How to Make Time for Reading, No Matter How Busy You Are


Make time for reading. Person holding a book while sitting in a windowsill.
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

I recently was engaged in my favorite topic of conversation: books. My friend told me that when her children were young, she would get up at 5:00 each morning to read. I found that to be so charming. I pictured the scene: a hot mug of coffee, a cozy sweatshirt, a delicious novel. It sounded idyllic, minus the 5:00 a.m. part. I mulled over how unusual it was for someone to wake up early to do something that’s not high up on the list of things to complete in a day. She’s the only person I’ve ever heard of to do such a thing. But the more I thought about it, the less awestruck I became. I manage to find plenty of time each day to engage in my favorite pastime. In a way, I, too, set an alarm for reading; it just doesn’t go off at 5:00 a.m.

I’m not suggesting you get up at 5:00. I use this anecdote to illustrate that reading is something that deserves a dedicated window of time, just like we make time to exercise and work; just like we make time to grocery shop and tend to the garden.

Because said conversation is my favorite, I engage in it often, and I often hear people say they wish they read more. To which I will say, what’s stopping you? The answer is always time, but I think that answer is wrong. I think it’s the mindset that gets in people’s way. The desire to read more is not enough; you must first make a mindset shift. If you have time to watch television or scroll through social media, you have the time to read. Once you move it higher up on your list of things to complete in a day and start looking for time to read, the opportunities will unfold tremendously in front of you. You just have to want it.

Last year I managed to read forty-five books, and it felt almost breezy. I could’ve snuck in a few more if I wanted to. Here are some suggestions based on my experience to help you make time for reading. They’re not new—you know all of them. But if reading more is something that interests you, these will serve as good reminders.

Always carry a book with you.

Whether I am going to the dentist or running errands or meeting a friend for a drink, I always bring a book with me. Rather than pick up my phone and check email or scroll through Instagram, I reach for my book, which makes things like waiting for the doctor relatively pleasant. I actually get excited to spend a little time waiting because it means I get to read. If I forget to put a book in my purse, I can just grab the book I keep in my car for this very reason. And if I forget that book, I always have a book on my phone I can read.

This brings me to my next point:

Download an e-reader on your phone.

When given the choice between an e-book and a physical book, I will always opt for the latter. But when given the choice between reading a book and not reading a book, I will always opt for the former. As such, I have an e-reader on my phone so that in the instances I don’t have a physical book with me, I can still read.

Unplanned moments of waiting—five minutes waiting for my Target pickup order to be run out to my car, ten minutes in line at the post office—add up to a lot of surprise reading time in the day. All you have to do is download the Kindle app (or Apple Books or Libby or whichever app you prefer) on your phone and you will always have a book within reach. Once you train your brain to go down the pathway of opening the Kindle app instead of the email app, you’ll see how much time you’ll be gifted.

Making time to read is so much more than making time to read; it’s opening yourself up to the unexpected.

Be okay with reading multiple books simultaneously.

Not everybody is open to the idea of reading multiple books at once, and I can understand that. But if your goal is to read more, sometimes you just have to settle for the book that is most accessible to you at the time. I will typically have at least one fiction and one nonfiction book going, as well as one e-book. Another thing I will sometimes do is supplement bigger, more challenging books with some lighter reads, as in my current situation trying to get through Anna Karenina. If I’m not feeling attentive enough to read Russian literature from the 1800s (it’s not as pretentious as it sounds—it’s easier than you might think!), then I will opt for one of the other books I’m reading, one my brain can process at that time.

Once you’re open to reading multiple books at once, you can get more granular and select a book based on the mood you’re feeling or want to feel.

Join your local library.

This may seem like the most basic recommendation, but I wish someone would have recommended it to me earlier in my adult life. I started coming to the library for the first time since grad school because it was something to do with my daughter. As it turns out, it’s equally as fun for me.

Borrowing from the library is a low-risk way to read a book. You don’t have to buy it, so if you don’t like it, it’s not as painful to give up on it. And did you know you can borrow e-books from a library? Whenever I hear of a book that sounds interesting but I’m not sure I want to purchase it, I will request it from the library and they will hold it for me for several days. Once the e-book becomes available to me, I just send it to my Kindle app and can read it right away—for free. You can also borrow a downloadable audiobook if you like to listen to books.

Listen while you drive.

Or walk or run or cook. This doesn’t work for me (I think it’s an attention thing, plus I like to underline passages I love) but for those who can follow along, this is an excellent way to help you read more. It’s a hotly debated subject, but I do think listening to books is the same as reading—who cares how you absorb the information? The important thing is that you do (if you want to).

Read before bed.

This is arguably when I get most of my reading done. It’s how I unwind. It’s my coveted me-time. If you are a TV-before-bed person who wants to find time to read more, I really encourage you to try reading before bed. Carve out thirty minutes prior to when you want lights out and give a book a shot. The book will either be compelling enough to keep you up—and therefore you’ll be reading more—or it won’t keep your attention and will put you to sleep, which is a win-win in my opinion.

Above all else, if you want to read more, you have to decide that you really want it. You are your biggest obstacle— and your best bet. Once you decide this is your intention, the opportunities will unfold in front of you, along with beautiful stories, deep resonance, and connection with people and worlds you didn’t have access to before. Making time to read is so much more than making time to read; it’s opening yourself up to the unexpected. And that is worth carving out some time for.

BY Kolina Cicero - March 17, 2022

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March 20, 2022 8:02 am

When I was fleeing my home in Ukraine a few weeks ago, I took my e-reader with me, and it was the best choice — to grab it. I’m still here, so reading is my safe heaven now. Currently, the Fitzgerald world helps my mind run away from this sad and loud reality, at least for moments. I’ve never had such a strong appreciation for books before. You’ve said it well that making time to read is more than that, it’s such a special place to open yourself up.
Warmly, Victoria

March 20, 2022 1:46 pm
Reply to  Kolina Cicero

My e-reader is full of books, thank God! I appreciate your kind words, it really means a lot, as I’ve been following Wit&Delight for a few years. You guys also help me stay in touch with the normalcy of everyday life, and with the things that take me back to something light and inspiring. Can’t wait to go back to it!
Warmly, Victoria

April 1, 2022 12:16 pm

I really appreciated this article! Drives me nuts when people say they wish they read more but don’t consider how they can make that happen. Once I embraced e-readers and audiobooks I knocked out so much more reading than I used to. I too get most of my books from the library; I think a lot of adults forget the library is for them too. One thing I feel the need to point out is I think the debate over whether listening to audiobooks “counts” as reading needs to be put to bed. It’s ableist to say listening doesn’t count.… Read more »

Bonnie C.
June 15, 2022 11:20 am

I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who both were avid readers, & read to me from birth. I’m no genius, but because of this, I was already able to read before I hit kindergarten, & it’s stuck to me all my life (now 66). Regardless of how busy I am, I’ve made a permanent appointment to read at least one chapter in whatever book I’m reading after every meal. Gives me a little digestion break & fits in reading at the same time.

June 15, 2022 6:45 pm

I made it my choice to read rather than watching tv, and I always carry a book with me and also read off my phone app. I’ve read 49 books so far this year and have learned many new interesting things and ideas!!

January 27, 2023 4:34 pm

I don’t consider listening to e-books the same thing as reading, but while reading this I thought I’d my 2 cents. I find it easiest to read first thing in the morning for an hour while sipping my coffee.

January 31, 2023 7:23 pm
Reply to  Tim

Great idea!

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