Does it feel like you’re not getting through books like you used to? There’s a way to read more books, even if you feel like you don’t have a second to spare.

By Lisa Milbrand
Updated November 20, 2020
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As a kid, I regularly plowed through a book a day during summer vacations. But now, I’m lucky if I get a small handful of books read each year, thanks to the daily swirl of work, family, and home (even now that everything’s more limited with the pandemic). With the best books of 2020 to read (among others), I can’t be the only one struggling to figure out how to read more.

Whether you’re lamenting the lack of reading time in your life or you simply want to read more books, you’re not alone. According to time management expert Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, the new normal has meant a loss of reading time. “For a lot of people, their commute was their reading time, and they’ve lost that,” she says. So, in order to read more, people need to build new habits around reading to make sure it happens. Here’s how.

How to read more

1
Put an end mark on your workday

While the commute time is gone, many work-from-homers are now facing another time suck—the creep of work time into their personal life. Morgenstern says you need to put a new pause at the end of the workday to help protect your time for leisure activities like reading.

“There’s a blurring of boundaries between work and home life,” she says. “To reclaim that time, you need to put edges on day. Go for a walk before work and after work, even if it’s just around the block, so you’re marking the end of the workday physically, simulating the commute.”

2
Create a cozy reading spot

If you have an enticing little nook where you can do your reading, you’re more likely to be enchanted into doing it. “Make your reading nook as inviting as possible, with no piles of stuff, no work to be done—add good lamps, a little table, coasters for a mug of whatever you’re going to drink,” Morgenstern says. If it looks inviting, you’re more likely to end up there.

3
Anchor your reading time to another routine

Pair your reading time up with other essential to-dos each day to make it more likely that you’ll get it done. For instance, add a chunk of reading time to your bedtime routine, or make it a just-after-work activity.

4
Give it 20 minutes

If the prospect of devoting an hour (or even a half-hour) to reading every day seems daunting, shave it down even further to 20 minutes. That’s just enough time to accomplish something without taking too much time out of your day. “It’s hard when you’re busy to show up for an hour, but it’s very hard to argue with yourself that you don’t have 20 minutes to read,” Morgenstern says.

5
Make it a renewing activity

Morgenstern recommends setting aside time each evening (or on weekends) for relaxing and renewing. Slot a longer reading session into at least one of those spots—so maybe Sunday morning you get a few hours to revel in a new novel, or you’ll skip a TV session on a Tuesday night in favor of an hour with your book.

6
Set reading goals

Just like with most resolutions, it’s better to make your goals as concrete as possible. Saying you want to get through a chapter per day or a book in a month gives you something to strive for. “If you make it tactical and measurable, that energizes you to stay focused on it,” Morgenstern says.

7
Create a book club

If you don’t already belong to one, make your own by reading the same books with your friends or family. And since Zoom and other video conference apps make it super-easy to connect with people across the miles, you can create a book club with your far-flung college roommates, your sisters, or anyone else who might not live in your neighborhood.

“Make it with someone you want to stay connected to,” Morgenstern says. Not only will that be incentive for you to keep reading, but it will provide another way to stay close across the miles. 

8
Stop reading books you don’t like

If the book you’re reading feels more like a chore, don’t be afraid to put it down—permanently. “Don’t torture yourself when it comes to reading,” Morgenstern says. “People can be really hard on themselves, thinking that they should just finish the book. But reading should be just pleasure.”