How to Read When You Don’t Have Time to Read

You can find the time if you know where to look

I have two young, energetic children. They adore me. When I have time to sit down and read, it’s usually with one of them on my lap, and we’re reading one of their books. To read one of Daddy’s books, I have to get creative.

If I sit down with a physical book of my own to read, the kids want to turn/tear the pages.

I prefer digital books, which are more resilient to eager little fingers. But the kids still want to sit in my lap and look at our photo collection. And they’re good at swiping, so I constantly lose my place.

At this stage in my life, I do most of my reading another way. I primarily read audiobooks.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / robcartorres

Audiobooks let you read when you otherwise wouldn’t be able to find the time.

  • In the car. Whether I’m commuting to work or running errands, I’m listening to a book (or a quality, educational podcast). A recent study by Harvard Health Watch found that we spend 101 minutes a day driving. If you spend that time listening to a book, you can easily read a book a week, right there.
  • On a walk. Heading out for an early-morning walk? Stepping away from your desk? Put on your headphones and read. Exercise your body and your mind.
  • In the shower. Productivity doesn’t have to stop when you’re in the shower. Grab a waterproof speaker, and you can read while you wash.
  • Doing chores. You can do the laundry, the dishes, and the yard work with a book on. Yes, even the vacuuming and the mowing. This is especially helpful if you get bored easily.

One exception to this is when I’m with the kids. If I’m taking them out for a walk, the opportunity cost of reading a book is too high. Sometimes, you gotta leave the earbuds behind and focus on the moment.

The biggest challenge I’ve found to audiobooks is taking notes. With a digital book, I can highlight a passage or make margin notes right there. Listening to a book, especially while you’re doing something else, that can be tricky. The quickest solution I’ve found is to take a note with Siri. Just say “Note” followed by your insight and she’ll record it in Notes. (If you do this, sweeping Notes should be part of your weekly review.)

If I really enjoy a book, I’ll buy a digital copy in addition to the audiobook so I can mark it up and refer back to it more easily. If the book and audiobook support it, Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice makes it easy to go back and forth between Audible and Kindle editions. If that’s not an option, you can usually find your place pretty quickly by searching for a three-word phrase.

It’s easy to look at your busy schedule and throw your hands up. But you really do have a lot of time to read, if you do it right. Audiobooks let you transform what could be a mundane activity into a positive learning experience. It’s one of the few ways that multitasking really works.

And yes, reading is still the correct term when you’re using your ears and not your eyes.

Question: How do you carve out time to read in your busy life? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

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