Monday, May 26, 2008

Finding Time to Read

Well, we've got 11 books on our reading list, and as many months to read them. And even though we've said you don't have to read 11 books in the year, for many of us even half of that will be a stretch. Reading is something that a lot of us just don't have the time for these days. It's for that reason that I thought it might help if we think through a few ways for how to make the time. Here are some of my ideas, and you can add your own in the comments!

1) Set a (realistic) goal for how many books you'd like to read

In many things in life, it helps to plan. I think it's the same with reading. I find it useful to sit down from time to time and work out what books I want to read and compile them in a list. My big weakness, though, is that I'm often totally unrealistic in the number of books I set out to read! I've just looked back at the list I wrote for myself at the start of the year and there's no way I'm going to make it through it in 2008. In working out what books you want to read (from the EQUIP book club list or otherwise), it will probably work best to be realistic. A good starting point might be to think about how many books you've read in the last year and then add a few to that number - that way you'll be setting a goal which will have you reading more and will be realistic!

2) Read it with friends

In order to motivate yourself in your reading, you might want to ask a friend or two if they want to read through the book at the same time. If you can talk about a book you are reading with friends, that can be a great motivator to read, and can add to the enjoyment of reading too. You could do it very informally, or you could make it a more formal arrangement and meet up for that specific purpose. You could even start a mini EQUIP book club, where you meet together to discuss the EQUIP book of the month together.

3) Cut something out to make some time (the most obvious suspect is TV!)

The most obvious way to find time to read is to cut time from another activity. I suspect for many of us, the biggest time waster we have in our lives will be the TV (although computers and other technology are fast catching up). This quote from John Piper sums up a lot of what is wrong with TV:
Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you're watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels. (Don't Waste Your Life, p. 120)
I'm not saying that there is nothing on TV with any artistic or intellectual merit, or that books are always better and deeper and worthier than TV shows (there are some pretty trashy books out there!). Nor am I saying the only Christian option is to throw the TV out completely (I would be a hypocrite if I said that - although I respect those who have made that decision). I do think there are ways we can cut back on TV and leave time for more important things, of which reading is just one. Here are some ideas I've come across:

1) Only watch things that you've taped first. That means you are working out in advance what you really want to watch and aren't just sitting passively in front of the TV to see what comes on next. It also means you can fast forward the ads!

2) Do everything else (eg. reading) first, and only then watch the show you taped, if there is still time before bedtime.

3) Cull one show. (You may go through a grieving process for a week or two, but trust me, the pain wears off pretty quick!).

4) And the more radical approach: give away the TV set. Like I said, I haven't gone that far yet, but I have friends who have and they seem to have survived the experience so far!

So there are a few suggestions. Feel free to comment with some other ideas you've come up with.

Photos from stockxchng.


Anonymous said...

These are such good suggestions. Being realistic about what we can achieve is so helpful. When my children were very young I found myself inundated with too much to think about. I'd been used to reading lots but at the suggestion of my husband began to take my time, just reading one book at a time, and taking up to months to get through them; sometimes just a paragraph per day. But it was so helpful as when I finally did get some quiet time, I just had one clear idea to ponder...

Thanks for the thumbs up about the mini club (not that I really needed your permission :P) I'd thought I'd try to round up a few women from church and see if that might work.

We've never had a tele but with so many other distractions these days, who doesn't need to heed Piper's advice?

I hope you don't mind long comments, but your post reminded me of a poem my (then) 8 year old daughter recited in a *family-and-friends* concert one year. It's a corker and should be read aloud. (It's from the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

The Rule of TV (Roald Dahl)

The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!

And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Therese said...

We've started a mini book club at church following through the books suggested on the blog. We are planning to read, discuss throughout the month, then meet togther at the end to share a meal, discuss and pray together. Thanks again for the effort to get the Equip Book Club organised!!

Unknown said...

I used to have a good strategy that was a variation on one I heard up at WKC a few years back. In order to free up more time for worthwhile things, the idea was to not take on any new commitments for six months. During that time, other commitments would wind up and you'd have extra time to do quiet times etc.

I resolved to not start watching any new TV. I'd continue to watch my current shows, but over time they'd wind up or be cancelled, and I'd welcome another hour back to my week.

Now I'm much more likely to rent DVDs or download p/vodcasts rather than watch broadcast TV. I'm still choosing to watch things, but there's no temptation to "see what's on next".