This Wednesday: Tips for getting more reading done.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Tips for getting more reading done.

One of my resolutions is to “read more.”

Reading is essential to my work. It’s an important part to my social life. And far more important, reading is my favorite thing to do, by a long shot. I’m not a well-rounded person.

A friend once told me, “My idea of a good weekend day is when I’m outside with my kids for two hours before lunch and two hours after lunch.” I answered, “My idea of a good weekend day is when we all lie around reading in our pajamas until the mid-afternoon.”

But reading takes time, and there aren’t many days when I can loll around with a book for hours. Here are some tips for getting more reading done.

1. Quit reading. I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started. No more. Life is short.

2. Use TiVO. It’s amazing how much more efficient it is to watch TV shows on TiVO. You skip the commercials and control when you watch.

3. Skim. Especially when reading newspapers and magazines, often I get as much from skimming as I do by a leisurely reading. And I skip almost all stories about crime or celebrities (though I must confess I read every word written about the Brooke Astor scandal).

4. Read books you enjoy. When I’m reading a book I love—for example, I just re-read Muriel Spark’s brilliant The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie—I’m astonished by how much time I find to read during my day. Which is another reason to stop reading a book I dislike.

5. Get calm. I have a sticky note posted in our bedroom that says, “Quiet mind.” It’s sometimes hard for me to settle down with a book; I keep wanting to jump up and take care of some nagging task. But that’s no way to read.

6. Any book is better than no book. Sometimes I feel like I should be reading one book when I actually feel like reading something entirely different. Say, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s T. Tembarom instead of Kahneman, Diener, and Schwartz’s Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology. But now I let myself read what I want, within reason, because otherwise I end up reading much less.

7. Limit time spent watching televised sports. Reclaim some of these hours.

8. Always have something to read. Never go anywhere empty-handed.

9. Maintain a big stack. I find that I read much more when I have a pile waiting for me.

And here are some thoughts on readings from a few great readers from the past:

Randall Jarrell: “Read at whim! Read at whim!”

Henry David Thoreau: “Read the best books first, otherwise you’ll find you do not have time.”

Samuel Johnson: “What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.”

Aargh, my email was hijacked today by some spammer. I only know because I keep getting “message undeliverable” notices. If you recently got an email from me about a weight-loss drug, I’m sorry!

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  • Carol

    I download and listen to audiobooks. That way you can keep moving and do things things as you listen. And it helps pass the time as I exercise or ride my bike. is a good service.
    Enjoy your blog!

  • Carol

    Whoops, sorry. I meant

  • Good tips.
    Life is short.
    I’ve combined [3.skim + 7. less televised sports] by just looking at the headline page of a few times per day. Then I click through to any stories (including sports or celebrity gossip) which catch my eye. Thus eliminating the need to read newspapers, listen to TV news or radio news.
    I’ve also taken out a subscription to the Guardian Weekly newspaper (a left-wing bias admittedly) and hence take my newspaper reading in one weekly burst.
    I do cheat a bit on what I’ve just written and watch a bit of TV news if there’s been a story where I think I need to see some vision.
    Now, if I could just cut down on my 8 hours per week reading blogs online, I could read several more books.

  • Cara

    Wonderful tips! I love reading and can lose myself for a whole day in a good story. What do you do, however, when your spouse thinks that reading is a huge waste of time? That’s the nagging bit that often makes me stop reading all too soon.

  • Miguel

    The best way for me to increase my reading is to cut down on typical morning activities including (paradoxically) (1) reading the newspaper and (2) checking email. I think these are low-value, immediate-gratification kinds of reading activities compared with reading books.
    Also, I find that a little time investment pays off when it comes to having good things to read. I’ve started paying more attention to book reviews so that I know what to look for at the library or bookstore. I dread not having anything good lined up!

  • Birgit

    “My idea of a good weekend day is when we all lie around reading in our pajamas until the mid-afternoon.” – and I thought me and my partner were the only ones… 🙂 Good to know there are more folks like us. Enjoy our blog!

  • Georges

    I just stumbled across your blog and it looks like good stuff. I wanted to comment on your #8 – I’ve been doing that for literally as long as I can remember! Not specifically for reading, though, though I love to read: I do that more to not have stretches of interminable boredom, stuck in traffic or in a boring class (college student) or whatnot. Great tip!

  • Ellen

    On #2 and #7: you can save even more time for reading if you lose the television habit altogether!

  • karen roth

    Have all you bibliophiles out there tried Library Thing yet? Ah, tis a lifesaver for us! And it’s free up to 200 books and el-cheapo for more. Makes that “now, do I own that book by Gretchen Rubin or did I check it out from the library?” musing obsolete. It’s fast and addictive, too, what fun!

  • Mal

    “Kahneman, Diener, and Schwartz’s Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology.” Yeah I had problems with that one as well! You want to read it because it’s the key text in happiness. But reading it makes you unhappy! Sort out that paradox.

  • Mal

    You quote Henry David Thoreau: “Read the best books first, otherwise you’ll find you do not have time.” And then you read Harry Potter? How do you justify this?

  • Thanks boys

  • AlisonC

    @Carol. I use audible as well and listen to books as I walk my dog. It has a double benefit in that I get to “read” a lot fof the books on my list but also a really good book means I really want to take the dog out and often walk for longer if I am really enjoying the story.