Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How I Manage to Read 100 Books a Year (While Raising a Toddler)

I've mentioned it multiple times so you have probably picked up on the fact that I read a lot.  I have been for years decades.  Back when I was homeschooled I would hide my Babysitter Club books between extra towels in our shared girls' bath and sneak in a few chapters on (frequent) bathroom breaks.  Either my Mom caught on or she thought I had some real bladder issues.  She may have figured it out when one came tumbling out, months overdue at the library that I had to pay for.  I didn't read much for pleasure in college, with new friends, tougher schoolwork (high school was so easy in comparison!), and the draw of 24/7 internet (this is before everyone had high speed internet at home).  Then somewhere since I started reading again.  A lot.  I feel like I'm slacking if I it takes me more than 4 days to finish a book.

I am pretty amazed at how much time I can devote to this hobby of mine even while raising a toddler.  Like anything, it's all about good time management and while I am nowhere near perfect at that, I have gotten pretty good at carving out times in the day to read.  As of this writing I've finished 289 adult (non-children) books since Luke came home almost 3 years ago (including 6 just last week...not joking).  It might seem like all I do is sit around and read but I realized I read very little while Luke is awake (or at least not supposed to be napping because I am definitely reading when he's running around his room before actually falling asleep).  Here are some ways I manage to sneak in around 10 hours a week for doing something just for me.

1) Putting down my phone and picking up a book
It might just be a few minutes here and there but if I'm supervising bath time or Luke is with Daddy in the basement or he's in his room "napping" or before I go to sleep, I pick up a book.  My biggest chunks are usually at the beginning of naptime (I aim for about 30 minutes) and before bed (another 30 minutes).  But even sneaking in 5 minutes here and there can make a big difference.  When I'm tempted to refresh Feedly for the 50th time that day (even though not many blogs I follow tend to post in the late afternoon/evening so I don't know why I do it) I make myself pick up a book instead.  Really, so much of better time management could be solved with "put down your phone".

2) Finding books I am excited to read
I've gotten pickier over the years with what I'll read.  Basically, it has to be rated above 3.7 on Goodreads or be an author I've enjoyed in the past or something that really really intrigues me (I only make a few exceptions for that a year).  If I'm really interested in a book or it comes highly recommended from someone I trust, then I'm much more likely to pick up and make time to read it.  Plus, having something else I want to read sitting in my library basket is good motivation to keep reading so I can get to what's next!  And the more time I can devote to reading the faster a book hooks me and then I really make time to finish it!

3) Keep track of what I want to read
Basically, Goodreads (this is me).  I keep a "to-read" list on there as well as logging every book I read.  At the end of each month I get an e-mail of new books being released the next month by authors I've read before.  Some new books I'm aware of, some not.  I always know what's next on my list, what's next to put on hold at the library, and sometimes I get excited books in advance.  Plus, I can go back and look at books I've rated 4 or 5 stars for good ideas for rereads when my library hold list isn't moving fast enough or, briefly, catch up on my "to-read" list. 

4) Setting a reading goal
Again, I use Goodreads for this.  I've done their annual reading challenge for the last 3 years and every year have met or exceeded my goal.  Logging onto the website it shows my percentage towards my goal and how many books ahead I am.  Keeping that books ahead number (currently 6 ahead for 2016) growing instead of shrinking really keeps me motivated.  Plus, I really like checking books off my "to-read" list and keeping that low.  Basically, I need to see my progress.  This might make it a little competitive?  Competitive with myself I guess which isn't a bad thing.  

5) Sunday read days
Sunday are typically the days I can knock out a whole book or at least finish one and start a new one.  I rarely turn on my computer on the weekends but usually spend part of Saturday naps working on some project and Saturday nights hanging out with Matt.  Sundays though, I read a lot.  I usually spend all of Luke's nap time reading. And Sometimes Sunday mornings when Matt & Luke go to Matt's parents' house.  And Sunday evenings between Luke's bedtime and some evening tv with Matt.  This comes out to at least 3-4 hours, maybe more.  I pretty much always count on finishing a book on Sundays.

6) Read in the car
If we're going on a long car trip, either for vacation or to visit my sisters in Indy or just to the lake, Matt and I split up driving.  We talk some of it, sure, but when we were driving to Alabama for 14 hours we definitely weren't talking the entire time.  We've been married for almost 10 years...we don't have 14 hours of things to talk about.  So for any car trip more than 45 minutes I almost always have reading material in my purse.  And I usually use it.  Also why I generally drive the nighttime/dark part of the trip (since Matt can't read in the car anyways!).  

7) Reading during my lunch break
The last few years I worked full-time I spent my lunch breaks reading.  Outside in nice weather but at my desk in the winter and rain.  I got teased about my outside reading a lot.  I kept a folding camp chair in my trunk and after eating my lunch at my desk and checking my e-mail and Facebook (before everyone had smart phones) I would go outside with my water and phone and book and set up my chair in the grass at the back of the parking lot, under a tree.  It was the most relaxing part of my work day.  The last summers I was a janitor, and no longer working with Matt since he was in school over the summer, I would take a book and spend my lunch break reading.  Like I spend part of naptime reading now.  Basically, my lunch has long revolved around a book.

So, to summarize, I make time to read by putting down my phone and picking up a book, by taking advantage of little spots in the day, and finding books I really want to read.  I like reading and enjoy the vast majority of the books I read so it's a hobby I'll gladly make the time for.  I hope you have something you feel similarly about (that isn't Netflix, that doesn't count.  Or your kids.  Or your job.  Something just for you!)  (And despite how these pictures look I read many more places than my porch!  Although I do have a large number of pictures like the one above, featuring many different books and shoes.  Not every book I read, just the ones I'm really excited about.)

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