Everyone has their own small tricks for reading more books (or at least, pretending you read books), and more generally, working our way through a never-ending backlog of podcast episodes, old New Yorker issues, Spotify playlists, and other assorted content.
Here’s mine: When I’m commuting to and from work, I have a self-imposed system. If I’m standing, I can go ahead and listen to music, or put on a podcast. (Or stare into space and embrace the benefits of boredom, but truthfully, this is rare.)
If I’m lucky enough to get an actual seat, however, that means both my hands are free, and therefore, that I can use them to hold a book or magazine, and should be reading instead of noodling around on my phone.
This system serves a couple of different purposes: The first, most obvious one is that it’s a way to nudge myself to use downtime on the train to read more, instead of just disappearing into an Instagram and Twitter k-hole for the one to two hours I spend stuck on the subway every day. But this rule also makes me feel less guilty about not fumbling around with a book while I’m also holding onto a subway pole, and creates the vague sense that the annoying hours spent standing on a crowded train are sanctioned “fun” time I can use to listen to music and catch up on memes or whatever. (Yes, I’m aware I could get around this problem with e-books, but let me live.)
The flip side of this is that sitting is a privilege, and I should use that precious time to further edify myself. With great power comes great responsibility.