For as long as I have been able to do it, I have been a reader. As a child, my favourite thing to do would be to dig through the book sections of charity shops that I'd go to with my Gran and find a few books to take home and quickly devour.

Metaphorically, of course.

Reading has always come naturally to me, but what hasn't always - as an adult - is making the time to do it.

Nine times out of ten, when I meet a new person and they realise that I read a lot, their reaction is something along the lines of: 'I used to love reading as a kid, but I don't have time to do it anymore.'

Here's a simple fact: you do. You're simply choosing not to. Now, this choice may be subconscious and there is nothing wrong with not choosing to spend your time reading, but it is a choice nevertheless.

There are so many statistics that I could use to convince you about the benefits of reading in your spare time but this is not the blog post in which to do that. If reading is something you enjoy, find relaxing and genuinely want to do more of, you can. You just need to make it a priority.

Here are some of my top tips for how to make more time to get your reading done:

1. Figure out what it is exactly that you like reading.

This is a crucial starting point: you are never going to build a consistent reading habit if you hate every single second of it. If I could only read pre-1900 literature for the rest of my life, I wouldn't read half as much as I do. Sure, I love cracking open a Victorian mystery or Jacobean drama every now and then but it's not always what I desire to make my reading heart soar.

Once you have a few authors or genres in mind that you know you enjoy, it makes it so much easier to find additional reading material: a quick search of 'authors like Stephen King' or 'the best crime books of 2020' brings up hundreds of websites with lists for you to check out and experiment with. Enjoy this part and keep doing your research. I have discovered some of my favourite books from searches of this nature.

2. Set a goal.

From sport alone, we know how important it is to track goals. Author Zig Ziglar once said, "A goal properly set is halfway reached." and I don't think this could be more accurate. If you know what you want to achieve then it is far easier to actually achieve it.

This is where a lot of intention-based philosophy comes from too, for example The Law of Attraction and manifesting your future. Simply put, if you set your intention (in this case, your reading goal) then you put it into the universe that that thing will happen.

Hey it's worth a try, right?

Do you want to read a book a week? A fortnight? A month? There is no accurate or 'best' way to read: just pick a number that seems manageable (to start with) and simply begin reading. When you can see the numbers adding up and achieving your goal becoming nearer in sight, your pace will naturally quicken. This is how you will form the habit.

3. Track your progress.

Now you have set your goal and intention with reading, it is important that you track it. Tracking our progress against our goals can be super motivational whether you are on track or disastrously below it.

Like I said in my 'How to Get Started' post, there are so many ways now for us to track our hobbies. As for reading, my go-to for the past ten or so years has been Goodreads. Now linked to Facebook, Goodreads allows you to set an annual reading challenge that keeps you up to date on how far away you are from your goal. This challenge is not set in stone and can be changed at any point over the course of the year if needs be.

The lovely thing about this is that you can also follow the progress of your friends' reading goals too and motivate one another along the way. It is amazing the amount of people who regularly use this app and you may even get a shock if you choose to link your account to your Facebook friends.

4. Don't be afraid to give up on a book.

This is controversial. You will meet people who say that they never give up on a book and must finish every single one they start. My philosophy is life is too short to read bad books. There are approximately 2,000,000 books published every single year, the first book that was ever published was in 1455, why are you wasting your time on a book you know you don't like instead of going out and finding another one that may become a favourite?

I honestly don't get it.

When I have forced myself to get through a book, because I was assured it would "get better" (rarely happens) or because it was a book I thought I "should read" (says who?), I have almost always been faced with a reading slump that has ranged anything between a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

This will simply not do when I want to read 100 books a year.

If you are 20 or so pages through a book and absolutely hating your life, you have permission from me: put it down. Stop torturing yourself and take it to a charity shop, give it to someone you think might like it, donate it to a school or library - whatever you do, get that book out of your hands and find another one that may just be the one you're looking for.

5. Experiment with reading areas.

Sometimes, the last place I want to read is in bed. Other times, reading in bed sounds like a dream. You should try to have a few places in your home that you enjoy reading in. Even if these are simply different corners of your room: variety keeps things interesting and can motivate us to do things even when we can't really be bothered to.

Whether you prefer a plain and distraction-free space or you love your sofa covered in pillows and throws for extra comfs, you need to work out what kind of reading area appeals to you and incorporate these details into different areas for you to find peace reading in.

Sometimes, people enjoy to read with a candle burning, some essential oils diffusing or even with some background noise. These sensory aspects of your surroundings may also be fun to experiment with. For me, there are times when I love sticking my reading playlist on and others when I prefer it to just be the book and me (with the occasional cat...)

