One key to happiness is finding more time to read.

My one of my chief resolutions has been to spend more time on books – reading, writing, and making books.

One sub-resolution was “Find more time to read books.” I’m puzzled by my reading. I seem to get more reading done than most people, and yet I feel like I’m never reading. It has been hard for me to figure out how to do more reading, because I couldn’t figure out when I was doing any reading.

I feel like I’m always working, or spending time with my children, or sleeping. Sometimes the Big Man and I watch a little TV.

Last night, I had a huge revelation about my reading style: I don’t like to read in bed before going to sleep. I love to read in bed during the day. I love to read all day long. But I don’t particularly like the before-going-to-sleep read, which is the most common time to read.

Why not? I’m sleepy. My mind wanders. I keep thinking of things I should do before I turn out the light, so I keep jumping out of bed. It just doesn’t seem like “real” reading.

Now that I understand my resistance to before-bed reading, maybe I can juggle my schedule to do my reading at another time. I’ve been trying to lengthen that before-bed period, without much success. Now I see I should try to find another angle.

Ironically, because I love to read, it’s often the last thing on my to-do list. I try to make myself check off as many items as I can before I allow myself to flop down with my book. But another of my resolutions is “Make time for fun” and I’m trying to be better about making time. For instance, I LOVE David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, but I’ve been reading it for far too long. I need to make more time for it.

Today’s New York Times had a great article by Brad Melekian, All Child-Play and No Workouts Make Dad an Unfit Boy. Bottom line: “Parenthood demonstrably reduces physical activity.”

Why? Some reasons: because parents have to negotiate with each other to get exercise time; because they’re exhausted; because they want to spend that time with their kids; because they assume that if they can’t do a proper work-out, there’s no point in getting a little exercise; and because they use their kids as an excuse to skip the gym. But even though it’s tough to exercise when you have kids, it’s worth the effort — for long-term health benefits AND short-term mood boosts.

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  • I love reading in bed, usually just a nice fiction book though.
    Have you ever considered learning to speed read? Many people have great success and can easily double or triple the words per minute. Some books are easier to speed read than other, and you don’t need to speed read ever book either.

  • I’ve never learned how to do it, but I know with some books (non-fiction) I should make the conscious effort to skim through to find the information that might interest me, instead of plowing straight through. good reminder.

  • I used to love to read until the Internet killed my attention span. Now I’ve got dozens of books languishing on the shelves. I need to take a trip to some remote island without Internet access – if that exists anymore.

  • My favorite time to read in bed is in the morning, in the hour before the kids wake up.

  • Katie

    “They” say you shouldn’t read in bed because it makes it more difficult to fall asleep, but I’m one of those people who *relies* on reading in bed because it distracts me from my own thoughts long enough for me to get sleepy. 🙂
    Gretchen, here are some tips that have helped me get in more and better reading time:
    – Figure out which books you can and can’t read in different contexts. For example, I can’t read nonfiction on the metro, because I can’t concentrate, so that’s where I read exciting novels. Comic books are perfect for bedtime or for when I’m emotionally distraught and need to force a new train of thought.
    – Have a different book for each context, and only read it at those times. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to follow several books at the same time in this way.
    – Give up the hope of finding large chunks of time for reading. Instead, maximize the little 15 or 30 minute bites *everywhere* by “playing to the context.” I find that I end up reading about 3 books per week this way!

  • When I had little kids it was very hard to fit in reading. When I had middle-sized kids I took a book everywhere because I was always waiting for them (during lessons, ball-practice, etc.) Then when they were older I read while waiting up for them. Now that they’re grown it seems I should have lots of time to read, but I find I, too, use it as a ‘reward’ for myself and actually read less than I used to!

  • Pam

    Gretchen, I think you’re doing fine. No one has time to read *all* the books in her to-be-read stack.
    I’m one of those who finds that reading in bed can interfere with getting enough sleep, but one of my goals in life to write books that will keep people up all night. So an hour with an SF novel at night is research.
    Magazines I carry with me on public transit. Nonfiction I will read for an hour after dinner.

  • I don’t understand why playing with kids reduces your physical activity. You don’t have to go to a gym to get some exercise. Do something physical and fun with your kids. It will do you both good.
    I read while using my exercise bike, and the only time I watch TV is when I’m using my Nordic track treadmill or bouncing on my jogging trampoline.

  • Greg

    Just a heads up, the link to _Black Swan Green_ is broken.

  • With regards to Neil Fiore’s “The Now Habit” I consider reading as fun. His credo is: Play harder in order to work better.
    That’s why the only things on my daily to-do list are 3 hours of book reading. 😉
    Time won’t be your problem. 24 hours a day are enough. Your problem might be undistracted time.

  • “Parenthood demonstrably reduces physical activity” but…”it’s worth the effort — for long-term health benefits AND short-term mood boosts.” Truer words have never been spoken. The additional truths:
    1. Parents must role-model healthy behaviors and;
    2. Exercise can be a FAMILY thing.
    We run 5Ks at least twice a month as a family. My son, who is 6 years old, is the biggest advocate for this.
    I teach diabetic classes and something as simple as walking every night can improve one’s health. Also, I add, it’s a great way to connect with one’s spouse or child because it’s a neutral zone.