How to have a life AND read a lot of books: 10 tips from a busy dad

In case you didn’t believe me…here’s my crew getting ready to sing happy birthday to me a few weeks ago.

I read 90 books a year. I also have a life. This is how I do it.

I have six kids–teens to tots. I have a career. I teach early morning seminary to high school kids. I coach multiple basketball and soccer teams. I attend parent/teacher conferences, dance recitals, orchestra concerts, and choir performances. I volunteer. I take my wife on dates. I exercise. I read 90 books a year and maintain a book blog. Somehow I also find time to eat (too much) and sleep (not enough).

Literally me. Figuratively me.

Sheesh. Seeing that written down…I need a nap.

How do I do it? How do I maintain my sanity?

I put God first (More on that here).  I have an amazing wife.

My MUCH better half

I keep things in the proper perspective.  I don’t worry about things I can’t control.

And I read.

Reading is my great balancer. I give and give and give, but I read for me. It keeps me sane.

So how do I have time to read so many books?  I get this question ALL the time.

Here’s the answer.

How to have a life AND read a lot of books: 10 tips from from a busy dad

  1. Change your mindset!

Reading time = a significant block of time when I sit in my favorite place, ignore life and family, and lose myself in a book.

Is this you?  Yes?  Then no wonder you’re frustrated with reading.  You’re never going to get more books read that way!  Our lives are simply too full to commit that much time.  It happens on the rare occasion (and it’s bliss when it does!), but if you want to read more books you’re going to have to change your mindset about what reading time is.

Stop thinking of it as an activity that you do.  Start thinking of it as the way you fill your in-between times.

We have lots of in between times during our day.  2 minutes here, 5 minutes there, 10 minutes there.  This is reading time!  Fill up your down time with reading, and suddenly you’re reading a lot more than you were before.

2. Read what you want!

There are a lot of choices out there.  Pick something you’re going to enjoy.  Don’t feel like you need to read “How to be Awesome at Life” just because you saw someone else reading it.  Read it because it sounds interesting to you.

3. Don’t waste your time!

If you do decide to read “How to be Awesome at Life” and you discover it’s boring you to tears, stop reading it!  Some people feel a weird obligation to finish any book they start–but we don’t have time for that!

Reading a book we don’t like makes reading a chore to be put off as long as possible.  Why do you think high school teachers give kids 3 months to read the boring books they make them read?

Reading is supposed to be fun.  If you aren’t having fun, than stop reading it and move onto something else.

4. Always be reading!

In line at the grocery store.  Waiting to pick up your kid from school.  When you work out.  Sitting at a stop light.  In the bathroom.  Waiting for a meeting to start.  At the doctor’s office.  Always have your book with you so you can always be filling up your down time with reading.  You might be surprised how many lines you can read in 90 seconds!

5. Get an e-Reader!

But the smell of real books…  There’s just nothing like turning actual pages…

Ya, whatever.

My Kindle changed my life.  Instead of having to find a home for 90 books a year, I can carry 1000’s of books in my pocket and have access to millions of books on the cloud.

Change the size of the font so you can read while you run on the treadmill.  Put it in your pocket so you can read in the line at the grocery store.

Forgot your e-Reader at home when you’re sitting at the doctors office?  I bet you have your smart phone with you.  Open your favorite reading app on your phone, and wham-o, there’s your book, open to the exact spot you left off when you read this morning while you were brushing your teeth.

Want to read more books?  Get an e-Reader.

6. Listen to audio books!

Who told you listening to audio books was cheating?  Bull.  Listen while you drive.  Listen while you work.  Listen while you exercise.  Listen while you vacuum the floor.

If you’re using Kindle and Audible, the reading and listening are synced together, so when you listen on your way home from work and then pick up your Kindle later during soccer practice, you don’t have to find your place.  It opens up right to where the audio book left off.

7. Have your next book ready to go!

I’ve been chain-reading books since 2011.  As soon as I finish one book I start reading the next one.  Don’t wait until you’ve finished a book to figure out what you want to read next.

8. Look for book deals!

I rarely pay full price for a book.  Amazon has daily sales.  When you buy an eBook from Amazon, the audio book is available at a much reduced price.  Bookbub will send you daily emails of books that are on sale.  And don’t forget the library!  Not only can you borrow regular books, you can borrow e-books and audio books as well.

9. Set an achievable goal!

I set a reading goal each year on Goodreads.  It’s not a stretch goal…I don’t fool myself into thinking I can read more than I know I can do.  But I set an achievable goal, keep track of what I read throughout the year, and then feel accomplished when I meet the goal.

10. Try new things!

Don’t think that just because you love Historical Fiction that Historical Fiction is the only thing you are going to enjoy.  Branch out!  There are so many great books to read across so many genres!

I’m an equal opportunity reader.  I’ll give anything a try.  Except romance novels.  Those are barf.

There you have it, from one busy dad to whoever you are.

Want to read more books?  These 10 tips will help you do it.

Happy reading!

Oh, and if you’d rather watch me tell you all this instead of reading it, check out this video!

Maybe I should have said that first…


24 responses to “How to have a life AND read a lot of books: 10 tips from a busy dad”

  1. You guys are an adorable family and you’re an incredible guy to be able to do all those things I’m tired from just having one kid and being a single mom and running her around and working and all that I do. It pales in comparison to what you do. But I believe you’re right putting God first anything can be accomplished!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Dan! (My team and I have stumbled upon it in search for the all-time greatest articles on self-improvement that we feature at One Daily Nugget. We featured your article in today’s issue.)

    When reading the post we had a question, would love to get your take: Is there a way that you would recommend to select the right book for the right type of downtime? For example, you mentioned a few great suggestions like reading while working out, waiting for the meeting to start, and even brushing your teeth (by the way, how do you do that? :)) But don’t these activities require slightly different types of books? For exercising, it will probably make sense to select pleasure reads, but for activities when we naturally have more focus (like sitting at the doctor’s office when we have much fewer distractions as compared to the time when we are sweating on a treadmill), we can choose books that require much more focus.

    What do you think about it? Do you have any tips here?

    Thank you very much! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alexander! It was fun too see the post show up on your site.

      Right books for right activities? I see what you’re saying…certainly there are books that require more focus than you can give while brushing your teeth (you’d be shocked how versatile reading on a dedicated Kindle eReader is!), but I think the foundational principles of my reading strategy hold true, no matter the subject matter. Reading (of anything) doesn’t *have* to mean significant, dedicated, reading time. Those times will happen, and perhaps with some books you’ll need to manufacture more of those quiet chunks of time than with others. But it remains that the secret sauce to my reading success is changing the definition of what “reading time” is.

      You will discover you have much more reading time than you think if you allow yourself to fill your in between times with reading–not matter the complexity of the book.

      Thanks again for featuring my post. Let me know how else I can be of service. Best of luck to you, and Happy Reading!


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you very much, Dan! Great points! Yeah, agreed, it sounds like a good practice to fill in the downtime with reading no matter the complexity and manufacture more quiet moments for the books that require more focus! Besides, if one reaches the point when he/she can grasp even the more complex books during not-so-quiet moments, it is probably the pinnacle of mastery (will probably be interesting to try it with Nietzsche books while brushing teeth)! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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