Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
It will take you exactly 7 minutes to go through this.
If you are on this page, you have that time to do some reading. If you are going to skip and skim through, you don’t. But it’s still better than not reading at all.
Welcome to the age of toting an overload of information while running uphill against the clock. It does feel like that every day – there is just too much to read, and so little time. Even children are struggling with it; they have distractions of their own, while we adults have ours to bear. There is just one obvious antidote against all excuses – you have to make time to read. The gold-plated question is how.
Go on a web search and “reading a bit more every day” is a common gripe. Here are some solutions (call them, simple time hacks) to grip the problem. They are just as applicable to the latest John Grisham thriller you bought in hardcover and to the many feeds in your RSS reader waiting for the click on the “Read” button.
Take A News Break
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” — Groucho Marx
A radical thought. But it can work not only because news is careening towards sensationalism, but also enslaving us in what’s trivial around the world. Some news matters, not all. Switch on a channel or flip a newspaper and watch as optimism ebbs away.
A better way would be to spend the time on news that matters. Reading that enlightens and broadens the mind. Set up your RSS reader with feeds from sources that make your day better. Use an app like Flipboard to go visual with it. Reading some Flipboard Picks with the dawn usually sets me up for a brighter day. If you have to go through the news, Android and iOS apps like Circa could help you catch up with bite-sized chunks.
Have Small Portions
Bookmarks were perhaps invented for this reason. A large chunk of time for barreling through a book or a longform article could be a tall order. Reading a book or an article in small portions should help you conquer online and offline Ayn Rands (her Atlas Shrugged is a 1,088 turner). Amazon Kindle makes it easier as it syncs your page position across all installed platforms, helping you start where you left off on another device. My friend Erez also recommends a service like to get your daily dose of longform reading on the Kindle.
Optimize Your Browser
Browsers don’t make for cozy reading. But a few browser extensions make it more restful for the eyes. Consider these six Chrome extensions for productive reading I had taken a look at. They can at least help you decide what to read and which to skip. Similar add-ons are available for Firefox.
Reading Comes In All Shapes…And Sounds
Thanks to technology, we can move away from traditional books and enjoy books and articles in different formats. You aren’t bound to a hardcover or a paperback anymore. There were audiobooks earlier in the age of CDs. There are audiobooks now within reach of a click. Many services give you free audiobooks as well. An Android and iOS app like Umano comes well-recommended for listening to topnotch article picks in a human voice. Keep your mind free. Audio frees up your hands to multitask while doing some other menial task.
Estimate Reading Times
Estimate the time it would take to finish an article or a book. Read it then or block time to read it later. Articles can be easily bookmarked with read-it-later services. Experienced readers can make a judgement with an eye scan. I think it’s better than relying on the “Time to Read ” estimates on Kindle and on some websites like Medium and Longreads. They are good touches but sometimes they are way-off because comprehension and reading speed differs for every one.
Don’t Forget Your Read It Later List
That’s a peek into an average users read-it-later list. Confession…it’s mine. Bookmarking services like Pocket have made it easier to manage reading with their cross-platform support. You can read on the browser or on any mobile device. You can read while commuting or while waiting for a dentist’s appointment. But get back to it and read. Turn it into a sacrosanct reading list with careful picks and not random links. Don’t let the ill fate of fire-and-forget link bookmarking befall your precious reading list.
Setting up reminders to read them on certain days is a good habit to start. It could be the weekends or the first thing after lunch when you are on a work downtime. The easiest way is to use an IFTTT recipe to connect Pocket to iOS reminders. Browse IFTTT for your read-it-later service channel or create your own IFTTT recipe for the job.
Speedread To Do More With Less
This is not an “easy hack”, but it is doable. Speedreading is one skill that helps to hack your reading list in the limited time at hand. It takes practice to read fast but the saved minutes devouring online articles could be used to enjoy a great book at a more laid back pace. Speedread through our own articles on the subject with a search on MakeUseOf. You can start with Bakari’s review on ReadQuick for iOS, an app which also helps to tackle your read-it-later list. There are Android apps and websites as well that teach you how to speedread.
Take A Reading Challenge
Just like a bucket list for your life goals, a reading challenge could help keep you on the straight and narrow. You can set up a reading challenge on your own, or use a website like GoodReads or Shelfari to set up a personal challenge or read against someone in your reading circle. Here’s a shortcut to find some reading challenges for this year – Pinterest.
Participating on a social site like GoodReads also means that you are not reading “alone”. As Joel said, reading can be a social experience.
Read Reviews Before You Turn A Page
They say never trust a critic. Or a reviewer. But an overwhelming opinion against a book could help prevent it from sucking away time. Social recommendations from GoodReads and LibraryThing not only save money on a bad buy but they also save you from a bad book.
I wish I had listened to my own advice before I started with Dan Brown’s Inferno.
Add Value To Time
Okay, here’s a church confession – I read in the loo. Many people do. For that matter, I also eat at the dining table. At the end of the month (or at the end of a lifetime), those few minutes or so add up. For voracious readers, it’s not only an escape but also a way to grab time and read. After all, there’s too much to read and too little time!
You can use Wolfram Alpha to find out how many hours it will take to finish a book. Enter the number of pages and it gives you a conservative estimate.
Bonus “Tip”: Read because you love to. Not because you have to.
No time hack can solve a reading problem. These few might help you to read more. It’s also wise to remember the words of Mortimer J. Adler — the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.
Are you a voracious reader? It’s a busy world. How do you manage your time and fill the minutes with some reading? Here we are hoping for some read-worthy tips.