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Dear Literary Lady,
I used to read on the subway on the way to work but I recently moved and am within walking distance to my office. Yay, right?! But when am I supposed to read now?
Dear Read-less Commuter,
Great question! I know exactly where you’re coming from. For lots of busy people, the subway (or train, or bus) commute often feels like the only time you’re free to read. Whatever its faults, public transportation lets you sneak in a few pages in (relative) peace while shuttling you between obligations at home and in the office.
Our commute is often the only time we’re unplugged, unavailable to others, and able to allow ourselves to stop being productive for a hot minute. On the subway especially, you can’t answer phone calls, you can’t respond to emails, and you can’t attend to the needs of other people. You’re forced to be completely out-of-pocket, and since there’s nothing you can do, you can allow yourself to become immersed in a book.
That time is precious. If you no longer commute, that uninterrupted, unplugged time isn’t clearly carved out for you anymore. So here’s what I propose: carve out your own reading time. Go ahead and be unavailable for half an hour. Unplug. Opt out of any self-imposed productivity.
Make reading time for yourself and stick to it like you would meals or workout regimens. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, even just a half an hour works. As for when to squeeze in a little reading time, here are some suggestions:
1. Read before bed.
Reading right before you go to sleep is the best way to end the day. Most civilized people won’t bother you with demands late at night, and if they do, pretend you’re already asleep and they can wait until morning.
2. Read during your lunch break.
Opt out of lunch with your colleagues one or two days a week. Just sit somewhere and read with a sandwich.
3. Get some audiobooks.
Now you can “read” while walking to work, shopping for groceries, going for a run, or doing practically anything that allow for headphones!
4. Make Facebook time REAL book time.
Whenever you find yourself browsing aimlessly online, get off the computer (or phone) and get lost in some pages.
5. Bench yourself.
Find a park bench or a coffee shop on your way to or from work. Get a cup of coffee and plunk yourself there with a book for a little while each day. Then keep on going to work or home.
6. Wait out the crowds.
People often rush to go to the same places at the same time. Grocery stores and gyms are always crowded during the after work rush—avoid the crowds by waiting and reading it out. Just hide in a book somewhere until the hordes have dissipated, and you’ll have the store or the gym to yourself.
7. Fudge your schedule.
Your friends want to meet right after work? Tell them you’ll meet them at 7 even though you get out of work at 6. Give yourself a little time to read and decompress. Nobody has to know when you actually get out of work.
8. “Mom” yourself.
Remember all the things your mom used to say? “Do your homework first, no T.V. before dinner, only one T.V. show on weeknights, no staying out late on weeknights, you’re grounded this week,” etc.? All that is pure gold when you’re trying to make reading time as an adult. Read your book as soon as you get home. Read instead of watching T.V., or limit yourself to just one T.V. show a night. Get home early on weeknights so you can read in bed. And being grounded? That’s really just a staycation when you’re an adult—plenty of time to read!
The only thing special about a commute is that it forces us to pause for a minute, giving us the freedom to read because we can’t do anything else. But if reading makes us happy, isn’t it silly that we only do it as a last resort? So I say go forth and schedule a date with a good book. I promise you’ll fall in love.
Love and paperbacks,