So I often get asked how I am able to balance reading and read books (not that I even read so many books compared to some bookmaniacs) while working my 9–5, which in reality could be more like 8:30 – 7pm (or even 8pm). Work can get so time consuming and energy draining that as soon as you get home, your brain seems to switch off itself so much so that all you want to do is eat and sleep.
For some reading (who live in the Famous Lagos or cities with loads of traffic), you find that it is really not when you have survived ten hours of traffic after a hectic day that you feel like coming back home to read, even if it is a book you love (this adulting this ehn…na wa).
Meanwhile, my sister is making jokes, but not making jokes at how crazy Lagos traffic can be. If you know, you know.
And so we find that with each passing day, we wake up groggily, subconsciously press the auto pilot button and proceed to work, spending the entire day doing what we may not necessarily love in a bid to make ends meet. Then we come home, eat, exist as a couch potato for some hours while lazily browsing through TV channels or movies/series on Netflix to watch something we have probably watched before until we drift off to sleep. The next day, repeat.
Then the weekend comes and we are so worn out and exhausted that we either sleep the entire weekend or for those of us that suffer from chronic FOMO, we find ourselves at events that we may not necessarily want to go to, scroll through social media so we do not get bored while there and then go home after uploading how “fun” it was.
It can be quite a rollercoaster.
In time, I have learned to adopt ways to balance reading while working my 9-5 and they have paid off amazingly. Now, I would be the first to admit that this not the easiest thing in the world to do. Really. In fact, sometimes, it is just plain tough. Sometimes, I see a book I would love to start or finish but I feel so exhausted on the inside from work to the point where I cannot even remember my name so I find myself shoving the book aside while telling myself “Abeg, it’s not bar finals, I cannot kill myself.”
Admittedly, it can get a little discouraging when you go on social media and see that people are reading a book a month, or even 3 books in a week while you struggle with that one book that sits on your shelf looking lonely and abandoned. And it is pretty easy to feel “Oh, these ones have time” but I promise, people are making it work and it is very possible for you to make it work as well. The question is “How bad do you want it?”
We all have 24 hours in a day and what you do with yours is pretty much up to you. So if you are earnestly seeking ways to develop a reading habit or just balance reading with your 9-5, here are some tips that I have adopted and continue to adopt that help me out.
Change your mindset
You cannot even begin to start reading anything or keep to track without developing a positive and determined mindset. The mind is so powerful that whatever you put it to, it can do! So stop telling yourself “I’m just too lazy” or “I do not have the time” or “I am always so tired” or “There is just no way I can read with this my job”. Some of us swear we have the hardest jobs on the planet and so we cannot get a word of a book in. BUT! It is possible to read and maintain that hectic job as long as you are determined. So the first step is to get rid of that negative mindset.
When I ask people why they do not read even though they have a burning desire to do so, the number one reason I have heard literally countless times is “I do not have the time”. Plis dear, you had the time to just check your instagram or snapchat for 45 minutes. Yup, it was 45 minutes but you thought it was just 5 minutes. And no, satan had nothing to do with this one. So, you do not have time? Create the time! Even if it is 30 minutes a day, you can consciously carve it out of your busy schedule. After all, you carve out time for what you want to do.
For my traffic babies who spend alot of time in traffic, this might be a great option. Some people have to drive through seemingly endless hours of traffic at night and early hours of the morning just to get from and to work and in those moments, you cannot pick up a book to read so audio books are worth a try. Personally, I am yet to get into these but I recently tried the excerpt of a book in audio format and absolutely loved it. So you may want to try this while driving or sitting in the bus or taxi instead of spending hours scrolling through social media. There are currently loads of Audio book apps on Android and iOS such as Audible, Audio Books, Serial Box, Scribd, Google Play Books, Kobo Books, Voice Audiobook and so on.
Become one with the Book!
