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3 Tips to Tackle Your Reading List

Just about every friend I know has at least a book or two that they’ve been “meaning to read.” Sometimes it’s one they started and just got distracted with life things or maybe it’s one that had great reviews, was a list topper, or the newest release from their favorite author.

Me? I’ve got a huge pile that would rival the returned book stack at the library waiting to be tucked back into their appropriate places on the shelf. But I’ve never been shy about my book hoarding tendencies…there are stacks of books in about every room of our home – even single reads tucked in purses or the console of my car.

One of my best friends made a comment during our daily Marco Polo chats that made me wonder if more people felt like that. She said

“I wish I could read as fast as you, I’m just not a fast reader. I don’t know how you find the time to read all the books you do!”

The truth is, I’m not a fast reader, either. I used to try and hurry myself up so I could read more and check off those books on my list and I found that I would miss important ideas or plot points as I turned the pages. My mother in law? Now, SHE is a fast reader! When we go on our annual family trip, she can blaze through multiple novels in an afternoon on her beach chair – it blows my mind and makes me a little jealous!

While I am a slower reader, I do enjoy sitting in the pages of a good book and mostly don’t mind the lingering if I reread a paragraph or some lines to let something soak in – an idea, a feeling, or visual.

Last month, I set a goal to read 4 books, but ended up reading 5 and surprised even myself. Every month doesn’t result in a pile like that, but some have more. Which brings me back to my friend’s statement about finding time to read.

The fact is, if we each had a big umbrella and a comfy beach chair for several undistracted hours, we could probably all knock out a book or two…or at the very least, make good progress on one! Reality is: LIFE. We’re all working, cooking, cleaning, parenting, eating, sleeping – doing the things we have to do to take care of ourselves and the people we love. In the big picture and in light of the responsibilities that need our attention on a daily basis, sitting down to read something for the heck of it can seem a little frivolous, selfish, or irresponsible.

Let me tell you now, it’s none of those things.

Sometimes, we need to prioritize a little time to feed ourselves so that we can continue to take care of the day to day chores we can’t ignore. One of my earliest jobs, I worked on the administrative staff for a growing church. The pastor – who was always reading – encouraged us to read as well, reminding us that leaders are readers.

Just like you, I could jot out a list of all the things that beckon my undivided attention throughout the day. So what’s the trick to finding time to read? I’ll share the things that have helped me devour books I love – even when my schedule seems full.

Choose books you genuinely love.
If your friend suggests a book that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, pass it by. If you’re browsing your local library, bookstore, or Amazon suggestions and your favorite author just released a new book – go ahead an order it. I have a friend who loves novels and hates “self help” reads. I love self-help non-fiction because I’m always wanting to figure myself out or better myself. If you swapped out our to-read stacks, we’d be both be miserable. Figure out what style writing you enjoy, which authors speak to you, and what kind of reads you can’t wait to get your nose in and start your own list. Like much in life, once you figure out what you really like, you’ll enjoy and look forward to it so. much. more!

Carve out time where it fits best in your schedule.
For me, this often (and usually) looks like after my kids are tucked in and I’ve washed my face for day. I made the decision to read at least 20 minutes before I go to sleep. This means that I don’t wait until I’m about to pass out before I drag my half-dead self to the bedroom. I know what time I want to be asleep by, so I give myself ample time to settle in. I have everything I need on my nightstand – highlighter, pen, book, and my big ol’ half gallon water jug. I set my phone on the charger (no distractions) and pick up my book. I use my alarm/light, and start to read. Sometimes I’ll read well past the 20 minutes, sometimes I’m tired and go on to bed.

Maybe your chunk of time is shorter or longer. You can prioritize your time in the pick up line, while waiting for your groceries to be brought out to your car, waiting on a kiddo at sports practice, or early in the morning before the world and your home wakes up. Whether it’s 5 minutes, 20, or 2 hours…carve out time for yourself and pick up a book!

Putting down a book is not failure.
I’d almost guarantee that at some point, you’ll pick up a book, get a few chapters in, and realize you don’t like it. Maybe it’s the style of writing, the storyline, or the pace, but we’ve all been there. I used to think that if I didn’t press on and finish what I started, I failed. It was as if I would punish myself to choke down bite after bite of a rotten apple just to say I did it. Know what happened if/when I put the book down? I lost my desire to read at all.

Putting down a book you don’t like isn’t failure, it’s part of the game. If it’s one you genuinely want to read and just can’t seem to get into, set it aside, grab a new one, and come back to that one later. But don’t force yourself through a book that you’re not excited to meet with. Put it down, move on, and pick up one you can’t wait to spend time in.

I hope these 3 tips help you like they did me. Once I figured out what I liked to read, prioritized the time to do it, and let go of the false-failure of putting one down that didn’t suit my taste, season, or expectation, I started turning my to-read stacks into my read-those stacks. It’s awfully fulfilling to look back over a month or year and see how much literature you’ve consumed. So read the novels, read the biographies, the business books, the how-to’s, the graphic novels, the artsy books, and the self-helps.

Whatever you do, take the time to grab a book and get lost in its pages.

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