How To Actually Finish The Books You Want To Read

How To Actually Finish The Books You Want To Read

Chances are that you’ve said to yourself, at least once, that you need to read more. Whether you’re too busy to read a book, or you just have trouble getting attached to one, we have a few tips to help you schedule in your reading.

Title photo by Quinn Dombrowski.

The main reason it’s difficult to find time to read is because it’s one of the few times throughout the day where you can’t multitask. With something like television it’s easy to get up and walk away or pound through a few emails during commercial breaks. Reading usually requires more of your attention. Subsequently, the best way to work reading into your schedule is to find those times in the day when you can dedicate the attention needed to reading.

Schedule a Daily Reading Time


If you can, the easiest way to fit reading into your schedule is the most obvious: schedule in time to read. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it might be more possible than you think if you consider a few times of your day when you’re not doing much else. We’ve talked about the benefit of scheduling in 30 minutes a day to learn something new, and if you can fit it into your schedule, that’s all the time you need to dedicate to reading a day.

If a 30-minute block of time is out of the question, use your downtime throughout the day to read. If you get a 15-minute break at work that you usually spend leaning against the water cooler, read instead. The same goes for your lunch, the bathroom, the gym, or even during that awkward time when you’re waiting for a dinner to cook. Just make sure you always have the book you’re reading with you so you can take advantage of any free time you get throughout the day. If you prefer to read a couple of books at once, we’ve mentioned before that context is everything, so read the same book in the same location each time.

Organise or Join a Book Club with Deadlines


Book clubs might seem a little silly if your only exposure to them is Oprah, but they can be a great way to get the motivation to read. Most independent bookstores and libraries have book clubs dedicated to all types of genres and topics. The big benefit of these is that after you’re done reading you’ll be able to retain what you read a little better because you talk about it out loud with other people.

If reading with strangers isn’t your thing, gathering up a few friends and organising a book club is just as useful. The key is to set deadlines for finishing a book and then meeting to discuss it. After that, it’s up to you to get the reading done or suffer through a bunch of spoilers. Photo by Paul Lowry.

Set Up a Special Reading Area with No Distractions

You can do all the scheduling, timing and book clubs you want, but if you don’t have a comfortable place to read without distractions it’s not going to do you any good. This place is different for everyone, but the idea is pretty simple. Find a place where you can get away from your phone, your family and any other distractions, and just read. This may be something like the lunch room at work, or it might be a specific chair in your house. The point is to find a place where you’re comfortable and can read in peace without thinking about checking your email or cleaning the house.

The idea is to create a place where you can focus and enjoy what you’re doing so you can absorb what you’re reading. We’ve shown you before the benefits of thoughtful, active reading, and a good quiet place can make the difference in your enjoyment. After all, it’s probably one of the few times in your day when you don’t have to try and multitask.

Know When to Give Up On Books You Hate and Find Books You Love


Sometimes your relationship with a book isn’t working out. In that case, it’s good to know when you close it up and move along to something you’ll actually enjoy. As someone who often has to rely on a lot of “best of” lists to discover new books, I’ve tried to force myself through giant 800-page epics just because they get critical acclaim or because a friend recommended them. In those cases, I would repeatedly find excuses not to read just because I wasn’t into what I was reading. Over time, I’ve learnt to know when to back out and shelve a book for later. Reading should be a pleasurable experience, and if it’s not, find something else to read.

It’s also worth noting that finding your niche for books is probably the easiest way to make yourself take the time to read. This means something different to you than anyone else, but tracking down your favourite genres, non-fiction topics, graphic novels or general interests is a sure-fire way to make sure you actually enjoy your time reading. If you’re not sure what you like, the library is your best place to start to find the topics you’re interested in. Just don’t feel any shame if your favourite genre ends up being a line of steamy romance novels or cheesy hardboiled detective fiction. Photo by brett jordan.

Do you struggle to fit reading into your schedule? What do you do to make it happen?


  • I’ve got 400-500 books waiting to be read on my shelves at any time but sometimes it all seems a bit oppressive rather than an opportunity.

    If you’re working up to one or more larger, imposing books, start with an easier quick read. That gets you into the reading “groove”, quickly reminding you how easy it is to dispose of distractions when you’re immersed in a good title.

  • To get back into reading, I recommend finding some old favourites to get you back in the habit of reading regularly and WANTING to read. Also, find some time in the working day. Most days, I use 20 mins from my lunch hour for coffee and Kindle time.
    Read books you enjoy, not books you should read but don’t want to. When you’re back in the habit (and reading is addictive) it’s easier and faster to read the ‘should’ books.

  • Strategy sharing time: I knew a guy who would read 5 or 6 books at once and get through a lot of books. For the books he was reading, every day, he would rip out 10 pages, staple them in the the top corner, fold them up, put them in his pocket to take them with him to read during the day. He got through a lot of books. When he went back to the library, they got really angry, so I never went back.

  • For me having a goal was key – and then I broke it down into steps.

    When I started to read books again I gave myself a target of 50 books in a year. This meant that I needed to read one a week. I would then look at each book and realise how many pages I needed to read each day to achieve the goal.

    I also read books according to my work schedule – if I knew I had a busy week I would read something light and fluffy, and on easier weeks I was able to tackle heavier books. Last year I read 60+ books, and I am on target this year to read over 75 so for me goal setting was important.

  • I found changing to an e-reader, reading on my mobile, and desktop has helped me get back into reading. Waiting for my coffee at the cafe, then read a few pages on the mobile. Get a spare few minutes at work read on the desktop. At home use the e-reader. I love it that they all keep in sync with the book marks.

    • The e-reader changed it for me, too. Being able to just pull out my kindle and buy/read books wherever I was changed everything. It’s much easier to carry around than an 800-page fantasy epic, so I’m way more likely to have it with me when I suddenly have 15 minutes downtime or I’m waiting for somebody to arrive at an appointment.

  • tl;dr

    My commute is an hour each way on the train. BAM! Reading time.
    My Kindle has been invaluable to the time I spend reading on the train. It used to be that I would jump on the train with just a chapter or so left and finish with the majority of the trip still to go and I’d be bored. Now I can just jump right in to something else/start on the next book in the series.

    It’s also really easy to grab a really cheap books that you’d never pick up for $20 in a store. I’ve discovered a bunch of great (if sometimes unpolished) novels this way.

  • When it comes to giving up on books I’m not enjoying I’ve adopted a simple guideline. I give a book two hours — the same amount of time I’d spend at a movie. If after two hours of solid reading I still think its garbage I give up on the book guilt free.


    Join the 2012 reading challenge.

    I aim to read 24 books by the end of the year.. I started in March and I have already read 6 books and I am halfway through the 7th.. which is A Clash of Kings i.e. a ginormous book

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