Making Time to Read, Not Excuses

I should read more, but I just don’t have time.

We’ve all heard it. You may have even said it at some point. Either way, it’s most likely a lie.

It’s a known fact that our world is busy. People race from work to pick up the kids from school or soccer practice to go grocery shopping and make dinner to play sports or video games or watch movies or hang out with friends. We have to clean the house and do laundry and exercise and finish a, b, and c before x, y, and z. With everything that has to be done, it’s not a surprise that people claim they don’t have time to pick up a book.

But as someone who works full-time during the day, writes part-time in the evenings, and still finds time to both read a lot and socialize while keeping up with household duties—and as someone who knows multiple other people who do this as well—I find it hard to believe most of the population doesn’t have time to read. We’re just choosing to spend our time doing other things.

You binge-watch Netflix shows, and you play video games for hours on end. Maybe you’d rather hang out with a group of friends, or you’re obligated to attend your daughter’s basketball games. None of these are bad things, and they’re all valid reasons as to where our minutes are spent. There’s only so much time in the day before we have to sleep and start all over in the morning.

But we live in a digital age where books are available at our fingertips in multiple formats, and sometimes for free. Don’t have time to read because you’re at the gym? Download an audiobook through your local library’s app or Amazon and listen to a book while you’re working out. Listen while you’re driving to work or taking that much-needed walk around your neighborhood or folding laundry. Pull out a book, whether on your phone or from your shelf, while waiting for dinner to cook or for your son’s wrestling match to start. Even reading a few sentences or a chapter counts as reading, and eventually you’ll finish the book. Set aside specific time with your family where you all read together in the same room. Not only will this give you time to read, but it’ll teach your children the value of books and contribute to family bonding as well.

I tend to read while I eat breakfast and lunch. I listen to audiobooks while driving to work or cleaning the house or working on projects not related to writing. I make myself sit down after a long day and read for the last hour or half an hour before bed, purposefully turning off my phone or computer. I make time to read.

Maybe you don’t like to read. That’s okay, too. If you prefer to consume stories and entertainment through movies, TV shows, or video games, that’s completely understandable. Just don’t use the excuse that you don’t have time to read. Instead, just be honest, with others and yourself, and say you prefer not to read. Some book lovers may be horrified at such a thought, but sooner or later they’ll move on when they pick up their next book and get lost between the pages.

But the benefits of choosing to make time to read means you also get to choose what you want to read. No longer are you burdened by an English class syllabus thrusting books you don’t care about into your hands. If you want to read a fluffy romance novel, read a fluffy romance novel. If you’d prefer to read biographies of people from history, read biographies. Comics or graphic novels? Complicated science-fiction? Young adult or middle grade? Go for it. You aren’t limited by someone else’s list; this is your chance to choose a book you’re interested in.

Maybe you’re wondering why you should read. If you’re no longer in high school and aren’t taking any college classes, what’s the point of reading anyways? Other than entertainment, reading has a lot of benefits. It increases mental stimulation, which improves memory, concentration, focus, and vocabulary. Such stimulation can also help lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Reading can also help you sleep better, develop empathy, and relieve stress.

Of course, constantly feeling guilty about not reading will probably increase your stress levels, so you have to find the balance that works for you. You may not like to read, you may not want to read, and all of that is okay. Just stop saying you don’t have time to read.