Sunday Salon: Making Time

Several years ago in my now disbanded book club, I mentioned a book I had read during the month, other than the one that we were discussing. Surprised, one of the women in the book looked at me and asked, “you mean, you have time to read more than one book a month?” Well, yes I do, because I make the time.

I know that in the book blogging world, I would probably be considered a slow reader. In a typical week, I read one or two books. But compared to the average person, even the average reader, I read a lot. So where do I find the time? And how can I find more?

How do I make time to read? The single biggest thing that I’ve done is to stop watching television. Now I’m not against television. There are some shows that I think are absolutely brilliant and others that are just good fun, but television can be a dreadful time suck. When I had cable, it was all too easy for me to get sucked into marathons of predictable fare like Trading Spaces or E True Hollywood Story. (I would sometimes get sucked into the latter even if I didn’t care one bit about the person being profiled.) Once I gave up cable, it was a quick step to giving up broadcast television entirely. Now I have hours of unscheduled time free to read, or perhaps watch a video if I have one out from Netflix. And I don’t miss it that much. The only real downside is missing so many pop culture references in conversation, but let’s face it, I was behind on that stuff even when I was watching TV.

How else do I find time? I read over lunch at work. I try to carry a book with me when I’m likely to have to wait somewhere. I listen to an audiobook in the car. I just sneak in time when I can. And I am lucky that I live alone and don’t have kids or a spouse to distract me from reading.

But I do have another nemesis that I haven’t yet conquered, and if you’re reading this post, you’re probably acquainted with it—the computer. Blogging has done wonders for getting me motivated to read more—and more thoughtfully. But the computer can be just as much of a time suck as the television. I have a pretty good system for keeping up with my blog writing, reading, and commenting. I clear out my blog reader almost daily. (Skimming a lot and not commenting on every interesting post are the keys to my system.) But I fritter away an insane amount of time because I get sucked in and lose track of time, and before I know it, it’s time to get ready for bed, and I haven’t read a page all evening.

Last week, I installed a great little Firefox add-on called LeechBlock, which you can set to limit your access to certain Web sites. You can set it to shut you out between certain hours or after a certain amount of time. It has been very helpful because if I do get sucked into Web surfing, I can only fritter away so much time before I’m locked out. And I’m also learning not to try to read with the laptop open and Tweetdeck running. Why I ever thought that might be possible I’ll never understand.

So how do you make time to read? What are some of your biggest distractions from reading and how do you cope with them?

Notes from a Reading Life (January 12–17)

Books Completed

  • Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. It took a while for this book to click with me, but by the end I was in love.
  • The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson (audio). Exploration of U.S. military’s use of psychic and psychological techniques. Outrageous in several different ways.

Currently Reading

  • Testament by Alis Hawkins. Medieval art and architecture meets modern university politics. So far, it’s great fun.
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (audio). A prim governess type meets a worldly young actress with comic results.
  • The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Lessons in writing poetry. Still plugging away at this. Most weeks, I’m managing one poetry exercise.
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread). For the LOTR readalong. I’m now just over halfway done.

On Deck

  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Dubois. For the February Classics Circuit.
  • The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (audio). The first in the Bartimaeus trilogy. My family has been passing these books around, so I’m checking them out to see what I think.

New Acquisitions

I know, I know. I’m trying to slow down my acquisitions, but I make exceptions for books from swap sites that I can’t get from the library and Library Thing Early Review books.

  • The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm. From Bookmooch.
  • Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor. LibraryThing Early Review program.

Books on My Radar

Everyone seems to be reading great books lately!

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35 Responses to Sunday Salon: Making Time

  1. I have toned down my television watching considerably over the years. I still do watch a few shows regularly (usually on the DVR so I can skip the commercials) or on DVD. That’s helped some.

    Like you, I read during my lunch break at work and carry a book with me to read when I have to wait. I haven’t done the audio book thing in the car yet. That’s my news and free thinking time, but I imagine if I take another long trip, I’ll definitely give it a try.

    The computer is my biggest time suck that gets in the way of my reading. LeechBlock sounds like a helpful service. I’m not sure I’m ready to take it that far, but it’s something to keep in mind.

