The one complaint I hear most often from people who love books is that they never have enough time to read anymore. They blame the demands of day jobs, family and household chores as the cause, and since these are all time-consuming parts of life I don't disagree with them. What I think eats into reading time are other, less noticeable preoccupations along with some old bookish habits that no longer fit with most people's lifestyle.
Jobs, family and home have to come first; at least they do with me. Besides, if I neglect them, there is no relief writer/mom/housewife to step up and keep things running smoothly; I just end up with a pile of work waiting for me whenever I try to get back into my routine. This is why I think if you want more reading time, you have to make sure you're keeping up with the primary responsibilities in your life.
Unless I'm sick, I work every day of the week, and I divide my time so that I use it efficiently. You've all heard me say how I write in the mornings (when it's generally quiet and everyone is at work or school) and edit in the evenings when everyone is settling down for the night. I'm always on call for the family, but by devoting my afternoons to them and my household chores, I usually keep up with work, family and home on a daily basis.
I used to love to sit down and read in the evenings for hours, and occasionally I still give myself a night off now and then to do that. But I've changed my reading habits over the years to accommodate the demands on my time, and now I read most books in short sprints throughout the day. That means when I have breakfast, I have a book at the table. Same with lunch. When I take my work breaks (at least ten minutes every two hours) I leave my writing space and sit outside on the porch with a book. I also keep whatever book I'm reading with me; taking it along when I run errands, make school pick ups or go to doctor appts.
I'm forever looking for opportunities to read, such as while I'm on hold on the telephone, when I'm standing in line at the grocery store or post office, when I'm sitting in a waiting room or a parking lot, or any time or place when I can't do anything but wait. If I soak in the tub at night, I've got a book with me; if I can't sleep I get up and read until I feel drowsy.
I also sacrifice a lot of things for my book habit. Aside from avoiding watching television, I limit the time I spend on the internet. Unless there's some work- or friend-related crisis I don't spend more than an hour a day online. That hour I break up into six ten-minute intervals by using a kitchen timer. This also forces me to be more productive when I am online, because I know when that bell rings I have to log off and get back to work.
No one likes to sacrifice something they enjoy doing, but I'll bet there are plenty of things you do out of habit that don't add to the quality of your life. For example, I used to watch the evening news every night so I could keep up with world events. Eventually I got to the point where I just could not abide one more minute of the squabbling and sensationalism, and stopped cold turkey. Same with newspapers; I gave up my subscription after the content became more aggravating than informative. My primary source of news is now the internet, and I've become very selective about what I read even on it. As a result I'm a much calmer person, and I've gained at least an hour more each day to read books.
I've started listening to more audio books, which allow me to knock out an extra four to six books per month. I keep at least one book on CD in the car to listen to while I'm driving (much more fun than all those commercial-glutted radio stations) and I'll often listen to an audio book on my headphones when I do chores, sew or cook. I did try listening to an audio book when I went to bed, thinking it would help me go to sleep, but it had the reverse effect, so I quit that (your mileage may vary.)
I also think about what I'm going to read for the day, and choose my books accordingly. About half of the reading I do is for work, self-education or market research, which for me is a different kind of reading; more like intensive skimming versus losing myself in a story. These books are good to read during my work breaks because I know I can set the aside without a qualm. Ficition, particularly by authors I usually can't stop reading, I save for other times when I can devote an uninterrupted hour or two to them.
A print book is certainly a very low-tech form of entertainment, but I'm quite happy that I don't have to plug it in, boot it up, fiddle with settings or miss part of it when I'm needed elsewhere. A book is forever patient, and waits until I have time for it, not the other way around. It does not demand I make time for it once a week, or to be recorded when I'm too busy, or require new batteries every other day. If I want to pick it up, it's always ready to tell me the story. On bad days a book is like my dog; it's always waiting and ready to make me happy (and unlike the pup, it doesn't chew the laces on my sneakers to pieces.)
Of course you don't have to live the life of a total book worm like me to make more time to read. Look at what you do every day and resolve to give up one thing: a television program, chatting on the phone, Twittering, or something else you do that is not an essential activity. Even if you go to bed a half-hour earlier to read a little before you go to sleep, that will give you three and a half more hours to read every week. If you bring your lunch to work, tuck a book in your bag to read while you eat, and there's another two and a half hours of extra reading time. If you're bored to death with your favorite weekly TV program, skip it and read instead for an hour.
By making just those three small changes in your routine, you can give yourself seven more hours of reading time per week. For most people, that's two books. Keep it up for a year, and you will probably read at least 100 books you didn't think you had time for.
What do you guys do to make more time on your busy schedule for books? Let us know in comments.