Lol. Yes, it is that deep (kidding…not). At every point in time, if possible, your current read should be with you. A book is always in my bag during the week in case I have to go for a meeting or an enquiry and I am told to wait for a while. If you find yourself in Court or waiting for any reason, pull out the book and read! It takes a whole lot of discipline to just sit still and read while waiting and not fall into the temptation of whipping out your phone to scroll furiously. Utilise lunch breaks at work, find somewhere quiet and read instead of pressing phone. Make the book your partner in crime and spouse until you finish it.
Set a daily reading goal
Everyday, set a daily reading goal of what you want to accomplish. It does not have to be that deep. Just tell yourself or write it down somewhere you would not forget…no matter how little at first. The most important thing is to take the first step. It might be a chapter, a page, fifty pages or even just a line! With time, these goals would get bigger.
Repeat “I am not a couch potato!”
You are not a couch potato so no need to exist as one. Your body is probably currently wired to come back from work and crash on the couch while scrolling though TV programmes, but you can replace this habit with a better one. Repeatedly tell yourself you are not a couch potato and back those words up with action by resisting the urge to collapse on the couch and watch TV. Remember, this is all about your mindset and determination.
For those of us who are self-diagnosed cellphone addicts (if you are one and still in denial, then weh done, continu), we know how hard this can be. Like, you literally check your phone every 5 minutes or 1 minute and it can be tough to totally eliminate distractions but it is worth an attempt. I usually have downtime on my phone for three hours in the evening where my apps shut themselves down (even though I run back to turn them on) but at least I am able to get an hour or even if its 30 minutes in. You may turn off your phone, turn off the TV or have a separate reading room or reading corner in your room or house where you do not take your phone to. Remember, determination and discipline.
Join a BookClub/Have an accountability partner
The book club could be physical or online. In my opinion, a physical book club has more advantages. This has helped me immensely because even on days I do not feel like reading, I remember that there is an upcoming book club meet where I would not want to go and look like dodo soaked in water because I did not finish the book of the month. So even though it means staying up a bit late, I find that I have the motivation to continue.
You may also wish to have an accountability partner with whom you share your reading goals (obviously preferably someone with similar or bigger reading goals…or someone who even likes reading in the first place sef ). Don’t go and be disturbing people who are not interested in reading to listen to your oral book reviews.
Don’t do “copycata”
We all love books differently and have different reading paces or speeds. We also have different job descriptions and while jobs may be similar, they may not be the same as the next person so it really does not make much sense to negatively compare yourself to someone who seems to read 5 million books in a year. Dey your own lane and read your book small small. Even on days you do not feel like, read at least a page. It helps to boost your confidence in your self-discipline and abilities when you are able to beat your chest (like King Kong) and say you read a page of a book that day.
Also, only read what you love! Especially if you are just trying to develop a reading habit for the first time. This can be a bit tricky where you belong to a book club which might select a genre you do not necessarily like as the book of the month. BUT…keep an open mind and you may just enjoy it. Trust me, I am speaking from experience.
Leave work at work!
This could be tough to do but try it. Once you close from work, avoid taking work home so you are not deep into the night working on what can be worked on the next day. By all means, please meet your deadlines and do not get fired, but try as much as possible to create personal time for yourself.
Look, the reality is that it is pretty easy to get enveloped in the craziness that is work while things that you may genuinely love to do get pushed to the back (this is not to say you may not love your work). You may find that in 6 months, all you have done is work, work, work while having done nothing personal for yourself that you enjoy.
It is also pretty easy to blurt out “Oh, I do not have time” and think of all the reasons why you may not be able to read a book, but you will find that it takes just as much energy to actually create that time. Like I mentioned earlier, the question remains, “How bad do I want it?”
Take stock of how you spend your time on an average day. The time spent engaging in mindless and unproductive office chatter could be used to refresh your brain and boost your creativity when you pick up a book you love to read. The time spent scrolling through instagram/snapchat stories or Netflix could be spent on that book.
Not having time is not a good enough excuse. Create time!
I hope you found this helpful! Let me know what you think in the comments!