    • Teresa says:

      Literary Feline, I’ve toyed with the DVR idea, but I’m pretty sure I’d end up saving everything I’m even vaguely interested in and then have an overwhelming amount to watch. That’s why I like Netflix. I usually end up getting two discs a week, which is about right for me.

  2. I always try and keep the book I’m reading in my bag; every moment counts! I also try and read before bed- it clears my head… but it also tends to keep me up late, heh!

  3. christina says:

    Oh my goodness you nailed it right on the head! I have direct tv, but it’s not the insane amount of tele shows that I have at hope that distracts me. It’s the computer!

    I turn it on in the early evening (sometimes afternoon when I get home from work and I’m just going to eat a microwaved dinner) and the next thing I know hours have slipped away. (I a sucker for facebook). The best vacations are when I don’t have internet access.

    ‘Course now I got me an iphone so that sorta defeats those vacation days, huh?

    I still read a good amount of books. 2009 I read a bit over 100. Still. My time is defintely monopolized by the darn computer!

    • Teresa says:

      christina: Those hours just slip away so easily. I’m teaching myself not to even turn the computer on after work until I’ve worked out.

      But If you managed 100 books last year, you’re clearly still finding time!

  4. Steph says:

    I am convinced that if we had cable (or even just network tv), I would get WAY less reading (not to mention everything else) done. Tony & I do watch shows via the internet, and we have Netflix, but it requires us to be more active and selective in terms of what we watch – we can’t just blithely turn the tv on, only to fritter away four hours on HGTV shows, which we definitely would do if we had easy access to them.

    But you’re right that the internet is the biggest distraction these days! Sometimes I find I can’t read because I’m wondering if there’s anything new in my Google Reader! I wind up reading more about books than I do actually books themselves!

    • Teresa says:

      Steph: Yes, it’s the need to be selective that makes watching through Netflix or online a better option for me. (Although I dislike watching on the computer and don’t do it much.) When I had more than four channels I would watch stuff I didn’t even enjoy or intend to watch, but at least with Netflix I’ve made an active choice.

      And yes, I’ll start to settle in to read and think…ooh, I’ll just check my Google Reader or my e-mail. An hour later, I’ve not read anything.

  5. Richard says:

    Interesting post, Teresa! Like most of the previous commenters, the Internet is prob. the biggest drain on my leisure time these days. However, it’s hard for me to complain about it cutting down on my reading time since so much of my online time these days is devoted to reading book blogs. Speaking of which, I really enjoy your blog here–and the vicious circle continues!

    • Teresa says:

      Richard: I feel a lot less guilty about the book blogs I read that I do about all the other stuff. If I could limit myself to book blogs, headlines, and communication with real-life friends, I’d be in much better shape with my time management.

  6. lena says:

    I watch most of my movies/television on my computer – since I rarely remember to tune into my television at whenever the world my favorite show is.

    I think the internet is my problem as well. I try to leave more comments to all of my bloggy friends and then there is the whole Facebook thing and Goodreads. Social networking is the best way to waste an entire day. ):

    • Teresa says:

      lena: I keep getting Goodreads invites, but I’ve been strong because I’m not sure I could all another social networking option! But now my real-life friends are talking it up, which makes it an even bigger temptation.

  7. Aarti says:

    I don’t watch as much TV as I used to. I think that’s mainly because of DVR. I pretty much never just watch a show any more- I only watch what I’ve DVRd. And then I fast-forward through commercials! It saves a lot of time.

    I think people make time for what is important to them. A lot of people like to work out (I don’t) and make sure to fit it into their schedules. A lot of people have a favorite show they MUST watch. A lot of people like to cook. If reading is a priority, I think you’ll make the time to do it.

  8. cbjames says:

    I’m amazed that there’s still regular television at all. Who’s watching it? We haven’t had it for over five years now, though we do watch telelvision shows on-line and on netflix.

    leechblock sounds like a very good idea. Right now, the internet does suck up a lot of my time but I’ve been working on it. ;-)

    • Teresa says:

      cbjames: I keep thinking no one’s watching regular TV, but then my co-workers will mention commercials they’ve seen, and on Twitter the airing of certain shows (Glee, for example) is practically an event.

