When I was growing up, reading used to be my main pastime.
Reading books, that is.
And then, when I was partway through high school, Facebook became popular. And then when I was in college, I read all the time–but it was for courses. I didn’t have the time to read for pleasure. Or when I did, I was so tired from studying that I just couldn’t read any more.
This year I’ve had quite a bit of free time. I’ve had chronic pain from an injury that wiped me out for about 7 months. I was working part-time, and the rest of the time I was in so much pain that I didn’t feel like I could do active things. I really needed a mental escape from pain, stress and anxiety.
So I did a lot more reading than I’ve done in years, and I’m trying to stay in the habit now that I’m doing better.
It can be hard to make time to read. Books don’t demand to be read. They don’t send you notifications. You have to slow down to get back into the swing of books.
Yesterday I found this article, How Making Time For Books Made Me Feel Less Busy by Hugh McGuire. He provides some interesting scientific information about why our brains become addicted to checking e-mail and social media over and over again, and how constantly switching from on thing to the next saps our energy and harms our ability to focus.
He also gives a list of ways he has started to curtail internet time in favor of restorative, deep-thinking activities like reading. I highly recommend reading it.
I was inspired to make a list of my own strategies.
- Limit evening computer time. I try to turn off my computer a few hours before I go to sleep. I go to bed notoriously early, compared to most people I know, so this can be a challenge, but it is entirely worth it when I do. I’m less inclined to use my computer if it’s already off. (I don’t have a smartphone, so I don’t have to worry about being tempted that way.)
- Read books. I make a conscious effort to read books. I read a few books at once, so if I’m not in the mood to read about geology or birds (though I usually am), I can read a fantasy novel or chip away at King Lear.
*disclaimer for irony* One way I’ve found to motivate my reading is to keep track of my reading on Goodreads.com. I like having the record of everything I’ve read this year, and it is a good way to find new books that sound interesting or see what friends are enjoying.
- Go to the library, for fun. It gets me more excited to read books. It also curbs shopping/browsing (hunter-gatherer?) instinct that can send me into thrift stores when I really don’t need to be spending money.
- Carry a small notebook. I keep a tiny notebook in my bag for when ideas strike. I find that the more that I use it, the more often I have ideas to write down. (The reason I am writing this post now is because I starting writing down this list in my tiny notebook.)
- Leave the camera behind sometimes. (Ok, so again, I don’t have a smartphone, so this might be obsolete advice.) I love taking photos when I go for hikes or visit a new place, and I think photography is a very enriching pursuit. But sometimes, it’s worth it to be present in a different way.
- Write daily to-do lists. I don’t do this every day, or even every week. But I often find that writing a list of what you want to accomplish in a day can really help you to control how your time is spent, especially when it comes to self-care activities that you could easily shove aside (like: going for a walk doing yoga, meditating, journaling, reading…)