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Cover image for On Finding Time to Read.

On Finding Time to Read.

John Luke Garofalo
Founder of Front Yard Fantasy. I'm a full-stack software engineer who specializes in building products at startups.
・3 min read

"No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance." -- Confucius

Reading books is an essential habit if you want to reach your full potential. Even if you haven’t thought of yourself as a “reader of books” in the past, it doesn't take much to start. Here are a few tips I have found to be effective at helping me fit book reading into my day.

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." -- Frederick Douglass


Tip: Find your format.

For the first two years of my career, I commuted two hours a day. And like good sons do, I asked my mom for her Audible login and then selfishly used all her credits every month before she could. When I moved close to my office, I suddenly had a lot less time in my schedule to listen to all of the unread audiobooks that my mom would never read.

My point is, whether it’s a physical book, audiobook, E-Book, or some combination of these; find which formats are the least disruptive to your usual routine.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” ― Oscar Wilde


Tip: Any progress is better than no progress.

You don't have to put aside significant amount of time in order to become a book reader. You only have to read one page a day, or even less, in order to make progress.

After overcoming this mental hurdle myself, I began to view this one-page reading requirement as a daily game. If I couldn't hit my requirement, then I'd have to make up for it the next day. Pretty soon, I found myself reading more and more pages each day.

"A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read." -- Mark Twain


Tip: Read during the gaps of your day.

Have you ever been waiting in line and noticed that everyone else in line is standing like a mannequin scrolling on Twitter or Instagram? Waiting in line is one of the many gaps in our day where we're not really using our brain or body for anything productive. These gaps offer excellent opportunities to fit in a few paragraphs or pages.

These few minutes may seem insignificant but I guarantee you will be surprised by how many books you’ll have read by the end of the year by making this a habit.

Some great times/places to read:

  • In the bathroom.
  • Waiting in line.
  • Before you fall asleep/lying in bed.
  • During commercials.
  • While you're having lunch.
  • On your commute.
  • While walking your dog.
  • When you're at a restaurant and they're singing happy birthday to someone at another table and you don't know whether you should sing along too or politely ignore them.

“Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.” – Albert Einstein


Tip: Read something you enjoy.

This one may seem obvious, but it's important, because it will be much more difficult to find time to read when you're reading a book you don't like.

Choosing a book is a much bigger commitment than trying a new show on Netflix. Do some homework beforehand by reading reviews online (Goodreads, Amazon, etc..) and by asking for recommendations from your friends, colleagues, or people you respect. I love it when people ask me what books I recommend, because these books have changed my life so meaningfully, it's exciting to think it may have a similar effect on someone else.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to abandon a book if you give it an honest try and aren't feeling it. Not all books are a good fit for you. Not all books are good, in general.

“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” – Malcolm X


Final Thoughts

I hope that you found some value in these tips. If you have other tips to suggest or need book recommendations, please leave a comment!

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.” – Henry David Thoreau

Discussion (22)

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emma profile image
Emma Goto 🍙

Nice post!

If you live near a library, you can save a lot of money if you borrow from there instead of buying new books all the time. Also if you have an e-reader, a lot of libraries these days let you borrow e-books, which is pretty cool.

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binarydigit profile image
Liz Rodriguez

Yes this! Libby is a great app if it supports your library system. It will send the e-book if available straight to your Kindle device :)

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loujaybee profile image
Lou (🚀 Open Up The Cloud ☁️)

I'm just going to leave this here too for the benefit of anyone else...

For cheap books — I've bought a lot of second hand ones from amazon for almost nothing except postage, usually they're no more than ~£1/2. I personally like to keep my books, but you could always put them back in circulation, too and save the waste.

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michelc profile image
Michel

Exactly. Library save money, and the great thing is that it's easy to find books or authors that you didn't know about.

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johnlukeg profile image
John Luke Garofalo Author

Thank you and great info, Emma! Thank you for sharing :)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern • Edited

A new years' resolution to find more time to read useful technical articles (outside of when I'm desperately seeking a fix to my current problem) was a key event which helped eventually lead to creating DEV.

By reading I learned so much about how the coding community operated etc.

In terms of non-code reading, I'm audio all the way, because I do so much screen reading in my daily routine.

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johnlukeg profile image
John Luke Garofalo Author • Edited

Wow, that’s really cool. I love facts like that one about what the smaller steps that lead to the creation of a successful business like this.

By reading I learned so much about how the coding community operates etc.

This is a great example of how important it is for a founder to be reading and learning.

Thanks for sharing, Ben!

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citizen428 profile image
Michael Kohl

In terms of non-code reading, I'm audio all the way, because I do so much screen reading in my daily routine.

There's always the dead tree format if you don't want to read on screens. 😉

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Damien Cosset

Finding more time to read is actually one of my priorities lately. It fuels my learning and my writing. I'm more interested in having a set period of time scheduled when I know I'll only read than trying to squeeze every single moment possible. I know I don't have the focus necessary in those moments.

As for the tools, I'm enjoying reading e-books. I already own a lot of physical books and don't have much space anymore 😁.

I also enjoy Blinkist. This is an application that gives you a resume of books that takes around 15 minutes to read. I like to start there, and if I feel like the book might be interesting, I will buy it as an e-book.

Thank you for the post!

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loujaybee profile image
Lou (🚀 Open Up The Cloud ☁️)

If you like Blinkist you might like: fourminutebooks.com

I've been subscribed for a few years and it's great to get an insight into a book and then go read it.

