Nine tips and tricks for the time-poor bookworm

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The Stylist web team
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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in fiction, but really – let’s be honest – because of a West Wing obsession. She is, unsurprisingly, the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Books are wonderful escapism, and a brilliant antidote to the everyday stress of being a person who is both alive and connected to the Internet. And they have other advantages too: they can inform and entertain us; they can also help us better understand what it’s like to be someone else and empathise with our human beings even if they’re different from us.

But in the hectic business of our daily lives in which we are expected to be abreast of the news and connected to social media 24/7, often the idea of finding time to read a book can feel a distant dream. Here, writer and avid reader, Claire Handscombe, reveals her handy tips for fitting more time to read into the daily grind. Read now, thank us later.

1. Always have a book with you

Whilst it’s lovely to imagine ourselves lounging in the garden for a couple of hours with a glass of wine and a good novel, we’ll probably never get ’round to reading if we wait for that to happen, let alone happen regularly. The key is to make the most of the time we have, and a lot of that time is in small increments.

Use a handbag large enough to fit a paperback in, get a Kindle or Kobo reading app on your phone, or treat yourself to an ereader. No more wasted time in supermarket queues, on hold to the utility companies, or waiting for the bus.

2. Take public transport

Our commutes are a great opportunity to get some reading time in. Leave the car behind as much as you can and get your book out every chance you get. Those few pages between Tube stops or train stations soon add up. And, the added bonus? No more grumpy mood when you arrive at work because books work wonders for escapism. Emerge from the pages and from the train feeling inspired and relaxed.

​​​​​3. Get into audiobooks

For those who can’t avoid driving, don’t worry: all is not lost. Audio books are here to help you make the most of that time, too. And they’re also perfect for perking up those dull household chores, or listening to while you doze off at night or get ready in the mornings. 

​​​​4. Manage your social media

The single most useful setting on your iPhone might be “airplane mode” – especially during those  bus journeys, or first thing when you would usually spend 20 minutes scrolling through Instagram. Try switching your phone to airplane mode before you go to sleep and not switching it back on in the morning until after you’ve read a few pages of your book. Or leave your phone in another room when you are snatching half an hour of reading time – it’s too easy otherwise to lose that time to distractions. 

5. Spend more time in bed

Try getting into bed half an hour later a few times a week. Not only will you find you’re chomping through pages, you will probably drift off to sleep better, having switched off from the day’s noise. Or, if you’re a morning person, set your alarm for half an hour before you need to – and, now that your phone’s on airplane mode, get a chapter or two under your belt before you kick off the day. The feeling of achievement will be unbeatable. 

6. Plan your holidays with reading in mind

Even for the busiest of us, it’s not all work work work. There are times when we can read more intensively, whether it’s a weekend at the parents’ house or a girls’ summer trip. The beach is a great place to spend quality time with a novel, but even if you’re not a massive fan of lying around sunbathing and you prefer a city break, try to leave some slots for taking a book to a café or curling up in a luxurious hotel bed with a paperback.

​​​​​​7. Join a book club

Book clubs can be a lot of fun, a great way to make sure you see your friends regularly, and a good excuse for a night out with some wine and mind-pleasing conversation. The deadline for getting through a book so you can take part in the discussion, and the threat of its plot being spoiled if you don’t finish in time, can help motivate you to keep going. The thought that there’s a whole group of people making time for this particular book this particular month can also encourage you to keep going. Plus, it’s an excuse to get the gang together over a glass of wine.

8. Track your reading

Some of the more competitive among us can be spurred on by goals and statistics. Goodreads allows you to set yourself a challenge of a certain number of books per year and lets you know how you’re doing. A new app called Bookout helps you figure out how fast you read and how long a certain book will take you, and produces graphs of your reading life – it’s addictive. Or you can go with a basic spreadsheet or even a paper diary to record your reading. As you see the titles accumulate, it’ll enourage you to keep going.

9. Read what you love

This last one might seem obvious but is perhaps the most important.  If you’re enjoying a book, you’re far more likely to whip out your Kindle in the Sainsbury’s queue than if you’re plodding through something you’re reading because you feel like you ought to. So whether you’re into the classics, young adult fiction, celebrity memoir, or the latest blockbuster, give yourself over to the pleasure of reading. You’ll find yourself making time for it.

Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in fiction, but really – let’s be honest – because of a West Wing obsession. She is, unsurprisingly, the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.