Back in March last year, when most people had just entered the Covid-19 lockdown, I posted about where readers could find extra things to read if they couldn’t afford to buy lots of new books in Help for Self-Isolating Readers.
By the beginning of this year, I was all too familiar with a completely different problem that readers in lockdown were having. Not a lack of money to buy books, not a lack of time either. No, this problem was altogether different – a lack of motivation.
It wasn’t that people didn’t want to read, far from it, but more and more I heard readers – some people I knew and others in online book clubs – bemoan the fact that they just couldn’t settle down to read during 2020. Whether it was worry over the pandemic, anxiety caused by money problems, or just a vague air of unease that hung over them, many readers increasingly found it difficult to concentrate on a book, however cherished or lovingly anticipated.
And it’s a problem that I hear from readers in 2021 too. That’s why I decided to write this post, with more help for self-isolating readers but this time on how to switch off so that you can get back to reading on a regular basis.
Commit to reading time
This might seem like a silly thing to suggest. If you’re sitting down to read a book, then of course you’re committed to reading it. Hang on though, hear me out.
Your mind might be on tomorrow’s Zoom meeting, or the pile of ironing that is threatening to engulf your home workspace. You might sit down and fall into a daydream of a night out at your favourite restaurant/cinema/anywhere you haven’t been because of lockdown. You may begin to read, but stop, then start, then drift off again as your mind niggles at you to do something else instead.
The answer? Why not make an appointment with yourself to read? You make appointments to go to the dentist. No, hang on, that was 2019. Okay, well, you make appointments to have Zoom work meetings or home-school your children. Why not make an appointment, with yourself, to switch off and lose yourself in a book?
Set it on your mobile phone or write it on the calendar. You could even leave yourself a sticky note on your computer screen.
Indicate to your mind that this is booked time for you and no-one else. You’re busy, curled up in a chair or bed, possibly with a cup of tea, giving all your attention to your read of choice.
Switch off distractions
You’ve settled down with a brand new book, all comfy and ready to escape to another world, and then your phone rings or pings or vibrates. Whatever it’s doing, it drags you from your read.
Or it might be that,
- you try to read in the lounge while your children watch TV
- you’re reading an ebook on your tablet, but notifications keep popping up on the screen
- your laptop is within reach and you can’t help but notice every time an email drops into your inbox
Switch it all off. Turn off the mobile phone or put it on airplane mode. Mute or turn off the notifications on your tablet for now. Put your laptop in another room or turn it off (you’ll be saving power, whether battery or electric).
It’s just another way to commit to yourself and your lovely book.
Settle somewhere you won’t be disturbed
Picture this. You’re nose down in a book, rivetted by the storyline, and then your partner pipes up that they just want five minutes of your time – promise.
Here’s another one. You’ve sat down at the kitchen table to read with a drink, then your teenager announces that they need the space so they can do classwork on their laptop.
There’s two parts to this. Firstly, if you want to have time to read, tell your family members (or anyone who might try to get your attention) that for the next twenty minutes, an hour, two hours, you will be reading and you don’t want to be disturbed. Once you’ve told them, they have no excuse short of an emergency – Timmy has fallen down a well, the cat is choking on the goldfish, or the house is burning down.
The second part is choosing a place to settle where disturbances are reduced as much as possible. That might be your bedroom, a quiet corner of the garden, or any room that the rest of the family are unlikely to need during your slot.
It might take a while to train your family, possibly with the use of ‘Do Not Disturb’ sticky notes, but they’ll get the message eventually.
Make yourself comfortable
There’s nothing worse than settling down to read and realising that your feet are chilly, or the slightly ajar door is casting a chill on your bones, or you really need the loo.
Equally, don’t settle down anywhere you can’t remain for longer than half an hour. Those dining chairs may look fabulous in your Instagram shots but can you honestly relax on one for any lengthy amount of time?
Comfort isn’t just about temperature, posture, and support. What about your eyes? Is there sufficient light in a room to allow for relaxed reading?
Finally, is it a quiet space? Some people can cope with a level of noise while they read. Others need sound-cancelling headphones. Make sure that your reading spot is as quiet as you need it to be to relax into your book.
Get back into the habit
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but apparently it takes an average of 66 days for a behaviour to become a habit. That’s about two months to get back into a book-reading routine, two months to be able to comfortably settle down and read without distraction on a regular basis.
Two months is just about the right time to train your family too, two months for them to come to the conclusion that you will not be disturbed and that you deserve your regular reading slot.
What about you? Have you had trouble reading over the last year? Or do you still have a healthy, bookish habit?