reading on train

15 Tips to Making Time to Read a Book

Jan Yager, Ph.D.

If you ask someone why he or she has not read a book, either a novel or non-fiction, in a while, the answer is usually “Because I just don’t have enough time.” That same person would have no trouble finding the time when asked to read a book or article for work. It’s what we might call “reading for pleasure” that falls by the wayside because work and other personal commitments seem to take up all our time.

What some of us fail to realize or simply forget is how much reading can enrich our lives.

Yes, reading a novel, a short story, a biography, a political nonfiction book, a self-help guide, a memoir, a children’s book, or even a poem or book of poetry, can be pleasurable. But it’s also much more than that. Books transport us to another time and place. They educate us and comfort us when we’re looking for answers to such monumental questions as how to deal with grief, aging parents, anxiety, or how to comfort an upset toddler, if we want to escape into a sci-fi adventure or a mystery or immerse ourselves in the life of our favorite historical figures.

Some books inspire us, and challenge us to try new things, to expand our horizons and our lives. Reading books:

  • Improves our writing and ability to communicate and comprehend.
  • Helps our brains to keep functioning.
  • Lowers our stress levels.
  • Takes you to far-away places until you can get there in fact.
  • Exposes you to new ideas as well as new characters with personalities and perspectives that could help expand your world.
  • Can be a shared experience to talk about with friends, acquaintances or even strangers.
  • Expands our vocabulary and our knowledge.
  • Improves our concentration.
  • Opens our minds to new experiences.

Those who make the time to read for themselves practice a few tried and true time management principles.

Here are 15 you can use immediately to start making more time to read for you:

  1. Prioritize pleasure reading as a necessity for your well-being rather than a luxury that you will get to when you have the time. Otherwise that time may never come. This is time you set aside for you!
  2. books with headphones

  3. Put together a “to read” or “to listen to” list based on recommendations from others as well as your own reading goals. It will be easier to make the time to read if you have a specific book in mind than if you have a more open-ended goal to “read more.”
  4. Begin with a realistic goal. How about one book a month? If that’s too much pressure or unrealistic because of all the demands on your time, make it one book every other month.
  5. Start by picking out a book (collection of poetry or short stories) that you are really motivated to read. It could be something that has been recommended to you or at the top of your “to read” list recently or even for a long time. The more you want to read one specific thing, the more likely you are to make the habit changes to make that happen.
  6. If you keep a “to do” list, put that book right on that list, perhaps even at the top of it.
    To Do List Date ______________
    1. Read __________________________.
  7. book club crocodile

  8. Join, or start, a book club. Book clubs usually read one book as a group each month, although some groups meet even more frequently. Since the whole point of a book club, besides friendship and comradery, is to discuss the book together, peer pressure to show up at the next meeting having read the current book selection should motivate you to find time to read.If you are interested in a commercial version that sends you a book a month, in 2015, Book of the Month Club, which started in 1926, returned in a new format. For a monthly fee of $14.99 you will receive one hardcover selection. For more information, go to:
  9.  If deadlines motivate you, give yourself a reasonable deadline to finish that book. Keep that commitment to yourself on your daily to do list till you achieve it, moving that “to read” commitment from list to list.
  10. Determine what “hidden time” you have during the day, at night, or on weekends that you could apply to pleasure reading. Keep a time log if you are unsure. It could be 10 minutes waiting in the doctor’s office, in the bathroom, 45 minutes commuting on the train, 30 minutes before you go to bed that you could take away from your TV watching time, an hour first thing in the morning on Saturday or Sunday especially if you wake up earlier (as long as that does not lead to being exhausted during the day).
  11. Train yourself to read in short spurts and to just keep going till you finish the book. Whether you read five, ten, fifteen minutes, or an hour at a time, just keep reading. Reading during the “hidden times” that you defined above (in #8) add up. Instead of setting your goal of “reading a book,” apply the time management principle of breaking up a big task into little tasks. Promise to read one or a couple of pages a day, or for the week. Before you know it, voila, you have finished reading that first book just for you!
  12. Do you walk or run daily? Go to the gym to exercise? Consider listening to an audiobook even if you have never done it before. For example, here’s a link to my own book, 365 Daily Affirmations for Happiness, read by singer, voice over artist, and audiobook narrator Gale Cruz, in the audiobook format. The publisher, amazon’s ACX program and the parent company, Audible, allows those who are new to their audiobooks to a get a free trial before becoming monthly subscribers.Listening to an audiobook while you safely do another task is a positive example of when doing two things at once or multitasking works.
  13. If you find deadlines helpful, borrow the book from the library since the due date to return it could help motivate you to finish it.
  14. When going on a trip or commuting to work, include at least one book in your suitcase or work tote or briefcase. If you read e-books, add a couple of e-books to your collection so you have plenty of reading options since you just might find you have more time to pleasure read during your business trip or vacation. You can read e-books on a dedicated e-book reader, but you can also read on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.Alternatively, if you are going to the airport, or to the train station, and there is a bookstore there, take this opportunity to purchase one or more books to read on your trip.
  15. Reading for yourself should be its own reward, however if it’s been a long time since you did this you could consider rewarding yourself to reinforce your effort. The reward could be material, or it could be something symbolic, like giving yourself a star! One of the times in my own lifetime that a lot for pleasure was in sixth grade. Our class happened to double as the elementary school library and Mrs. Snipes, our teacher, challenged us to read as many books as possible during the school year. There was a chart in the room and every student’s name was on that chart. When you read a book, you wrote down the name of the book and filled in a square on the chart. It was a big motivator to keep adding those book titles and completed squares. I still remember that I read dozens of books including the Homer’s Odyssey and the Iliad that year!
  16. If you have children who are assigned a book to read in school, you might consider reading the same book. I remember reading Holes by Louis Sachar when my son Jeff was reading it in middle school. We also saw the movie together which was released around the same time. Many books for children and teens are “good reads” for adults as well. The best example of this, of course, is the megahit Harry Potter series which was initially deemed a YA (young adult) series.
  17. Create a free account and join Goodreads. You will join countless other book lovers and readers. Set up a reading plan for yourself, explore book recommendations, and write reviews yourself to motivate yourself to read more. The site even has a section where you can sign up for your reading challenge of how many books you promise yourself that you will read this year!

Happy reading! I look forward to hearing about your new reading adventures!

“Woman on a Train Reading”
Collage by Jan Yager

Copyright © 2019 by Jan Yager, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

This blog is posted for your personal or professional reading enjoyment. I encourage you to share a link to it, but you pleased do not repost, publish, edit, or alter it in any way without written permission from the copyright holder, Dr. Jan Yager.

Dr. Jan YagerJan Yager, Ph.D. is the author of more than 45 award-winning books, translated into 34 languages, published by major houses, Simon & Schuster, Inc., and Scribner, as well as her own small press, Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc. Her titles include When Friendship Hurts, Effective Business and Nonfiction Writing, How to Self-Publish Your Book (Square One Publishers), Help Yourself Now (forthcoming, Allworth Press, Skyhorse Publishers), several novels, most recently On the Run, children’s books such as The Quiet Dog, and two collections of poetry. For more on Jan, go to her main website: or her secondary sites: or