My 6 top tips for sneaking-in more time for reading for those who ‘just don’t have the time’.

NB: This is written from a stay-at-home parent’s perspective and doesn’t include more obvious (and perhaps dubious) ways of upping your reading time, such as going to the bathroom whilst at work in order to read, reading in your lunch-hour and reading whilst you commute. 

Six days ago I began an online exercise where everyday, for one hundred days, I photograph something that makes me happy and document it online: #100happydays. Reading has cropped up in my pictures at least twice, and for those who know me, this will come as no surprise. Yes I love books and reading, and what with it still being January and the season for goal-setting, one of my reading goals this year is to finish those series. You know, actually complete the Harry Potter books, and Millennium, and start and complete the Hunger Games trilogy. You get the idea. Much of my free time is spent thinking about reading, rather than doing, and so I’ve been contemplating how to turn this around. 

So here are my top tips: 

1. Turn off the tv. This does seem to be an antisocial measure and one to cause unrest in the family home. The rest of my family ADORE the telly and I really can’t remember the last evening which didn’t automatically involve switching on the goggle box. So either I slope off to somewhere else (my bedroom) to read, or switch it off and incur the wrath of the boys, either way I am a baddie. I can only suggest either talking to your nearest and dearest and trying to explain and persuade what you want to achieve or else buy a set of Dr Dre’s and tune yourself into some music whilst you read. 

2. Log off from the social media. Yes, it is much easier and in a duped, immediate-gratification kinda-way it is more fun to spend hours on twitter and Facebook but it doesn’t get books read. Keep logged-in to Goodreads, though, in order to update your progress and get suggestions for future reads. 

3. Carefully choose your reading material

a) Go for books with short chapters. If you get interrupted or fall asleep, then you can pick-up from where you left-off relatively easily. Also, you feel as though you are making progress rather than getting bogged-down with text and often race through, thinking ‘just one chapter more’. I recently read ‘The Radleys’ by Matt Haig which had wonderful, short chapters. Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ books also have wee chapters and some others include: ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, ‘High Fidelity’ by Nick Hornby and most books by Carl Hiaasen and Chuck Palahniuk. 

b) If you’re not enjoying your book then don’t be afraid to ditch it. If you join or reacquaint yourself with a local library and use this as a source of books then you won’t feel so bad about jettisoning a book that hasn’t cost you anything. 

4. Reward yourself with reading. So you’re enjoying your book and it has short chapters. Instead of a walnut whip at the end of the day, or a glass of wine after tidying the kitchen, give yourself the joy of a chapter of your book. Better for your waistline too.

5. Join a bookclub. Having a deadline is a great way to ignore distractions and sharpen your focus on the page. 

6. Change your format.

a) E-readers have their place and  I used to dig-out my Kindle from the inside pocket of my coat whilst waiting in queues for stuff, but back then I didn’t have a proper cover for it. The screen has since died and I have now made a bulky cover to try and prolong the new screen’s life. What I could do, and what I encouraged my brother to do, was to download an app that allows him to read his book on his phone. No excuses for leaving your book/ e-reader at home now. Unless you’ve left your phone at home, of course.

b) Discover audio. My circumstances have changed recently and I am finding myself doing shedloads of driving. So I’ve borrowed a playaway device from the library and I’m ploughing my way through ‘Bring up the Bodies’. I get the audiobook for three weeks; it costs me £1.50 plus the cost of a AAA battery and earphones and I can also plug it into my ancient car’s tape adaptor. Playaway is a clever format in that I don’t need to spend time downloading or messing about with computers, discs or cassette tapes. It remembers where I stopped and is easily portable. Today I went for a long walk on my own and was immersed in Tudor England for the hour or so.  Perfect. 

 

 

 

 

 

B is for biomass

We’ve been in our rented place for nearly a month now and our thoughts are increasingly focussed on the bungalow we are in the process of buying. On the whole, it doesn’t need a lot of work doing to it. It’s not exactly what we envisaged buying when we put our wee house on the market, but it’s going to be our home, so we’re making the most of it. And dreaming of a warm, eco-friendly home at that. Yes, colour us smug.

The place currently has electric storage heaters and a wood-burning stove. It runs on economy 7, which is a cheaper electricity tariff BUT I would most likely be spending a lot of time during the day in the house, and I want a more controllable  way of heating the place. Also, as this isn’t exactly our ‘forever home’, we want to make it attractive to potential buyers. Hold that thought.

So. The way forward is *obviously* gas central heating. There is a gas line in the street, so it would just be a matter of connecting it to the property and getting a central heating system installed. And then a friend suggested we consider a biomass boiler. No, I thought, pooh-poohing the idea after we had had a depressingly brief chat about biomass heating systems with some company last summer at the Forestry Festival. They had said it wasn’t worth doing if there was gas already in the property. And then we did some more research and rang some engineers, estate agents and builder friends, and once again, after pretty much talking ourselves out of the decision, it looks as though we will go for a biomass system afterall. Which is exciting, especially after the recent news about fracking which hubby and I are emphatically against on both moral and environmental grounds. With this decision, we won’t feel so hypocritical when we criticise the dash for shale gas as we won’t be using it!

Of course there is the matter of how potential buyers would view this asset of the house (as we see it). Of the three estate agents I contacted, only one saw it as a positive and the  other two were suspicious. That said, the positive agent is the most forward-thinking and is the guy who we put our house on the market with back in August. He is a new-breed and doing very well. I think we’ll go ahead with it regardless.

Would you buy a house with a biomass boiler?