The following is a guest post by Melanie Tays, author of the young adult dystopian novel, Wall of Fire.
For most of my life, I’ve been a pretty avid reader. And I eventually started writing novels. But reading and writing hasn’t always been an easy thing to fit into my life.
In fact, it was right about the minute I had kids that things changed. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read. It was that I either didn’t feel like I had time, there were too many interruptions, or my brain was just too frazzled.
HOW DO YOU FIND TIME TO READ WHEN BUSY?
I even felt guilty taking time to read when I could have been doing something with my kids. Recently, a friend of mine who is a mom of five said she needed to find something mentally stimulating to do. Because since having kids, she feels like her brain “is all fish crackers”.
Maybe you can relate.
It took me a while to figure out some tricks and shifts in my mindset that let me get back into reading, and eventually writing, the books I love. Hopefully, these tips will help you too.
The first tip that I feel like everyone shares is to listen to audio books while you’re driving in the car, doing housework, or exercising. This is a fantastic tip, and something I do a lot. But I feel like there’s nothing quite like actually reading the words yourself to bring you into a story or help you retain new information.
So this article is going to focus on tips for how to actually READ books when you’re a busy mom with kids around.
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HOW TO FIND TIME TO READ AS A BUSY MOM
1. Change Your Mindset – If you want your kids to read, you should read too.
I think we all want our kids to be good readers. Parents fret and scheme to find ways to get their kids to read more books. They celebrate when their children find a love of reading and worry when they don’t.
But have you ever thought about how much your example of making reading a priority could affect them?
I know sometimes I’ve felt guilty picking up a book because it meant that my attention wasn’t focused on my kids.
But then, I realized that if I want my kids to read, then I’m helping them. And teaching them by letting them see my love of reading and how I make time for it in my days.
I find it helpful to have a reading time where I get my book and the kids get their books, and we all sit and read independently together.
When kids are very little, this mostly means they look at the pictures in their books. But it’s building a great habit.
This worked fabulously when my oldest daughter was little, but less well with my second daughter who had no patience for sitting and looking at books. But I found she was more likely to do it if I was reading a book as well. And if she didn’t, at least she was still seeing the importance that I place on reading.
2. Make Reading a Habit
I found that a lot of time I didn’t read because I would simply forget. My mind was so tired and frazzled that, when I actually had a little time to spare, picking up a book just didn’t even cross my mind.
Then I would wonder why I never got around to reading those books that I genuinely did want to read. But then I started to make reading a priority again.
I set a specific time to read. And I used a normal event in my day as a trigger to remind me to read.
A simple way to create a habit is to take a few minutes each morning when you first get up, or each evening before going to bed to read. This can be a good way to ease into your day or settle your mind before bed.
You can also choose a specific time each day when you are going to read. It helps if this isn’t just a time on the clock, but something with a trigger. For instance, you could decide that every morning when the kids leave for school you will read for 15 minutes before starting other work, so the kids leaving becomes the trigger that reminds you it’s time to read.
Other good triggers could be: when your kids are doing homework, after exercise, when the baby goes down for a nap, while you are waiting in the car, or almost anything else that regularly happens where you can take a short break and read.
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3. Make It Easy
In addition to making time for reading, you should make it extra easy to pick up that book and read it. If you only have a few minutes to read and you have to go all the way to your bedroom to get your book, you might just opt to play a game on your phone instead.
That’s why I recommend keeping your book handy.
If you’re reading a physical book, keep it where you typically read it, which could be in the bedroom, kitchen, car, etc. If you’re reading a digital book, make sure the device is within easy reach.
Books on your phone are typically very easy access because most of us keep our phones with us, while books on a specific tablet will require you to remember to keep it handy much like a physical book. When you see your book, you’re more likely to pick it up and read it. For that reason, I do like good old-fashioned paper books a lot.
4. Reading in Short Increments
You don’t have to block out large amounts of time to read. Don’t underestimate how much you have read in just a few minutes here and there. One fact of life as a parent is that you will have frequent interruptions when kids are around.
If you can read early in the morning, or in the evening before bed, that can help. But there are ways to manage reading despite frequent interruptions.
One of my favorite tricks is to use a Post-It note to mark my place. Since it’s sticky, I can place it so it marks the exact line where I stopped reading and helps me avoid feeling like I have to reach the end of a page or chapter before I can set the book down, or needing to reread paragraphs just to find my place.
If you find the frequent interruption frustrating, over time and with practice, your brain gets better able to keep track of a story in short bursts.
If you feel frustrated at first, just keep trying. You’ll start to get used to holding on to what you were reading and resuming without as much confusion.
5. Find a Reading Place
Especially with kids, it can be good to get out of your normal environment which has lots of distractions and go somewhere just to read. One of my favorite such places is the library.
It’s perfect for not only choosing new books, but finding a nice comfy chair to sit and read for a while minimal distractions. Many libraries also have a kid’s area where they can play with some toys, and you could sit nearby and read your book.
Parks are also a good place to read. If you want the kids reading with you, choose a park without a playground.
Also, for many moms who spend a lot of their days chauffeuring kids to lessons and practices, the car can be a great place to read. Of course, I’m not recommending that you try to fit in a few paragraphs at red lights!
But when the car is in park and you’re waiting, grab your book and dive in. Keep your book in the car (or on your phone) so you won’t forget it. And make the most of what could otherwise feel like boring, wasted time.
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6. Minimize Distractions
You might be laughing at this tip because life as a parent of small children tends to be one big jumbled mass of distractions. That’s why I don’t suggest you eliminate distractions, but just do what you can to decrease them at key moments.
When you have your reading time, here are some things you could consider to decrease the likelihood you’ll be distracted.
- Choose a location that doesn’t have a lot of noise, if possible.
- Set your phone to silent.
- Read a paper book, rather than a digital book, so you won’t be distracted by notifications or be tempted to click away.
- Set kids up with their own books or activities first.
- Set the expectations for your kids by telling them how long you will read and what will happen afterwards. This way they know that you don’t want to be interrupted, and they also know when they will have your attention again.
- Put your phone away…
Oh, did I already say something about phones? Well, it bears repeating. Sadly, for many of us, our phones (or computers) are worse distractions than our kids during the times when we could be reading.
7. Read What You Love
Whether it’s a great story or a fascinating non-fiction topic, find a book that genuinely excites you. You’re so much more likely to remember to read a book you are truly interested in than just something you think you ought to read.
I like to give a new book at least a couple chapters to see if it really grabs me, but if you aren’t getting into it and find yourself making excuses or forgetting to read, I recommend putting that book aside and choosing a new one.
There really is no reason why you have to finish every book you start. There are approximately 130 million books out there, and you’ll never get to all of them, so doesn’t it just make sense to spend the time you do read on the best books and not slogging through something that isn’t making your day and life better?
START READING WALL OF FIRE FOR FREE
If you’re looking for a good book to dive into right now, you can start reading my fast-paced, young adult, dystopian novel, Wall of Fire, for free. Just click here to access the first 5 chapters for free. It’s also available on Amazon and free on Kindle Unlimited.
But no matter what book you choose, you can find time to read. No matter how busy you are, with a little planning, you can fit reading into your daily schedule.
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