After many months in quarantine, we’ve all learned that when every aspect of life—working, parenting, schooling, cooking, eating, sleeping—occurs within the four walls of your home, it’s nearly impossible to draw clear boundaries around any of them. Working from home also means no commute—and if that was the only time you had to yourself to read or listen to an audiobook, you may find it hard to fit reading into your stay-at-home schedule. (Reading to your kids is great, but it doesn’t count.)
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips for reading more while you’re stuck at home.
Switch to audiobooks
For bibliophiles who love to hold physical books and literally (pun intended) read words on a page, audiobooks will never be the same. We know. (No need to tell us in the comments.) But if you’re pressed for time, audiobooks do allow you to easily multitask—so you can “read” while getting other important, or unavoidable—and often mindless—things done.
Here are a few ways you might fit listening into your daily routine:
While you’re cooking or cleaning: Instead of music, put on an audiobook. You can even sync to your smart speaker so you can listen as you move around your house.
While you’re exercising: Again, choose a book over music (outdoors) or binge-watching TV (indoors).
On a walk: Hopefully you’re getting outside on occasion, even if it’s just for a 10-minute walk around the block. Take your audiobook with you.
On short drives: Even if you’re not commuting, you may still be going out for groceries and other essentials. Use the time in transit to get a chapter or two in.
Schedule reading time
Put reading on your calendar just like you would any other meeting or appointment, set up an alert and stay accountable to it. Blocking off just 15 minutes prevents people from scheduling last-minute events, and it reminds you to take a break. If you find you have trouble ignoring your phone, silence your alerts or consider blocking social media altogether.
Create more time in your day
We don’t necessarily recommend skipping out on much-needed sleep or shirking your more pressing responsibilities, but getting up a half-hour earlier (especially if no one else in your house is awake) is a great way to fit in uninterrupted reading time.
Read with your coffee or meals
Instead of scrolling through email or social media while you drink your coffee or eat your lunch, sit down with a book. Commit to reading a chapter or a certain number of pages before you get up. Set a timer if you have to.
Break it up into manageable pieces
Pick a book with brief chapters or a collection of short stories—anything to make yourself feel like you’re accomplishing a goal even if you can only read for a few minutes. It’s also nice to have frequent natural breaks (a chapter ending) so you don’t feel like you’re putting your book down in the middle of an important idea, or that you have to go back and start over just to remember what happened last.
Join a virtual book club
Sometimes accountability is all it takes to stay motivated toward a reading goal. If you aren’t already in a book club, get a group of friends (or even just one other person) on board to read the same book. Set a timeline and plan to meet virtually to discuss. This is also a good way to get reading recommendations outside of your usual favourite authors and genres.
Another option is to set up a book rotation, which is something I do with my family. Here’s how it works: everyone picks and reads a book for the first month (July). At the beginning of the next month (August), we each send the book we picked along to the next recipient and so on, until everyone has received and read each book selected in July. Then we start over. Knowing that you have to send the book by the deadline prevents you from setting it aside and forgetting it.
We’ve written before about other ways to read more when you’re not in quarantine. A few additional tips:
Find the right spot in your home. On the couch in front of the TV or in bed at the end of the day is probably not it. Remove any temptations to do other things besides reading.
Carry a book around. Have your book (or device with audiobook downloads) handy so you can read whenever you have a free minute.
Don’t force a book you’re not enjoying. If reading seems like yet another chore, you won’t do it. Even if you’re a completionist, know when to put a book down if it isn’t working for you.
Image: John Kobal Foundation / Contributor (Getty Images)