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How to read a book when you’re really, really busy



Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 02/22/24

I resolved to get back into reading and not let my beloved hobby fall by the wayside again. It took effort and planning: Here’s how I pulled it off!

I often share book recommendations on social media, and every time I do, someone asks some variation of the same question: “How do you have time to read?!”

It’s a fair question. Free time is in short supply, as I homeschool my four young children and write for Aleteia, not to mention all the work involved in keeping house for a family of six.

I bet many of you are in a similar boat. We have so many demands on our time, with careers, families, friends, housekeeping, and managing all the facets of our lives. How does anyone make time to read books with so much going on?

Yet against all odds, I find myself reliably finishing 3-4 books per month. Part of the credit goes to my wonderful Well-Read Mom group, which I’ve led for six years, and which is a great source of encouragement to “read more and read well.” But I’ve also learned a few tricks along the way.

You see, a few years ago, when my kids were all babies and toddlers, I was not reading much at all. I was too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed. During that time, I could feel how unhappy it made me, a lifelong bibliophile, to miss out on the knowledge and imaginative adventures books bring. 

At that point, I resolved to get back into reading and not let that beloved hobby fall by the wayside again. It did take some effort and planning, but here’s how I pulled it off!

Cut off the online distractions

Let’s not beat around the bush. If you have your phone next to you, it’s going to be borderline impossible to stick to reading a printed page. The allure of the infinite scroll is just too strong.

It’s not your fault you can’t focus with your phone close by, not at all! You’ve got to check out this fascinating book, Stolen Focus, that really makes clear how big tech companies are hunting down your ability to focus with ruthless determination. They are stealing your attention on purpose, and we need to fight back. 

But that’s a topic for another article. Today’s point is just to fully accept that it’s going to be really hard to focus on a book if your phone is handy. 

What can you do? My top solution is this wonderful app Unpluq that allows you to limit how much time you spend on certain apps. I have tried at least three similar apps and this one is far and away my favorite. When the app is blocking me from using social media, it silences the constant buzzing temptation to check notifications and scroll, making it possible to actually focus on a book.

Another good solution is to physically remove your phone from the equation: Leave it in another room, hide it in a drawer, or keep it attached to the charging cord as though it were a landline.

Always bring a book

Any time I expect to have some down time—waiting at the dentist’s office, during a child’s sports practice, at the playground if there are no other parents to talk to—I always bring a book. My nine-year-old snapped this picture of me at the playground with my kids last week:


Just in case you might struggle with this suggestion, I hope you don’t feel one bit guilty about reading a book at sports practice or the playground. I suspect I would spoil the game if I joined in to play with my kids all the time, and I know reading a book in front of my kids is one of the best things I can do to foster their love for learning.

Embrace the slow and steady pace

Many days are so full that I don’t have time to read until I’m in bed at night, and by that point, I’m so exhausted that reading makes me fall asleep!

My solution is to read just a little bit before bed every night. It helps me wind down and relax, but I’ve had to embrace taking a slow and steady pace. Often I read just a page or two of a book before I fall asleep. Chugging along slowly makes progress, and that nightly page or two adds up over the weeks.

Invite your kids to cozy reading parties

Bringing a book everywhere and eliminating distractions are all well and good, but you might be thinking, “My biggest distraction is my kids and I can’t exactly get rid of them!” 

Here’s what I do to sneak in some reading while all the kids are awake and running around. I invented this concept called “cozy reading parties.” 

When I feel like I need a little break in the day (often when the kids are being particularly raucous), I retire to the couch and just start reading my book. Every time a kid comes in I tell them, “I’m having a cozy reading party! Want to come?” 

Shockingly enough, they do accept most of the time. They grab a book and a blanket and sit next to me reading on their own (or in the case of my two-year-old below, looking at the pictures and making up a story).


Cozy reading parties usually buy me at least 5-10 minutes of reading time, sometimes much more. And they are a really good way to encourage young readers to practice independent reading!

Audiobooks count as reading a book

Recently I mentioned to a friend how much I had enjoyed reading a book by listening to it on Bluetooth headphones while cleaning, and she asked, “Oh, do you count audiobooks as reading?”

The question baffled me. What else would you consider audiobooks? I actually feel that I get a deeper reading experience from audiobooks, as I find myself listening to every word, while with a printed book I feel tempted to skim over long descriptions. 

Let the record show that yes, audiobooks count as reading. And listening to them a little every day really adds up! I find audiobooks so motivating when I’m cleaning that I try to never fold laundry, tidy up the house, or clean the kitchen without listening to one. 

Hope you can use these tips to sneak in some extra reading, no matter how busy you are! I hope you find, as I have, that reading more books adds joy and mental clarity to your life. 

BooksCatholic LifestyleParenting
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