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Cathy Casey-Richards

I love that you called out using basically any downtime (no matter how short) to read! I found that once I started reading eBooks, I was getting through books so much faster because of being able to just pull my phone out at any given moment and read.

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johnlukeg profile image
John Luke Garofalo Author

Yes! This. Exactly! 😃

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bradtaniguchi profile image
Brad

When I was young I was literally forced to learn to read. Tears, fights, tantrums, summer "reading" camps, traumatic experiences left and right.

Regardless of how I ended up learning how to read, I learned how.

I found as I got older I liked hard sci-fi books, and my family got me a number of novels to read. By this point reading was not very healthy, as I found myself reading until 4:00AM some nights.

By now I still stick to reading physical books, but due to life being busy its hard to find time to read. I think its somewhat of a godsend, as I can easily be pulled into a book so I read far less than I used to, but that doesn't mean I don't like it, I just don't have time to dedicate to reading through books :)

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johnlukeg profile image
John Luke Garofalo Author

Yeah, I can understand that feeling of getting sucked into a good book. Like anything, it requires a healthy balance! Thanks for sharing :)

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citizen428 profile image
Michael Kohl • Edited

Been a big reader ever since I learned reading 😀 In 2008 I did a sabbatical and ended up reading even more than usual and after that committed to reading at least one book per week, a habit I'm still maintaining now. Let's connect on Goodreads:

goodreads.com/user/show/4413367-mi...

Note: obviously books have varying lengths, so 1/week is not the greatest measure. According to my Goodreads stats I read between 13-19k pages per year, but I also listen to audio books.

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rjmoise profile image
Ryan • Edited

The obvious question I find myself asking after reading this is...what books do you recommend!? And also, do you think it makes a difference if the books are comics or novels?
When I was in my early teens, before high speed internet hit our part of the world I would read through books like no tomorrow. Now that I am done college, working, and have a family it is much harder to dedicate a good evening to reading a book. I do read comics here and there. Now that I have a son on the way it got me to thinking how I'd get him to read books when he is ready instead of always gaming like I have fallen into doing.

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johnlukeg profile image
John Luke Garofalo Author

Great questions!

what books do you recommend!?

The reason I didn't include this in this post was because I read a lot of different types of books. When I give recommendations, I tend to filter that through what I know about the person and which books she might get the most out of. I was thinking of following this post up with a list of the books that have had the most impact on me. The two I'd recommend over everything would be "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie and "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.

do you think if the books are comics or novels?

I think that works of fiction can be just as important. They offer a way to expand your imagination and escape into a different mode of thinking that can be applicable in your work. It's important to have balance. I have 4-5 books in progress at any moment across different domains so that I can stimulate my mind in different ways depending on my environment, mood, etc...

Now that I am done college, working, and have a family it is much harder to dedicate a good evening to reading a book.

I love this reflection. This is very much why I wrote this post. Between my full-time job, side business, and going back to get my master's degree, I found myself neglecting my habit of reading books. Hopefully this post helped you see that you don't need to dedicate an evening to it, you can fit it into your day, without changing your routine.

Now that I have a son on the way it got me to thinking how I'd get him to read books when he is ready instead of always gaming like I have fallen into doing.

First of all, congratulations on your new baby! I've actually researched this quite a bit in my graduate school program. The research says that the best way to get your children to read is to read to them consistently as they grow up and to read consistently yourself. Kids want to be like their parents. If they see you reading for fun, they will want to read for fun. It seems obvious, but it's not. Think of how many kids want to play on an iPad because they see their parents on their phones all day.

Thank you for the thoughtful response, Ryan! Let me know how your reading goes and any books you find impactful.

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Michael Messerli

What a timely post. I've made a resolution for myself in the past week to read more. I added "Read/listen to a book for 30 minutes" every day to my to-do list. I usually go over, but I'm trying to use an achieveable time to build the habit.

I work remotely now and honestly miss having a commute for the sole reason of not having that perfect time for books or podcasts. IMO driving is best balance of keeping my brain focused on what's being said and not wandering because I also have to pay attention to my surroundings.

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johnlukeg profile image
John Luke Garofalo Author

That's great! I commend you for making a commitment to your growth. Let me know how it goes!

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bigcross9 profile image
bigcross9

Did you read Blink: The power of thinking without thinking ? are this kind of books better than reading horror books or any genre can be good?

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johnlukeg profile image
John Luke Garofalo Author

I personally love books like Blink, where you're learning about psychology and cognitive processes and how those lessons can be applied to your life. These types of books (i.e. self-development, leadership, business) have become my favorite to read because I get so much out of them and I'm able to apply the lessons every day.

Copied from an earlier comment asking the same thing...
I think that works of fiction can be just as important. They offer a way to expand your imagination and escape into a different mode of thinking that can be applicable in your work. It's important to have balance. I have 4-5 books in progress at any moment across different domains so that I can stimulate my mind in different ways depending on my environment, mood, etc...

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loujaybee profile image
Lou (🚀 Open Up The Cloud ☁️) • Edited

I can tell by the "On..." format title that you've read some philosophy!

Some good points in here — especially about abandoning books for instance. I have a lot of books on the go at any one time, I find that makes it a lot easier, since I read whatever it is that I feel that I "need" at that point: Something calm, inspiring, something to get me unstuck etc. I find it takes having quite a large pool to be able to cater for all the different "moods" that I go through.

Thanks for sharing, John.