I have a file somewhere on my computer called “Books”. It lists all of the books I’ve read since the summer, all of the books I’m currently reading, and all of the books I want to read. Every few weeks, inspired by a good review or a piqued curiosity, I go on Amazon or AbeBooks and buy something new to read, and my list gets longer.
Over the summer, I could read a book or two every week. I’d take one with me to a coffee shop in San Francisco and spend an afternoon reading, or stay in bed on a rainy Saturday and read whatever book I had purchased most recently. In a month, I’d gone through about 10 books, or one every three days.
Then the school year started, and my reading productivity dropped. I would take books with me on flights to and from onsites, or occasionally find time on Sundays to read, but I only read about 5 books over all of Fall 2015. This semester, I’m at two.
Reading is, like many things for me, one of those things that I invariably enjoy as soon as I start, but which takes me forever to find time to do. I can’t ever plan an afternoon to read, or I’ll get antsy. It usually starts when I get frustrated with homework, grab a book out of my bookshelf, and start flipping through the introduction. (I’m very well-informed when it comes to introductory material.)
But, if the introduction is interesting and I like the subject matter, I can’t stop flipping through. Then, somehow, I’ve spent two hours of the four I had to finish my real homework reading a biography of Ben Franklin. Once I finish, though, I’m always motivated to do something, which is usually enough to make up for the time lost reading.
That I haven’t been able to read is really just because I’m overwhelmingly busy most of the time, between schoolwork and extracurriculars and everything else that happens in life. Honestly, a lot of things have kind of fallen by the wayside this semester—my plans to cook for myself, for example, or do a coding challenge every day. At any point, my to do list is filled with overdue tasks I’d assigned to myself on daily basis (and, more than once, writing posts for this blog is one of those tasks). I can just glance at it, feel sad, and end up doing nothing.
I guess, though, that doing just one of the things I’d assigned to myself—going to the gym, cooking, reading, coding, whatever—is better than doing none of them in the pursuit of doing all of them. Ultimately, college is hugely about learning how to manage your time, and the real test of your ability to do so is when you end up abandoning more and more of your personal priorities and need to start getting them back.
So, starting today, I’m going to start slowly adding back things into my life the same way I did before—one by one, so that I don’t overwhelm myself by trying to assume the same schedule I had last semester (when I took four fewer hours). I don’t know if it’s going to work, but it’s better than stagnating.
And hopefully by the summer, the “to read” part of my books file will be a lot shorter.