  9. Lightheaded says:

    I should try that LeechBlock :) Thanks for that info!

  10. Jenny says:

    Ugh, this has been the worst month for distractions for me in years! An intense teaching load, preparing for a monster trip to France, selling and buying a house, and the birth of a niece all contributed this January to the least read since May 2008 (when I moved cross-country.) I’m hoping to get back in the loop now!

    • Teresa says:

      Jenny: I hear you. I’ve had periods like that when there’s just too much going on to get reading done. Nice to see you’re getting back in the swing of things!

  11. Frances says:

    Into my life, a little Leechblock needs to fall. I am always astounded at how much time has passed while I was logged on. “But it only seemed like a few minutes,” I say to myself. But one thing links to another and to another and to another. Good thing I rarely watch television. My reading habits mirror your own I think. More than one book a month. :)

  12. Kathleen says:

    I’m with you…I minimize my TV watching in order to read more but like you, the computer is my nemesis as I spend so much time reading and commenting on blogs that I don’t have near enough time to read!

    • Teresa says:

      Kathleen: Cutting down on TV was so easy, but the computer is tough because it’s where I talk about my reading. If only I could confine it to that and not so many random YouTube videos!

  13. I could have written this exact post. Those are the same answers I give people when they ask how I fit so much time to read into my schedule. Not having cable anymore has been huge on that front. It’s not that hard if it’s something you make a priority.

  14. Marieke says:

    My biggest distractions from reading are BBC iplayer, going to the gym, and reading book blogs! All worthy activities, though; I try to keep a balance.

    When I started knitting a year ago, I thought to myself ‘I’ll never read a book again!’ (That didn’t happen.) Sometimes I try to get a cold so I can stay home from work and read books all day, but it never seems to work! ;)

    • Teresa says:

      Marieke: I laughed out loud at your try to get a cold comment. I’ve thought the same thing when I’ve felt a cold coming on–maybe it’ll get bad enough that I can stay home and read (but not so bad that I can’t read).

  15. Dorothy W. says:

    I agree that the biggest barrier to reading more is the time I spend online. So much of that time is well worth it, because I do enjoy blogging and reading blogs. But then sometimes I stay online longer than I need to … sometimes that’s because I’m mentally fatigued and need a break, but other times it’s just easier to stay online than to pick up a book. I like the idea of LeechBlock!

  16. It is always hard finding the right balance. I don’t wacth that much television and try to limit my blogging to during the day – saving my evenings for reading. LeechBlock is an interesting idea, but I think setting a time limit would encourage me to stay on for my maximum amount of time each day, when some days I have other things I should be doing!

    • Teresa says:

      Jackie: True–knowing you have 15 minutes left could cause you to insist on using the full 15 minutes. So far, I’ve been pretty good about not doing that. Plus, I set the Leechblock to shut me out at a time when I usually am still online, so it’s encouraging me to use my limited time more wisely.

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  18. rebeccareid says:

    My nemesis is also blogging and twitter and all these online projects I’ve started! I have a hard time limiting my time online since I already feel I’m “behind” at everything online all the time. I unplug on Sundays and try to avoid responding to things on Fridays and Saturdays. When life gets busy, it’s always refreshing to be unplugged, but it is so hard then when I come back because I’m “behind.” I need to skim more, but it’s so hard. I have so much I want to say :)

    I don’t work so I do find time to slip in some reading while my son plays (and right now I’m reading blogs as he plays). And my husband travels. You always can tell which weeks he’s home because I get fewer books read. He likes to watch a movie or HGTV or do house projects so I end up joining him. Although I like reading, I do like having him around even more. :)

  19. Annabel says:

    Belatedly … I read anywhen and anywhere (nearly – can’t do books on planes for some reason), that’s why I devised my latin motto – Noli domo egredi nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

    You’re right, blogging can be a great distraction. When I changed my job last year to do slightly less hours, I thought I’d spend the newly spare ones reading, but I now spend most of them blogging and reading other blogs – but that’s a good thing too!

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