There’s no question that modern life is busy. When you ask people how things are going, they’ll probably tell you they’re busy. I often find myself automatically giving this answer. And sometimes it’s the truth. But then I stop and ask myself, is this really how I want to live? The answer is no. I don’t want to be busy all the time. There are things I think are important, and I have to resist the temptation to be busy so I have time to do what I think is important.
Part of the reason we chose to homeschool was to have more flexibility in our schedule. This flexibility results in a more sustainable daily rhythm. Furthermore, Charlotte Mason didn’t give homework to young students, so this alone helps make our days more peaceful. These two things help ensure we’re not burning the midnight oil and waking up super early.
Our decision to homeschool also allows us to pursue our priorities. One of the priorities in my life is reading. But if I’m not careful, I can easily become too busy to have time for it. So, I thought I would share some of the ways that I’m saying “no” to busy and “yes” to reading time.
Busy Versus Priorities
The first thing I had to do to make time to read was to decide that it was a priority. Before I had kids, this was a lot easier. I used to read much more than I do now. Back in my pre-mom days, I commuted to work on the Metra. I always had a book in my bag. I probably had almost an hour and a half to read each day I commuted. Even better, I walked right by our amazing public library on my way home. Good books were always close at hand. I’ll admit that it also helped that I married a reader. I can remember both of us sitting on the couch in our 1-bedroom apartment, reading next to each other.
After my son was born, it was months before I picked up a book. The first year of his life was really full. We moved across the country when he was 1 month old, and my husband started a teaching job when he was 2 months old. Of course, it was also about 8 months before I was consistently sleeping through the night. To say that motherhood was busy was an understatement. But around the time he turned 1, I eventually got my footing and started to read again. However, my domestic responsibilities meant that I didn’t have lots of free time, so I found that I had to be more selective in my reading.
Too Busy for Bad Books
It was my husband who actually helped me realize the importance of being selective with what you finish reading. Prior to getting married, I had a few friends who were reliable for recommending good books. However, as many of them moved away and I got married, I started to turn to online reviews to find new books. While my husband and I would talk about and research good books, we each had our different genre preferences and our different methods for finding good books.
My two main methods for findings books were to look for a book that was similar to a book I liked or use lists of Nobel Prize, Booker Prize, and National Book Award nominees. Now, on occasion, I ended up choosing less than stellar books. And a time or two I even read a bad book. But I would dutifully plow through them. It never occurred to me that I could stop reading a book I didn’t like. It sounds silly to say, but this was a freeing idea. There have been times that I’ve given up on books partway through reading them. So, while I’m willing to rework my “busy” to make time to read, I also try to make the best use of my time. It’s ok to quit a bad book.
Too Busy Working
The third thing I have to do to make time to read is put down my phone and step away from my computer. As a new blogger and virtual assistant, it’s easy to become a workaholic. But the truth is that there will always be another interesting article to read, another witty comment to write, or another task to undertake to grow your business. You can truly spin your wheels all the time. But the reality is reading good books will help inspire you and spark creativity. Books take you to new places and expose you to new ideas. Furthermore, the ideas you get when you step away from the screen will often be more interesting and more original than those you create by working just a little more.
The other reality about the amount of time we are “busy” working is that we tend to be very distracted when we work. If you think about how we work, it makes sense that we’re so busy yet not productive. We are constantly interrupted by dings from our apps, notifying us of some incoming message. If we really want to stop being so busy and have more time to read, we will say no to the dings. We’re not Pavlov’s dogs here, or are we??? 🙂
And then let me raise the issue of work in the home. As a homeschool mom and a mom of a child with food allergies, I spend a lot of time preparing for lessons and cooking from scratch. In addition, I’m also heavily involved with ministries at church. These responsibilities mean that I need to look at my calendar daily and figure out where I can find time to complete my tasks and find pockets of time to read. I can usually find 5-10 minutes even on a busy day.
The Big E
I’m sure I won’t make any friends with this point…but one of the reasons we tend to be so busy is entertainment. As a culture, we spend a lot of time binge-watching whole seasons of shows, consuming social media, and partaking of sports. I’m not suggesting we should all be staid prudes. Leisure time should be enjoyable. But if we claim we’re too busy to read, we should probably look at how we’re spending our leisure time. How much time are we really spending in pursuit of screen-based entertainment? It probably wouldn’t hurt us to spend less time in front of the screen and more time outside in nature and with our noses in a good book.
My final secret for actually reading more is to create positive accountability. One fun way you can encourage yourself to make time to read is to join or start a book club. I’ve been a part of a book club of mostly older women (I’m one of the few who isn’t a grandmother) for the past four years. Not only does this provide a chance to build intergenerational friendships, but it means I’m working through a list of books every year. Furthermore, I’m motivated by the deadline of a book club meeting. But there isn’t so much pressure that I’m not free to be sensitive to other commitments in my life. Sometimes I choose not to read a book during a particularly busy season or find that I’m not interested in a book. But the structure is there to help me prioritize reading.
For some people, audiobooks are a lifeline for reading. If you spend a lot of time in the car, audiobooks can be a great way to “read” and make your drive time more tolerable. When you’re going on a trip, listening to a book can be a great way to make use of the time in transit without having to pack heavy books. We’ve also enjoyed listening to books on CD when making long drives with the kids.
The point is there are ways to make time to read if we really want to do it. It may require some shifts in our thinking and habits, but reading more is almost always beneficial. Are you a bibliophile or a reluctant reader? I’d love to hear your tips for making more time to read. You can email me at hello @ amblesidetales.com. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest to see more about our Charlotte Mason homeschool.