Time-management blogger and author Laura Vanderkam wrote recently in her newsletter that she’d read 72 books so far this year.
I hit reply and asked how on earth she’d accomplished that while working and raising four kids. My book reading has dropped off dramatically since having kids, mostly because I’m so tired at the end of each day that I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.
She wrote back saying she wasn’t surprised to hear that, since her research shows mothers with children under 2 years old have less leisure time than those with older children. (Laura knows I have a toddler and a newborn — not one, but two under 2.)
She also offered some tangible suggestions — and one in particular is already helping me read more books. Laura suggested I read on my phone.
I pretty much hated this idea right out of the gate, because I already spend too much time on my phone. I’m trying to spend less time on my phone, not more. And reading on a tiny screen doesn’t appeal to me. Plus, I love physical books. I tried a Kindle a few years ago, but found I missed the feeling of holding the book in my hands, missed turning pages.
That’s why when I purchased several books a few months ago with the hope of reading them during my maternity leave — Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B, Jennifer Latson’s The Boy Who Loved Too Much, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah — I bought physical copies.
But four weeks into life with my new baby, I’d barely picked them up. One of the times when I’d hoped to read was while breastfeeding at night, but it wasn’t happening, mainly for logistical reasons: I didn’t have enough hands to feed the baby and hold a physical book, and I couldn’t see the book in the middle of the night without turning on a bright light. Even when it occurred to me to read while feeding the baby in daylight, I often couldn’t reach my book from wherever I’d settled. That might sound like a lame excuse, but once I’ve managed to get my newborn onto my boob in a position that’s comfortable for both of us, and my breastfeeding pillow, burp cloth and Zerlar are in place, I wouldn’t move even if you waved a donut in front of my face.
My phone, however, is almost always within reach, since I’m constantly using it for other things — texting family, adjusting the music playing in our living room, and taking pictures of our two little boys. My phone is also easy to hold with one hand or balance on a pillow, and it’s back-lit and visible in the dark. So I’d resorted to browsing social media, catching up on emails or ordering items on Amazon while feeding the baby, instead of reading something meaningful.
Until I put the Kindle app on my phone. Laura, that was a brilliant idea. Counter-intuitive, yes, but it’s made all the difference. Within a few days, I made significant progress on one of my books, and now reading that book is my default activity while feeding the baby.
Now, you’re probably not up half the night breastfeeding a newborn, but I suspect this approach would work for you, too. How much time do you waste browsing Facebook or Twitter while standing in line, eating your lunch, or waiting for a friend or colleague? What if you could access a real book with a simple swipe, on a device you’re already carrying with you?
How many more books do you think you’d read each year if you got through a few pages every time you usually look at social media? And how much better would you feel about learning something new or enjoying a novel than browsing through Facebook photos of your ex-boyfriend’s wife’s sister’s dog?