of what books you’re reading and reviews of your reading experience.
For non-fiction books, I love to write down lessons that I learned, fascinating quotes and how the ideas apply to things going on in my life.
A reading journal is also a great way to remember what you’ve read. We are so busy and books can quickly turn to just words on a page. Maintaining a reading journal will help keep all of those ideas straight.
Just because you don’t have time to read a book, doesn’t mean you can’t listen to one. I am a huge fan of audio books these days. They’re perfect for getting reading time in when you travel, clean the house or work out.
Since audio books can be expensive to buy, check out your local library for free selections. Many library systems now offer a download check out system. You can load the audiobook onto your device, listen to it and “return” it when you’re done.
Carry It with You
The funny thing about reading is it’s a pretty transportable hobby. Whether you’re reading a book, listening to the audio version or enjoying a text on Kindle, books can go just about anywhere.
We all have breaks throughout our days. The school pick up line. Our children’s dance class. Waiting in line for coffee.
If you always have your reading material ready, then you can grab a sip of reading during these moments instead of browsing your phone. And remember, those sips add up. You’d be surprised how quickly you can finish a book with a little reading here and there.
I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have time to read, how am I supposed to have time to work out. Actually, the two activities can go hand in hand if planned correctly.
I love to go on morning walks while listening to my latest audiobook. It keeps my brain active and I get fresh air while I’m at it. Using the tread mill at the gym is more interesting with a book in hand too.
If you need to make time for both working out and reading, try combining the two activities. Make your current reading selection your work out companion. It’s always useful to get two recommended daily tasks completed at the same time.
Organize a Book Club
When I’m in a reading funk and not inspired by any books, I join a book club for new ideas. I love gathering together with other reading moms and discussing an interesting text. It’s great hearing other perspectives and thoughts about a book.
A book club can also be a great way to build community around you. Talk to your neighborhood moms, your parent group or even people at school. See if anyone is interested in cultivating a monthly meet up.
Have a list of suggested books ready to choose from. If you’re organizing the book club, it’s helpful to know which book the group should start with. Then, the group member can help select books from there.
Pick a date to meet once a month. Consistency helps everyone’s busy schedules. So, choose a specific day and stick to it. Also, select a central location that works. Choose someone’s home, rotate hosts or meet at a local coffee shop.
I used to belong to a book club many years ago that did themed nights for the books. The person hosting was in charge of food and beverage that was themed around the story we were reading.
For example, a book taking place in the South would have Southern delicacies. This made our meetings even more fun to see the creativity of our host.
Set Reading Goals
Although reading for pleasure is a goal enough, it helps to know where you want to go with your reading.
Are you trying to complete a certain number of books? Is there a specific genre of book you want to read or a number of pages you hope to accomplish?
Whatever your reading goals, write them down and make it personal. In order to find the motivation to read, you need to know where you’re going.
If you aren’t sure the next direction to take your reading, try joining a reading challenge. PopSugar Reading Challenge is in it’s fifth year running and is a great place to get started. They provide 50 ideas of types of books to read during the year. It makes a fun reading challenge.
Or up your reading game by participating in the Unread Shelf Project. During a certain time of the year, you challenge yourself to read all of your unread books. You can find more information about the project here. (You might be more successful than me, though, since I seem to acquire new books at a ridiculous rate.)
There seems to be a connection between being a voracious reader and a successful CEO. If you want to run a business and be your own boss, finding time to pick up a book or two is smart.
But as moms, finding that quiet time to read can be hard. I know. I’ve been there. I was even kicked out of book club at least twice for failure to complete the book.
To make more time for reading, start by making it a priority. Pick a new book and give yourself a deadline. If you’re having trouble finding time to read, try some of these strategies.
Books are a little bit like life. They are completed one word at a time.
Remember that even if you only have time to read a short sip that day, you’ll still have read a paragraph or page. That’s one more step towards the finish line.
Here’s to finding more reading time in your day!