What is the easiest way to learn from others, gain new ideas, and escape to faraway places?

The answer is simple: books. Books will transport you to worlds as extraordinary as the mind can conjure. Books will teach you more about a topic than you would know otherwise.

That’s all well and good, but there’s just one problem. Time. Every day, we have a never-ending list of tasks, errands, and chores. As we get older, the responsibilities pile up, leaving little space in our schedule to read. Even if a book looks enticing, we put it aside until it can be squeezed in later.

While it can be hard to find a quiet afternoon, catching up on a book can be combined with regular routines to save time. Here are five times you can sneak in that book you’ve been meaning to read:

1. During the commute.

If you use public transportation to get to work, that downtime period is a good opportunity to catch up on some reading. If you prefer reading on paper, you can bring along an old-fashioned book.

Otherwise, you can read on your phone, e-reader, or tablet. Audiobooks are another good option because you don’t have to pause your book when walking around or getting off the train.

If you drive to work, listen to an audiobook. Since driving to the office usually means traveling down a familiar route, you can pay attention to what the narrator is saying in the meantime. I find that listening to audiobooks in the car provides a sense of rhythm and continuity on the road.

2. While exercising.

Some people consider exercise boring. Others, time-consuming. Most, tedious. But what if you listened to an engaging story while hitting the gym?

When I go for a walk, I often like to listen to a story or learn more about a topic. If you work out to music, try audiobooks next time. By the end of your session, you’ll feel reinvigorated both mentally and physically.

3. While waiting for someone.

Don’t you hate having to wait for someone who is always late? Whether it’s your friend, a colleague, or the dentist, sitting somewhere and doing nothing feels as though you’re withering away like an unwatered plant. Even if there are books or magazines nearby, they’re probably not your top reading choices.

For this reason, I always bring something to read. I’ll usually have an ebook stored on an electronic device for convenience. When heading out, there are surprisingly a lot of downtime moments.

Besides the habitually late friend, you might be standing in line at a store, sitting on a bench waiting for someone to finish shopping, or any other situation where you have no choice but to wait. At the very least, reading when you have nothing else to do makes you feel more productive.

4. During your meals and breaks.

Eating alone can feel funny. It’s especially true if you’re in a public place such as a restaurant or café, where most people are chatting away. Even in a quiet space at home or at work, many of us brush away our solidarity by watching shows or videos during meals.

The next time you go on a break, why not immerse yourself in a story? Depending on where you are, you can pull out a book or plug in your earphones and get whisked away. Learning something new as you sip your coffee or eat a meal is always a good way to spend your time.

5. While working on habitual tasks.

We regularly work on mundane tasks that require all of our hands, but only part of our minds. Such tasks include sorting papers, laundry, ironing, and an assortment of housework and cleaning up. If you find yourself daydreaming, putting on an audiobook is a good way to put your head to use.

When you combine monotonous tasks with something enjoyable, you start to associate the work with positive feelings. After a while, you begin to look forward to normally “boring” tasks because they’re associated with an interesting book.

Up Your Downtime By Reading

I find that reading during downtime periods not only provides a source of entertainment, but also gives me inspiration and ideas that I can carry over to my work and life. Whether I use my eyes or ears to read, the stories and lessons give me something to think about in those moments of pause, making my day that much richer.

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Originally published on Medium.

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