8 Hacks to Make Time for Reading and Actually Finish Books, According to People Who Read All the Time

updated May 11, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Liz Calka

Whether you’ve set a goal for yourself or want to make a dent in the ever-increasing pile of paperbacks next to your bed, reading more is something many people try — and often fail — to implement into their lives. Distractions happen (hello, Instagram). Life happens. However, if you’re hoping to spend more time between the pages of a good book instead of endlessly scrolling Twitter or TikTok, you can find the time to read more books, more often. 

As a voracious reader myself, I try to read at least six books a month, but I definitely fall into ruts, neglecting my Libby library queue, or opting to watch Instagram Stories instead of turning the pages. I chatted with a few expert readers for their best tips on how to read more, no matter how busy or distracted you are.

Credit: Liz Calka

Always keep a book on you.

If you want to read more, keep a book or e-reader with you and dive in whenever you have a few spare minutes. “Literally always have a book with you,” says Bridgette Thoma of Chicago, Illinois. “Waiting for someone? In line to get your vaccine? Read a few pages! Don’t wait for ‘the perfect reading time’ and don’t feel beholden to reading a full chapter at a time. I’ll read if I only have a few minutes. Also, reading a few books at a time so there’s always something to fit your mood really helps! And if you’re in a reading rut, a graphic novel almost always works.”

Veronica Hudson of Denver, Colorado makes her Kindle as essential as her keys. “I have added my Kindle to the ‘keys, phone, wallet’ motto, so if I am out and about and have a spare five or 10 minutes, I am cognizant about pulling that out [instead of] my phone,” she said.

Designate books to certain areas of your home or life.

Whether it’s keeping a thriller in the car while you wait out soccer practice, or stashing a soothing romance novel by the bedside table to tuck into as a treat before bed, it can help to store certain books in designated areas, so you work through multiple reads at one time. 

Bri Tudesco of Seattle, Washington, reduces trips up and down the stairs in her home with an “upstairs” and “downstairs” book. “I’m lazy and won’t go get my e-reader from downstairs,” she says. “It’s by my bed where I read for an hour every night. So I have an ‘upstairs’ physical book to read and read my e-reader downstairs.”

Go digital.

Some readers find that Kindles and Nooks make plowing through books easier than their tactile counterparts, so it might be time to get over your nostalgic notions of what a book “is.” “E-readers and Libby got me back into reading,” says Danielle Meeks of New York City. “I hadn’t really read a book for fun since maybe 2012 or 2013 thanks to school stamping the joy out of me, but I got an e-reader in 2018 or 2019 and haven’t stopped since.” With an e-reader, you can borrow or purchase books on the spot, whether you’re on vacation, on public transit, or enjoying a solo coffee at your favorite café.

You can also try audiobooks if you’re looking for ways to mix up your daily walks — because yes, listening to an audiobook counts as reading! Think of that audiobook as a walk-and-talk companion; pretend you’re on a leisurely stroll with Jessica Simpson or Michelle Obama as they read their memoirs to you. Heading out on a road trip or flying to (safely) see friends or family? Instead of watching a movie on the plane or listening to a podcast, choose an audiobook instead. You’ll be so wrapped up in the story, the time will fly by.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Make reading part of your existing daily rituals.

Incorporate reading for pleasure into your daily routine and enjoy a few moments of peace and relaxation. “I sit on my porch with coffee and a book and read for a bit each morning either during or right after breakfast,” says Rachel Greenberg of Los Angeles. “It can be as short as 10 minutes. I notice a real drop in my mood when I skip this.”

Swap your potentially anxiety-inducing Twitter scroll for a book before bed to make the transition from awake to asleep easier. “I have started reading in bed every night before I fall asleep,” says Michelle Camisa of Arlington, Massachusetts. “Sometimes it’s just a few pages but often it’s a few chapters. It helps me wind down and is better for my sleep than doom-scrolling!”

If you prefer to do anything and everything on your phone, you can still get reading done; try the Kindle or Libby phone apps and fit in between Twitter and Instagram sessions. “Reading on your phone for ten minutes between doom-scrolling is still reading,” says Noa Bourne of Maryland.

Credit: Emma Fiala

Tell yourself to only read a chapter at a time.

Feeling intimidated? Set parameters around your reading to ease into it or challenge yourself. “I told a student interested in reading some Russian classics to turn it into a challenge of just reading a chapter, no rush, just one,” shares Anna Ivanov, a teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota. “If they like the chapter, they can keep going. Otherwise, they completed what they said they’d do, they got a feel for the writing, and they don’t feel guilty for not reading more.”

No book club? Find a study buddy.

Ivanov also advises students who struggle to finish that chapter or focus in general to find an accountability buddy. “Sometimes we’d turn on Zoom and read together or I’d have them read with someone in real life, even for just half an hour,” she says. Put this into practice in your own life by reading with a friend, housemate, or family member whether near or far — if you live in different homes, you can text each other when you start, and check in when you each finish your chapter.

Keep your phone far away from you while you read.

We’ve all been there: You’re trying to read but your friend is texting you, or you stop to look up something the book mentions… and then emerge from your TikTok feed an hour later. To get more reading done, say goodbye to digital distractions like your phone.

“Plug your phone in where you can’t reach it, so when you get in bed at night, if you need to wind down, a book is your only choice!” advises Hudson. You can also set a timer, put your phone down across the room from your reading area, and pick your phone back up when the timer goes off.

Don’t force yourself to finish books you don’t like!

If a book isn’t your thing, don’t feel pressured to finish it solely to hit a goal or check a box. You can stop reading anytime without guilt. “If you aren’t into a book, stop reading it,” Hudson says. “Trying to slog through something you aren’t interested in will end up having a negative impact on your overall reading time because you won’t be motivated to pick it up.” Read things you love and you’ll be crushing your reading goals in no time.