Fall brings pumpkin-flavored beverages, knit sweaters, chilly weather, and for many of us, the start of a new school year. Whether you are in high school, college, or beyond, balancing being a reader with being a student can definitely be a challenge at times. As an undergraduate student I didn’t read a single book that was not assigned during the school year for my first two years in college. I felt like I was so busy with class, extracurriculars and part-time work that the thought of having quiet time to indulge in leisure reading seem impossible. On one hand, I was really excited about meeting new friends and enjoying new experiences. On the other hand, a part of me missed my lost reading time. If this sounds familiar this post is for you! Now I am back in school older and (hopefully) wiser and here to share some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way about balancing your reading and your student life.
Be kind to yourself!
It is very likely (unless you can time freeze) that you are simply going to have less free time to read than usual, and that is ok! It is important to not put pressure on yourself or compare how much you are leisure reading as a student to how much you read without all these new obligations. Maybe you can only read a few pages a week. Maybe it takes you several weeks or months to finish a book or maybe don’t pick up a book at all during the semester. That is fine. You’re still a reader. Reading should feel like a fun way to decompress, not more homework (you have plenty of that already) so don’t focus on the amount of reading you are doing, and instead focus on reading something you enjoy when you do have time or need a break.
Use it as an incentive
Knowing my own tendency to become completely absorbed in a book, I initially would not let myself even start a book for leisure because I knew that my history essay would quickly be forgotten. Eventually however, I learned that this all-or-nothing approach did not work for me and instead used reading as an incentive for me to get my schoolwork done. For example, I would make a deal with myself that if I could get through a problem set or the draft of an essay then I could reward myself with a chapter as a study break. Giving myself mini incentives made me feel like I didn’t have to sacrifice reading for leisure but also made me feel like I was getting my schoolwork done.
Make reading a (small) part of your routine
If you are reading this list, chances are you were already making reading a consistent part of your routine even before the school year began but sometimes it can help to think smaller. Making reading part of your daily or weekly routine is the easiest way to keep up the habit. Maybe it’s 10 or 15 minutes of reading in the morning before class, during lunch or right before going to bed. It doesn’t have to be a long time but fitting in a couple of minutes of reading for yourself here and there can add up and can be a great way to decompress without taking up large chunks of time especially if you use …
Audio books are increasingly becoming a favorite part of my reading routine, but they can be great for students in particular for two reasons. First, it is likely that being a student this semester looks different than it does in most years. Many students are attending some or all of their classes remotely and that means we are spending more time in front of a screen. At the end of a long day staring at our computer the last thing many of us feel like doing is squinting at an eReader or paperback but an audiobook is perfect for giving your eyes a break! Second, audiobooks are great for enjoying a book during times that we usually wouldn’t be able to sit down and read or study like running errands or working out which can be a bonus for a busy student.
Explore your school library
This is an advanced tip but one that I wish I had known earlier! Being a student often means being on a budget but that is where the library comes in! Resources may vary from school to school, but many high school and university libraries carry more than just textbooks. Check with your school librarian, but it is possible that your library carries many new releases, all sorts of genres and plenty of other resources like audio books, eBooks, movies, documentaries and more. Initially, I only thought of my school library as a source for researching assignments for school, but soon learned it could be a treasure trove for any reader on a budget.
The truth is, it is practically impossible to balance everything at once all the time, especially as a student. Some weeks might feel like you have plenty of free time and others might feel like a time crunch. Like any new routine, it can take a while to adjust and it may not always go smoothly but being a student doesn’t have to mean giving up on a hobby you love whether it is reading, or something else entirely. It may just mean finding creative ways to fit it into your routine.