I have committed to reading more this year. I suspect many of you are intending to do the same. And yet, in a full and intense life, it can be hard to make time, space and build habits that allow for more words into our brains (and hearts).
Here are a few ideas, practices, and reflection questions to enable a joyful and intentional reading life in 2023 starting with really asking yourself why read in the first place.
- Know your why: What is the “real” reason you want to read more this year? Is this going to be another should or a “cool hobby” on your list? What impact can reading bring into your world? Reading can literally be life-changing but so can many other activities that you can put your time and energy into. Choose with intention! For me, books have literally been the triggers for big life changes and continue to shape who I become. Books give me comfort, joy, inspiration, perspective, empathy, and a sense of community and connection. I typically read memoirs and nonfiction with the occasional fiction interspersed in between.
- Acknowledge the trade-offs: If you are convinced of your why and the trade-offs, it’s time to embrace them. Every extra minute spent reading means that minute is not being spent doing many other things. For example, I am not always on top of detailed news, cannot talk about any TV shows, and don’t have a nightly ritual of drinking wine with my husband after the kids are in bed. I typically read before bed which means I have to be okay with what doesn’t get done instead. I know there are times when my kids would rather have me play with them rather than have me read a book on the couch.
- Combine with existing rituals: Think about areas in your life where you can either add reading as an activity or replace reading with something else you are doing. For example, my 8-year-old also loves to read at bedtime and lately wants me to read next to him and I typically get 15-30 mins of consistent reading time that is now a “special time” activity with him. I also listen to audiobooks when I am cooking and cleaning if I am the only one in the kitchen at the time.
- Join (or start!) a book club: Having a structured social container brings both joy and accountability to reading and learning together. I am in a book club with two good friends and it’s one of my favorite monthly traditions to read together. Highly recommend “Book Clubs” if you are looking to start or join one.
- Read with a friend: This is similar to the above but with less of a structured commitment. Find a book that you and someone you want to connect with more deeply want to read, find a time when you’ll discuss the book, and start reading. I am currently listening to The 80/80 marriage with my husband and it’s been meaningful to have even pockets of 10 mins to focus and listen to something and then have a dialogue together. Another friend and I have committed to reading and discussing How to Raise a Feminist Son this quarter.
- Know what to read next: One of the challenges I often hear is that you’ve finished a book and don’t have anything lined up next and then you go weeks without one and existing habits can break. Keep a list of books or even buy or borrow from the library so you never have to break your reading habits. Modern Mrs. Darcy can be a good resource (among many other lists). Most of mine come from friends and other people I follow.
- Stop an unengaging read: If the book isn’t holding your attention, pick another one unless you are choosing to read something unengaging for a conscious reason. A book that isn’t speaking to you means there will be less reading in that season and if it’s not aligning with what you hope to get out of reading, it’s likely time to pick something else instead.
- Track what you read: There is something fun about tracking what you are reading, reflecting on what the book meant, engaging in meaningful conversations, and if you are so inspired, writing about it as well. The momentum and joy of doing something meaningful can keep you coming back to the book.
- Make books accessible: Find the format that works best for you – paper book, e-book, or audiobook likely a combination may work best, and then make sure you have something interesting on each of them.
- Be kind to yourself: And finally, my favorite principle is to be kind to yourself. You may be in a season of life where reading may not align with your priorities. You may be in a season where reading one book is just what you need to get the ball rolling. You may be in a season where you can read in fragments of only 5 minutes here and there. Yes, I have a big reading vision this year but a year is a long time and I know it can seconds for our lives to change. I also know that there could be a very conscious reason I chose to read less and spend more time doing something else. And yes, I will hold my aspiration with love and care but also with kindness and compassion trusting that I will make the best choices of what life gives me at that moment.
Over to you, what significance does reading play in your life? What helps you make time and space for more books in your world? What are you reading currently that’s inspiring you?
Pic Credit: Fang Wei Lin