The question I probably get asked most often, right after, “Wow–12th grade. How do you do that?” and “How can you grade all those papers?” is “How can you read so much?” I’ve thought about this quite a bit. In fact, a couple of years ago, I even wrote a post with some techniques for squeezing more reading into the day. I’ve been thinking about whether I had any more of these tips that I could share or not. But then I realized something: I think my reading habits are enabled by what I don’t do. If you would like to read more, and if you are having trouble finding the time, here are a few ideas of what I have cut from my time commitments:
- Watching television. According to various internet articles that I’ve read while writing this, the average American watches more than four hours of television (not including streaming content) per day! I’m not sure if these statistics are accurate, but I’m still astonished about this number. Are there really four hours of quality programming available every day? Are Americans really watching this television, or is this a case of “tv on for company”?I will admit that I have never watched much television, so this wasn’t all that big of a sacrifice for me. I have never in my entire life lived in a house with cable television (thanks Mom and Dad!) It’s actually somewhat hard for me to sit for a long time and just stare at the screen. The movie or show must be compelling, and I find that very little on screen is that compelling to me. I have a few shows that I like, but most of these I combine with folding laundry or crochet or even entering grades. I definitely don’t watch something every day, but I do read every day.
- Social Media. I actually love the benefits of social media, especially as someone who enjoys blogging and connecting with others online. However, I try to limit my social media use so that I have more time investing my time in reading, writing, learning, and spending face to face time with people I love. Because I have many people whom I love who are scattered around the country and I want to know what is happening in their lives, I will continue to use various social media platforms. One technique that works for me to control my social media habit is the technique I use for email: to only check it at one or two specified times per day.
- Housework. No, but for real. I live in a small house, and I love it for this reason: less cleaning. Do you know how long it takes 4 people to clean an approximately 1500 square foot home? Not long. If we really get after it, we can be done in a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. If we want to do extra chores, like washing the curtains, dusting knick-knacks (no matter how I try to cull these, they keep appearing!), or going through some of the honey-do list, we can take a bit longer. We would have to TRY to make the housework last into the afternoon on a Saturday.
- Shopping. Honestly, I should probably do a bit more of this. Like right now, I really should take some time to shop for my son’s school uniform pieces that are apparently on sale until the end of this month. I should probably use that really great coupon that’s sitting on my dresser about to expire. I try to shop only if I really need something (a small house doesn’t allow me to bring home much stuff), and even then I have to give myself several pep talks before I will go.
- Being Busy. I have children, and I try really hard not to overschedule them. I don’t generally make them do activities they don’t want to do, piano lessons being the one exception. I’m open to activities that they want to do, and we’ve tried out a few. But so far nothing has really stuck. So I don’t push it. As for my own schedule, I only do what I REALLY want or need to do, which then doesn’t seem like being busy. I don’t feel obligated to let anyone else schedule my time, and I think we should all consider our daily schedules in light of our life priorities.
- Working Out at a Gym. I’ll admit, I don’t exercise as much as I should. But when I do, I can generally do bodyweight exercises at home or take a long walk and listen to an audiobook at the same time. I do follow a pretty strict vegetarian, low-sugar diet, which helps me take care of my body without too much time commitment.
- Cooking. Speaking of that, I find that because I eat mostly fruits and vegetables cooked simply, I don’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time in the kitchen. I actually get frustrated when I have to spend more than 20 or 30 minutes preparing a meal. You bet I’ve got an audiobook playing if that’s the case!
- Keeping Up with the News. I believe there is a huge difference between staying informed and staying current. Even with limited television and social media use, I always manage to learn about all major current events. I also find that this gives my friends something to talk to me about, so I use conversation to keep me informed. Conversation with friends I trust tends to weed out the not-so-important information in favor of events that spur discussion. After an enlightening or intriguing conversation, I seek out books to read to further inform me about the issue in question.
- Extensive Personal Grooming. Let’s face it, ladies. Adherence to female beauty standards is a major time suck. I mean, I shower and blow dry and get my grays colored. I usually wear makeup so that my pasty skin doesn’t disappear into the sunlight. Maybe I’m living in a dream world, but I think most of us can still look attractive without so much maintenance. I don’t get manis and pedis (I still do that myself, while I listen to an audiobook), get my eyebrows waxed, or spend any time in a spray tanning bed. I do manage to get my hair done, although, as my stylist could attest, remembering to make the appointment can be a bit of a problem for me sometimes. Some people find a regular beauty routine relaxing, and I totally respect that. I just don’t like to give up the reading time.
- Sleeping In. Even in the summer I rise early. Not quite as early as I do throughout the school year, but still early by many people’s standards. As long as I can get up early enough to have an hour or so to myself, I’m content with my morning. After I get up, I read for a while and then write. Like right now!
You may enjoy some of the things I’ve listed, so I would never intend this list to be anything other than just a list of the activities I’ve cut out of my life (or never started in the first place). Perhaps you have other activities you can think of that you DON’T do to make time for reading. I’m always open to new suggestions.
Seriously, let me know how to stop dusting.