Carving Out Time for Yourself

When 2020 rolled around, I decided to keep track of how many books I read. I had no idea that we were about to get hit by a global pandemic and I would have more leisure time than ever before. When the year ended, I was delighted to see that I had finished 82 books!

At the beginning of 2021, I wondered if I would be able to keep up that pace, as I expected things to become more “normal” as the year went on. To my great surprise, the total number of books I read in 2021 was . . . (drum roll, please) . . . 91.

That’s a lot of books. Some of them (like Barack Obama’s book A Promised Land) took me more than two weeks to read. Others, like some of the murder mysteries I love, took only a couple of days.

So how did I do it? It wasn’t just more leisure time. It was time management techniques.

First of all, I start each day with list of things to do. When I review my list each morning, I identify which of the items must get done that day. These are my “A” items. It may take me all day to finish up my A items. But on days when I get my A items done and there is still time available, I have a choice. I can get started on the “B” items on my list, or I can do something fun as a reward for getting all my A’s done — like reading a book.

Second, I remove barriers to reading. I read e-books using the Kindle app on my iPad or my iPhone. That means I can read anywhere. If I’m riding on the subway or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, I pass the time by reading on my iPhone. If I am lying in bed waiting to get sleepy — or I wake up in the middle of the night and am unable to fall back to sleep — I can read on my iPad without disturbing my husband. If I finish a book and want to keep reading, I can log on to the library app and take out a new book — even in the middle of the night!

Third, I keep a list of books I want to read. They may be recommended to me by friends, or written by authors that I have already enjoyed, or the next book in a mystery series I’m following, or something I read about in the newspaper. I keep this list in Evernote so that it’s always handy, no matter which device I’m near. So when I’m ready to find a new book, I have a long list to choose from. Not everything is available from the library when I’m ready for a new book, so I end up putting books on hold. Most of the time, I’ve got one or two books in my Kindle app and another one or two on reserve.

These are some of the ways that I can keep my reading going. You can apply these rules to any activity that you want to do more of:

  • Use the activity as a reward for getting your work done (and not as a way to procrastinate).
  • Remove any barriers to performing this activity.
  • Be prepared by having on hand what you need to perform this activity.

I hope 2022 brings a lot of time for you to do your favorite things!

2 Comments

  1. Marie-France Lamothe on March 16, 2022 at 5:26 am

    I love reading, but don’t feel I always have the time to do it. So I make it a part of my routine. For instance, I read every morning as part of my Miracle Morning ritual. I also will pick up my Kindle at bedtime and read then. I love using my Kindle at bedtime since it’s light and if I end up falling asleep, I don’t lose my page! 😉 But I love your idea of using reading as a reward, and not to think of it as a form of procrastination. I might have to adopt that mindset! 🙂

    • Sharon Lowenheim on March 16, 2022 at 8:20 am

      That’s smart to make reading part of your routine. When I took my first time management class over 30 years ago, I learned that “I don’t have time” really means “There are other activities that I am prioritizing over this one.” Nothing happens unless we make it a priority.

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