As the saying goes, the one thing they’re not making any more of is time. Ironically, in the modern age people tend to enjoy more free time than ever before in history, thanks to things like the eight-hour work day, weekends, and paid holidays—yet the number one complaint people have in general is a lack of time to do the things we want, as opposed to the things we do for filthy lucre.
For book lovers, that makes us all Burgess Meredith in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last,” sitting at our Day Jobs wishing fervently for a nuclear holocaust so we can spend the inevitable Mad Maxian apocalypse reading in blissful peace. There is a middle ground between quitting your job to live at the library and engineering worldwide destruction just so you can read, though: finding ways to read while at work. No matter how busy you are, here are 10 things you can do right now, today, that will let you read more while earning your pay.
Let’s consider your commuting time as part of your job, since you wouldn’t be riding that sardine can of a subway or screaming at your fellow motorists every morning unless your job required it. Audiobooks are an ideal way to keep up with your reading while commuting to and from work. You can read a book on the subway or bus, of course, but juggling a book and everything else isn’t always easy, and with audiobooks you can close your eyes and imagine you’re someplace very far away.
Always Carry a Book
No matter how crazy your working life is, every job has some “hurry up and wait” built in that can be turned into profitable reading time as long as you always have a book in your hand or loaded up on your phone or tablet. Riding elevators, using the, er, facilities, waiting in conference rooms for people to show up for meetings—any time you have dead air in your day, you could be reading.
Have Your Books in Various Formats
The sidebar to always carrying a book is to have your books available in all formats, so you’re always ready. A print book for your more relaxed moments and an eBook on your tablet and your phone means when you’re trapped in the elevator for six hours with just your phone, you’ll be able to pass the time by reading.
Install a Desktop ereader
If your job requires a computer on your desk, install the desktop version of your favorite ereader software and load up your library. Nothing looks like you’re really working hard than squinting studiously at a computer screen. For extra cover, pick up your phone as if you’re struggling with a colleague over the TPS reports while you’re reading a spy thriller.
Start a Lunchtime Book Club
Reading on your lunch hour is the Prime Directive of the “read more at work” movement, something so obvious it’s barely worth mentioning. To superpower your lunchtime reading, start a book club and gather every day in the break room or an outdoor area to read and later discuss the book. This will inspire you to keep up with everyone else and make your reading feel less solitary.
Start a Lending Library
Some people hoard their books and wouldn’t dream of sharing them, but some folks prefer to pay it forward and give their books away. Why not set up a small bookshelf in the break room or other location and donate some seed books, then send out an email inviting anyone to donate books? This way there will always be a book on hand for those days when you forget yours, or finish it sooner than expected.
Micro Reading Breaks
Your boss may not be thrilled when you spend hours reading at your desk instead of, you know, doing your job, but science tells us that taking frequent short breaks actually improves productivity (show your boss these articles if they doubt you). Every hour, take out your book and read for five minutes.
Have a Home Book and a Work Book
Reading more than one book at a time means you don’t have to carry a book back and forth with you. It also means that if your current book is totally absorbing and thrilling, you’ll actually be motivated to show up for work on time so you can dip back into it.
Sub Out the Internet
Everyone loves kitten videos and parody news articles, but if you want to get more reading done at work try this: every time you’re bored and about to click on your browser, open a book instead. You’ll get the same micro-break without all the intellectual junk food.
The Binders System
So much for the paperless office—we’re more buried in paper and folders and binders filled with inscrutable company policies and Human Resources regulations than ever. Use those binders! A binder is the ideal place to hide the book you’re reading, while any bigwigs wandering by will only see the World’s Most Dedicated Employee making sure they fully understand the company’s casual Friday policies.
For the record, rejected ideas for reading more at work included buying the company and turning the CEO’s office into a personal reading room, building a life-sized mannequin of yourself as a decoy to sit at your desk while you hide in the supply closet reading, and hiring someone to show up for you at work while you sit at home in your bunny slippers with a good book.