I’ll be the first person to tell you that the majority of the time, reading is just a hobby and we should only do it when we feel like it. For many of us, that’s a large portion of the time. For others for various reasons, it might only be a little bit a week. Both of these are great, and as long as you’re enjoying reading, then you should read as long as you can.
But what if you want to read and can’t focus? Or you have to read something for school or work, and you just can’t seem to get yourself to sit down and do it. During times like this, we need to make the reading experience relaxing. Once you’re in the reading zone, you’ll be fine. It’s just finding your way there.
In today’s blog post, I’m going to list a few ways that I have found to help people. They won’t all work for everyone, so there may be a little trial and error. But, for those who are just stuck and either want to or need to sit down and read? This blog post is for you.
Get Into Your Prime Reading Position
I’m starting off with the obvious one, but it’s something that needs to be said. We all read best in specific ways, in certain places. For some, it might be an audiobook whilst working out, while others need to be curled up in a comfortable seat with complete silence. It depends on how we focus and how we best take in any information. So when you need help focusing, you need to make sure that you’re doing so in a way that works for you. If you prefer audiobooks and are reading for school, it may be a little bit more difficult to find them. But there are ways to get e-books read out to you. I’ve not had much experience with that, but I have when I’ve really been struggling copied text from an e-book to a text reader before. It was terrible as it was a machine voice, but it was a free app I could use on my phone, and it meant that I got through a few pages at least. If you do need audiobooks, then have a search online. There are a few apps you can pay for that are supposed to do better, and I think iPhone users have an accessibility feature they can use to have pages read out to them. But I’m an Android user, so I can’t confirm or deny that.
Once you have your preferred format, you need to make sure you’re in a location where you can focus. If you need background noise, then you can either sit with people or stick earphones in. There are plenty of ambient noise videos on YouTube if you need something like that. If you need quiet, try to shut yourself in a room for at least half an hour. Or you can always try some noise-cancelling earphones or earplugs. Whatever works best in your life. If you need a break from being indoors, see if you can find somewhere to sit and read for a bit outside. As long as there’s somewhere to sit, whether a bench or grass that’s both safe and accessible for you, it might help to try to read somewhere new. You also might be able to get some quiet.
You can also try burning candles or making sure you have specific snacks. If you’re curled up in one spot, you want to be there for a while without falling asleep. So making your reading night into something relaxing could really help you out. Just make sure that you are not about to fall asleep mid-page.
Read With Me Videos
If ambient noises and backgrounds are your things, you might want to check out some Read With Me videos on YouTube. These are simply videos creators upload where they have recorded themselves reading and are now sharing them with you whenever you need them. Because these don’t tend to be too long, you can keep your reading time to the length of the video, or you can find a few more. They often include ambient music and sometimes even mini-sprints. Because these are generally only recorded by one person who also wants to read, they tend to negate any distractions.
I’ve not really used any of these videos for myself because they don’t appeal to me. But if you want both company and quiet with your reading, or you just need something that will help you carve out a specific time without annoying alarms? This could be for you.
These are my go-to when I really can’t focus. Not always live, as real-life. But public sprints tend to stay on creators YouTube channels, so you can watch them back whenever you need them. These will generally be longer than a Read With Me video, so if you turn the sprint off at any time throughout, that’s fine. As long as you used some of the time to get some reading done, it’s done its job.
I like sprints because they’re split into reading time and watching time. Though you can set timers yourself, or even just tell yourself you can watch something if you read so many pages. It can be tough to get back into reading if you’re getting into whatever your non-reading task is. If you have the willpower, then great. Please try setting your own timers because you can then personalise it to your own time constraints and preferences. For those of you, like me, who would get distracted, the off-time in sprints will generally just be chatting and maybe the odd game on someone’s screen. It’s not something that will get you too invested, and when they stop, you know it’s reading time. These recorded or live sprints both limit the distractions and give you breathing room, so you’re not sitting there trying to read for an hour straight.
If you don’t want to use a recorded sprint, and you don’t think you can do it on your own, then you can have sprints with friends. Whether over a video call, messages or even in-person, there are plenty of ways to do it. You can set the same timer and then chat in between your books. If you really get into what you’re reading, you may want to chat about your book. Or you may fall silent and continue reading while everyone else talks. If these are your friends, they probably won’t care.
No matter how you do the sprints, they mean that you have some kind of format or schedule for your reading, but you’re not sat focused only on your book. Sometimes when you’re struggling to pay attention, forcing yourself for a long time just makes it more difficult. Giving yourself the freedom to take breaks may mean that you actually get through some of the books.
Now, this can kind of tie into the idea of reading sprints and having breaks. But it doesn’t have to. Breaks are just the easiest reward to give yourself.
Sometimes when I’m not in the mood for sprints, I’ll tell myself, “if I can read 100 pages, then I can watch a video”, or “I can go down and grab a snack.” I’m not buying myself anything new, as when you’re trying to read, that could work out kind of expensive. It’s just a little motivation. If I read a certain amount, I can go do something else. That usually works for me. Depending on your situation, you can set page counts or just read for a certain amount of time. Once you’ve achieved that, you can get up and move away.
It doesn’t even need to be a break. If all you have time for or can focus on is 15 minutes of reading a day? Great. Read for those 15 minutes, then move away. You can still grant yourself a reward because you met your goal.
Of course, this can also have the opposite effect. If you can’t read that day or for very long, don’t punish yourself. Even if you’re reading for work or class. Sometimes reading just isn’t happening, and that’s okay. You can still do the things you want to, and, hopefully, the next day, you can get some done. It’ll all work out.
One final thing I want to suggest is more of a making yourself get through books. If you have a massive TBR or just a list of set texts you need to read, try rewarding yourself when you finish one. I’ve been popping a £1 in a purse for every book off my owned TBR I’ve read. ARCs won’t count, neither will any borrowed books or books that I DNF. The little treat means that I want to get through the books that I own, as eventually, I’ll have a good bit of money to spend on new books when I’ve got that pile down a little more. If you’re reading for class or work, you can try exchanging the pound for either a bit more money for it to seem worth it or some other treat you’ll enjoy. Because finishing a book even though you struggled is worth a treat, right?
It definitely is.