How to hack your commute to read more books

Rachael Richardson-Bullock 24/01/19

It’s the season for new year resolutions! Most are hitting the gym, participating in dry January and promising themselves this year is going to be different. In January 2018, I had a few goals for the year, one of which was to read more books. In 2017, I believe I read less than three books. For a self-published author and a lifelong reader, this was abysmal. Most importantly though, I missed reading. I missed getting lost innew stories, I missed being exposed to characters, places and experiences that I might not otherwise have access to. In September 2017, I started a new job and the commute to Birmingham meant I felt exhausted all the time. But, fuelled by my desire to read more, in January 2018 I set myself the goal to read 5 books. This was going to be a tall order, but I wanted to give it a go.

Reading in bed has long been a staple for me. However, with so precious few hours at home, and struggling with the exhaustion, I’d fall asleep as soon as I’d read one sentence. This was frustrating. I wished I had more time somewhere, and then it hit me. My commute. The train to Birmingham is 25 minutes each way. So that’s almost an hour where I would typically listen to music, feel drained and disconnected, and just try to (mostly unsuccessfully) block out the crowds of people around me. What if instead of that, I read books? It was an instant success! In 2018, I not only met my goal of reading 5 books, but more than doubled it by reading 12 in a year! 

So, if you want to read more books, here’s how you can hack your commute to achieve your goal:

1.) Identify your motivation and your goal
By knowing in advance what your goal is, and what is motivating you to achieve your goal, you’re setting yourself up for success. Do you want to broaden your knowledge on a topic, learn a language or new skill, or simply be entertained and inspired? Note these down and keep them in mind when you step onto the train. This will keep you going when the last thing you feel like is picking up a book.
2.) What would you like to read?
I typically don’t pick all my books in advance, as this takes away the excitement of thinking about what to read next when you’ve just finished your latest book. But, there’s nothing wrong with knowing a ball park. For example, I know I want to continue with the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings books this year but am not planning on exactly when I’ll read them. But if you’re a list person, go for it! Goodreads is really great at pinning down books to read and logging reading challenges. 
3.) Books, Kindle or audio?
Me? I’m a child of the old school and carried all 12 physical books in my back pack last year, and I intend to do the same this year. Though, this isn’t always easy with heavy hardbacks, or massive 1,000+ page softbacks! So, get smart. Charge up your Kindle and load it with the books you’re interested in  it fits easily into your work bag, you’re never caught out without a bookand have a wide choice available. The same can be applied for apps like Audible. This way, there can be no excuses!
4.) Don’t beat yourself up
Staying motivated is tough. Work can be exhausting. So, on those days where you think you won’t enjoy pushing yourself to read, rest and relax, and save it for next time.Don’t beat yourself up about doing this, this challenge is supposed to be fun and enriching – if it’s not, take a break! There’s a reason why most new year resolutions fail and one of them is an all or nothing attitude. If you can acknowledge when you can push yourself and when you can’t, then you’ll be more likely to succeed when you have the energy and the headspace.


5.) Keep a list
I use a Google doc for this, as I can update it on my phone when I’m out and about. I keep a list of everything I’ve read, in order, so I can count how many I’ve read, reflect on the stories I’ve enjoyed and think about what I’ve taken away from each book. I’m not a believer in reading a book as fast as possible simply to get to the next one. Enjoy the book in full and absorb its messages. Don’t run the risk of hitting you goal but not really taking anything away from the books.


My reading goal in 2019 is to match 2018 and read 12 books. I’m starting with It by Stephen King, as I’m a massive King fan and loved the 2017 film adaptation.

I’ve found the benefits of being committed to this have far outweighed my humble goal of just reading more. I find it combats tiredness, improves concentration, helps with mindfulness and connects you with others – I’ve had countless people ask me what I’m reading, or comment on how nice the edition is. So good luck for 2019 and enjoy your new found reading time. I’ll leave you with this from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Some books leave us free and some books make us free.”