How to Find 20 Minutes a Day to Read—Yes, Even if You’re So Busy
Three easy tips to help you make it happen, plus the best books to read when you only have a small window of time.
Maybe you don’t have a long, leisurely beach trip coming up. Maybe you want to read the latest bestseller that all of your friends are talking about, but you’re kind of devoting all your spare time to Hulu right now. Or maybe you just have kids. But it’s easy to find small pockets of time to read—it’s good for your brain, and it makes you a more interesting dinner companion—so let our experts help you out.
1. Steal a chunk of your social media time.
Just because you knew we were going to say it doesn’t mean it’s not true. According to 2018 data from research company SimiliarWeb, users spend an average of about 59 minutes a day on the platform on Android devices, while Instagram users average roughly 53 minutes. Take half of that, and you’ve knocked out a chapter or two. “Stop saying you’ll find time to read. Start saying you’ll make time to read,” says time-management expert Mike Gardner.
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2. Make it a meeting.
“Actually put it in your calendar and schedule it,” says Shelley Diaz, an editor at School Library Journal. And, just as at a real meeting, don’t check your phone—or even the clock, if you don’t want to. You can have the meeting last a certain amount of time, but you can make it less of a chore by thinking of it in terms of pages, says Gardner: You have a meeting at 4 p.m. for 30 pages.
Always keep a book in your bag for unexpected line, waits, and delays. Read a few pages of something as you eat lunch, wait for a kid to finish swim team practice, or sit in a doctor’s office. It’s these small slivers of time that we spend looking at our phones, simply because there’s no other option, so have the other option handy. And download audiobooks to listen to while you do household tasks: dishes, laundry, even showering.
What to Read
Sure, you can read any book you choose in short spurts. But these are particularly suited for picking up and putting down frequently. (For all of our favorite titles, check out our monthly picks here.)
- Cookbooks. So many include memoir-style essays from the authors or long backstories about the village in Italy where the recipe was born. You can read a few pages at a time. We love Shake Shack: Recipes and Stories ($17, amazon.com), by Randy Garutti and Mark Rosati, and Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables ($24, amazon.com), by Joshua McFadden. (Design books work here, too.)
- Books that alternate points of view. Novels that flip-flop from one narrator to another have easy stopping points, says Library Reads executive director Rebecca Vnuk. She likes Miss You, by Kate Eberling ($15, amazon.com), and The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso ($11, amazon.com).
- Humor books. Publishers Weekly editor Gabe Habash recommends these as easy pick up-put down reads: Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002), by David Sedaris ($12, amazon.com), and The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell, by W. Kamau Bell ($11, amazon.com).
- Collections of essays. Start with The Best American Series, which has the Best American Travel Writing ($11, amazon.com for the 2018 version), Best American Science and Nature Writing ($11, amazon.com), Best American Short Stories ($11, amazon.com), and more from each year, usually edited by a standout author in that field (like Roxane Gay or Cheryl Strayed).