No two people, and no two spaces, are alike so I really encourage you to play about with this and see what kind of reading experiences appeal to you personally. I'd love to hear about some of these in the comments if you have any tips for people!

6. Try to read a few pages at the start and end of your day.

How many times, when you are just waking up, do you reach for your phone and scroll mindlessly through social media? What about directly before your head hits the pillow on an evening?

How much better-spent would your time be if you simply traded this in for 10 or so minutes of reading? Light reading on a morning allows your brain to transition from the sleeping mode to being awake in a way that is gentle on your eyes and mind. You don't need to concentrate too much but it gives your brain that stimulation that it needs to properly wake up.

After a day of staring at multiple screens - which is somewhat unavoidable, let's be honest - give your eyes a treat away from the blue light and spend 20 minutes or so reading before you hit the sheets. Nothing ground-breaking is going to happen on social media in those 20 minutes before you go to bed and, even if it does, you can pick it up in the morning.

For some people, this can be challenging because reading when they are tired results in them falling asleep with the book open. If this is the case for you then why not read in a chair or on the sofa rather than tucked up cosily in bed? As we have already said, experimenting about where you read can help in so many ways. Find out what works for you.

7. Carry a book with you. Everywhere.

As the fantastic creator of the A Series of Unfortunate Events universe Lemony Snicket wrote: "Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."

I loved this quotation when I first read it in his book Horseradish and I still love it now. We have so many reading opportunities in our modern lives but so few of us make the most of these. Queuing, travelling on public transport, waiting in the doctor's surgery: the small spaces of time that litter our days are endless. Yet, we spend them in one of two ways:

  1. Bored.

  2. On social media. Which eventually gets boring too when you're told you've scrolled as far as you can go.

This also helps you stay invested and interested in the story you are reading; long stretches of time out of the world can result in your becoming demotivated and therefore less likely to pick the darn thing back up. It goes without saying that the more often you read, the more you will want to read. So make the most of these gaps of time to find out what the characters are getting up to (it's probably far more interesting than you waiting to get that filling from the dentist's, anyway.)

8. Consider diverse approaches to reading.

This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with the last tip. As I wrote about in '5 (Free) Things to do in Lockdown,' embracing audiobooks has done wonders for my reading goal for the past couple of years. I am able to listen to 2-3 audiobooks a month usually (sometimes more) and they still contribute to my annual reading goal.

Like many other things on this list, audiobooks take a lot of experimentation. Personally, I find listening to fiction quite difficult because if I miss something important, it is kind of hard to move further through the story and rewinding is simply a pain.

Non-fiction, on the other hand, I find a breeze. One of my friends is the exact opposite. It just depends.

If taking out an audiobook subscription is something you don't want to do, you don't even need to do this anymore! Most local libraries have an online library of e-books and e-audiobooks that you can loan and listen to on your mobile phone. Find out more about why I love audiobooks so much here.

9. Join a reading community.

Despite evidence to the contrary, this post is not sponsored by Goodreads; but it can help you out with this tip too. What Goodreads is great for is it can connect you to people you already know (using Facebook) and you can discuss your favourite books just like you would comment on a picture of someone's Sunday dinner. This also allows you to set up book groups on the app where discussions can be held on certain books whenever you like.

If you don't have a lot of in-real-life reading friends then online book groups work well too. Visit Reading Groups for Everyone - ran by The Reading Agency - to find a book group close to you. They even have virtual groups (brilliant for the current climate!) for you to consider. If you surround yourself with like-minded people then you are going to feel more motivated and determined to reach your goal.

As well as this, as keen readers we love to talk about the books we have read, the lessons we have learned and the characters we have grown to love (or hate!) There is nothing better to tie together a reading experience than with a good chat with others who have read the same thing as you and I really do recommend it if you have the opportunity.

Linked to this, something I have been trying to do more of this year are Buddy Reads. This is simply when you and another person read the same book at the same time and discuss it as you go. I recently Buddy Read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett with a friend and for those of you who are not familiar with the book - it is over 1100 pages long. There is no way I would have gotten through it in under two weeks if it hadn't been for Buddy Reading it.

As much as I hope these tips help you make reading a habit, the answer is really simple: you just need to make it a priority. If you consciously put aside time to reading more, you will do it and your desire to read will naturally grow with time.

If you have any more tips for people struggling with finding time for their reading, please leave them as a comment below. I would love to see what you all do to keep yourselves motivated with your reading goals.

Happy reading, folks.

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