College is difficult. Between attending lectures, keeping up with class readings and assignments, and writing essays, it can get overwhelming. Add in a part-time job—or, in my case, several part-time jobs—you barely have time to sleep. Reading for fun doesn’t even cross your mind.
That’s how it was for me the first three and a half years of my college experience. Of course, I completely overloaded my schedule—I took 20 credits, I worked an on-campus and an off-campus job, I worked as an editor for my school’s Odyssey group for a while, and I took on a senior thesis project that turned into a 101 page finished product of ancient pottery and many, many sleepless nights—it was rough. I don’t recommend a schedule like mine to anybody if they can help it. I barely had time to take care of myself; meals were often from a vending machine or a drive-thru, showers happened when I could stand up for 5-10 minutes without falling asleep on my feet, and sleep usually didn’t come until a few hours before I had to be up for work in the morning. I had no time for anything—especially not the growing piles of books scattered around my room.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to read my own books for fun during this time period. I just couldn’t justify spending time reading when I could be working on something else—or sleeping. I couldn’t find anything to grasp my attention; none of the books I was picking up offered the kind of escape I needed.
Until I discovered Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters. The book had been given to me as a gift and had sat on my shelf for months before I finally had the chance to pick it up. And even when I did, I didn’t get into it right away. It took me ages to get through the first two chapters… but after that, something changed. I was enjoying the story, I found myself needing to know more. So, I changed my habits around, and lo and behold, I finished the book. It was the first book I’d finished reading for fun since high school. I was ecstatic to have finished, and even more to feel like a true ~bookworm~ again.
Even lately, I’ve been having a hard time getting myself to read. It’s been a busy month, and I’ve been wicked sick—which is why I haven’t posted in a couple weeks—and reading just hasn’t been on my radar. It’s made me think a lot about this time last year, reading my first Amelia Peabody and getting back into a reading groove—and the things I did last year to get to that point. I’m hoping these tips can help some other college students struggling to balance a hobby with their workload. So, without further ado, here are 8 things I learned while trying to balance it all!
1. Start slow.
I would challenge myself to read one chapter every night before bed, which was usually about 20 pages or so. You don’t have to read a whole book in one sitting!
2. Don’t shy away from different mediums.
Before I discovered Crocodile in the Sandbank, I was really into graphic novels. I blew through half of The Walking Dead and Preacher, along with some other DC/Marvel superhero titles along the way. It may not feel like it but—guess what—you’re still reading!
3. Always carry a book with you. Always.
You never know when you’ll have some free time! I always keep one in my purse, just in case.
4. Make it a ritual.
Like I said, I would try to read a chapter every night before bed. It became part of my ritual. I would set a cutoff time for work, then get comfy and light a candle or something—mood lighting, you know?—and I would read. Sometimes I’d do it before my boyfriend and I had our nightly phone conversations, and sometimes I’d do it after he fell asleep (which was always very comforting—in a long distance relationship, it can be really nice to hear your significant other snoring on the phone while you’re cozy in bed reading). Either way, though, I always made sure to give myself that time. Usually…
5. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have time to read, though.
Some nights are just too hectic. You get home, you write that essay that’s due tomorrow, and suddenly it’s 3am and you have class at 8. Get some sleep, pal. The book will still be there in the morning.
6. Remember it’s okay to put a book down.
This was a problem I had a lot when trying to get back into a reading groove. I’d find books that seemed interesting… but then I couldn’t finish them. Maybe they interested me in high school, but now as an adult, my tastes have changed. Experiment with mediums, but experiment with genres, too.
7. Libraries are a safe haven.
If you can’t seem to find a book you’re loving, check out your local library! Libraries are great spaces to relax, get work done, and find the perfect book. Not sure where to look? Ask a librarian AKA the most wonderful humans on this Earth. Want to know what’s popular? Check out the displays—they’ll often have top picks out in the open for you to browse. Visit and support your local libraries, y’all.
8. It’s supposed to be fun!
Remember, this is not a chore! You’re reading because you want to have fun—so if you’re not having fun, revisit #6. Keep trying new titles, making new reading rituals, and browsing libraries until you find what works best for you!
How do you balance school and work life with your reading habits? Are you a nighttime reader like me, or do you prefer reading in the daylight? Let me know in the comments!