“Your GoodReads account is like my aspirational reading.”
For a minute, I was flattered, thinking my friend was gushing at my discerning tastes and brilliant literary selections.
“How do you read so much?!”
Ah, yes, the ever popular quantity over quality quandary. As recent American political discussions have shown, bragging about the size of something often evokes a more popular rapture and interest than the quality of what is at hand.
For once, I’m going to step away from the quality battle that I so adamantly fight (I have read some great books last year—Deep Work by Cal Newport being a recent fave as my new creative direction and mindset guide) and talk a minute about all the reading I do.
First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight. I read like it is my job because it is my job to read.
Sure, I’m able to cram in 4-5 hours of reading in a day. You, meanwhile, are trying to find an hour to read around your eight-hour day job, while also taking care of kids, cooking meals, and all the other things you have to do. You damn well might be doing the absolute best you can, and that’s pretty fantastic. Give yourself a pat on the back and do a little shimmy dance right there in the kitchen for making time to read at all.
What My Reading Day Looks Like
For those a bit curious how someone who basically gets paid to read all day structures their day, and doesn’t go completely batty seemingly doing NOTHING BUT READING ALL DAY—here goes:
Morning Routine (Approximate time: 7 AM – 9 AM)
- Wake up.
- Do yoga sun salutations and meditation.
- Take shower and get ready while listening to a playlist specifically created to “Get Amped” for the day.
- Get to the cafe I’m working at that morning.
- Open my feeds and scan for new articles that look interesting.
- Save them to Pocket via IFTTT recipes.
Morning Work (Approximate time: 9 AM – 2 PM)
- Check into things with the agency to see where assignments are and other administrative stuff.
Triage inbox and apply GTD workflows with an iron-fist, as CYC clients and readers are all over the world, and they still work while I sleep.
- Dive into work, coaching, or strategizing with clients and editing writing submissions for the morning.
- Break work into 45/15 minute sprints with Flow Time for Chrome, occasionally skipping the 15 minute break if “in the zone.”
Lunch (Approximate time: 2 PM – 4 PM)
- I get lunch at the same place every day, and eat the same thing, because I am trying to Zuckerberg my life and take as many low-level decisions out of my time as I can.
- I also do intermittent fasting (not for any particular health reason, just when my body gets hungry), so, yes, I realize for many reading this you are noticing that this is the first time I eat.
- After lunch, I order tea and read a nonfiction book for an hour or two at the restaurant.
Afternoon Writing (Approximate time: 4 PM – 6 PM)
- After resting and relaxing, I’m ready to dive back in. This time is usually when I’m writing.
- Lately, all I’ve been writing is client articles and copy for the new CYC site.
- It’s a weird time to be creative, and life can happen, which sucks this time into the vacuum of hour vortexes, but it is when I’m most ready to drain my brain of creative juice.
Evening Routine (Approximate time: 6 PM – 8 PM)
- I call this my “me time,” designed to refresh me for the work ahead. I use this time to:
- Spend time with friends.
- Grab dinner (often at home, though sometimes out).
- Take personal time to relax or take a yoga class.
- Catch up on back episodes of Billions.
- Or maybe dive back into one of my books-of-the-moment (I read 2-3 books at a time) if I’m really loving it.
Night Work (Approximate time: 8 PM – 10 PM)
- I check my inboxes again to make sure nothing urgent has come up.
- Chat with the team on Slack for a bit to offer support and direction on projects.
- Dive into Pocket to read 10-20 articles from the backlog and select which I want to share on social media.
Bedtime (Approximate time: 10 PM – 11/11:30 PM)
- Ten PM means screens off in my home!
- Restorative yoga poses, especially legs up the wall for a bit.
- Get ready and climb into bed with a fiction or biography read until I fall asleep (usually with my Kindle or a paperback hitting me in the face, alerting me it’s time to turn out the lights.)
Pretty straightforward. This gets me eight or so hours of sleep a night, and I love my sleep.
Now this is SUPER regimented, but there’s a reason. If I lay out my day to be THIS structured, then I can prioritize what’s important, and it eliminates the wasted time of figuring out “What’s next?”
A Wrench In The Works
Obviously, there are days that other things come up and throw off the schedule, and that is okay. That’s the thing about routines and schedules. They are mostly flexible.
Yes, there are things you MUST do, no getting around that. There are days I’d rather write all day or binge-watch Netflix, but there are books being published that week, so I’m up til 2 AM dropping links in an urgent manuscript, because someone’s gotta do it. No reading, no writing, no Jessica Jones. Instead, all the demands of life.
Breaks in the routine don’t merely occur in a work capacity; they can be personal, too. For instance, this past Thursday, I jumped on a Skype call at 8 AM with one of my friends from back home in Maine and spent 2.5 hours catching up and making plans for the summer.
So it goes. I’m sure you have things that happen to throw your day into disarray as well. Probably things that are way more important than work and Skype calls. Making time for detours and frivolity is part of what makes our days exciting and fun.
What Are You Waiting For?
The biggest takeaway I had for my friend (as you can see from my schedule) is that I read so much because I make time for it. It’s a priority in my life, personally and professionally.
Now you may not be a professional reader, but I challenge you to find spaces of time that you can carve into your day to catch up on industry articles, devour your favorite blog posts, or curl up with a good book.
I bet you’d be surprised how much reading you can work into your life when you find those small spaces in your schedule (after lunch is a HUGE hack I recommend to people—who wants to think or work when your tummy is full of noms anyway?!) where you check-out a bit from life and check-in with great words.
This article first appeared on Elisa’s column, Shattering Glass on Forbes.com