A Guide to Being a Busy Bookworm at University

So as you might’ve figured out from our descriptions or the many, many, many times we apologize during the year for university-caused absences, Chantal and I are hard-working students in two competitive fields of study. The ton of recreational reading we got done during school was a luxury we parted with when we enrolled at uni. Those of you who are in similar positions know what we’re talking about, I’m sure. The further into my studies I got, the less reading I was able to get done. Whereas I easily read 60 books a year during my undergrad studies, I’m now struggling to manage 50 books. During my internships, I also noticed how much less I was at home and yet got more reading done. The thing is: At uni, you always have some assignment to complete or studying to do, but I had no post-work obligations during my internships. Honestly, being back at uni pulled a break on my reading last semester. I am not surprisingly behind in my GR challenge, and I assume Chantal is, too. We don’t care about meeting the challenge per se but it allows for a direct comparison with our previous reading years which brings on nostalgia of times when we had more time to read.

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself whether this is going to be a page-long rant about how university has taken over our lives and so on. Actually, it is not.

Over the years, we’ve had to re-organise ourselves with regard to being bookworms – which means reading, reviewing, blogging, and bookstagramming. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This post focuses on how to juggle one’s studies (or work) with reading which do not always go well together. We have to compromise a lot where book-related activities are concerned but we’ve found ways to get some reading (or blogging) done nonetheless. We’d like to share some of our tips and ideas with you. Please feel free to leave your own in the comments! From two bookworms to another, we’re always grateful for advice on squeezing in recreational reading into our busy schedules.

Choose ‘light’ reads

So you’re knee-deep in your studies but you’re thinking about reading The Lies of Locke Lamorra or Red Rising? Well, think twice about that. For us, higher education takes up so much brain capacity that we sometimes find ourselves too drained to read anything with writing as dense as the aforementioned novels’. We’re both into fantasy but this genre is not always the best option during the semester. Sometimes, it can be easier to pick up a light contemporary, such as Made You Up by Francesca Zappia or Vendetta by Catherine Doyle. Writing that has a nice flow but doesn’t require a triple reading of the same sentence to comprehend it when you’re exhausted. A simple story to follow without getting the subplots muddled up. A fluffy romance to induce some endorphins (‘happy hormones’ for those unfamiliar with the human body’s magic) rather than spiking your already raised anxiety/stress levels. Pick a soothing, light read for your stressed selves, people.

Choose short novels or stories

Forget about tomes like The Final Empire, The Name of the Wind, or lengthy final instalments such as A Conjuring of Light. These brick-sized books aren’t uni-friendly reading material, as you know. When your reading time is limited, opt for the shorter novels or, if you’re extremely pressed for time, pick short stories you can breeze through in no time. Authors like Leigh Bardugo or C.S. Pacat have written several short stories following their series which you could look into. You may also want to consider books with very short chapters or with a special format like Illuminae’s which you can basically pick up and put down after a few pages without interrupting mid-chapter. A short length applies to reviewing as well. We’re both reviewers who can go on forever about a book’s strengths and flaws, but we’ve come to realise that it takes up too much time to write half a novel about a novel. We’ve been trying to keep our reviews shorter, giving us more time for other things (something I’ve only just recently implemented).

Listen to audiobooks

This is Chantal’s favourite trick to squeeze in reading when she barely has time to breathe during her studies. She’ll put in those plugs and listen to an audiobook while doing other stuff she’d have to do anyway, such as household chores or getting ready before leaving the house. I’m not as big a fan of audiobooks but I do occasionally listen to them during exams, and it’s definitely worth a try. Listening to an audiobook during study breaks is probably not recommended by neuroscientists since it interferes with the encoding of your subject, but honestly, sometimes you just have to choose relaxation over what smart people studying the human brain say. I’d also very much recommend listening to an audiobook before bed, perhaps with the lights off, in order to relax after a hard day of studying.

Define specific time slots for reading

Planning your time to read seems like it messes with the recreational aspect of reading since you already structure your studies – and now you’re supposed to schedule your reading? But honestly, when everything in your day related to your studies is planned, it’s easy to forget about reading or to let it slide because you still have to finish this, this, and that assignment. A good way to make sure you still have time to read is defining specific time slots for reading. For example, I usually study until about an hour before my bed time during exams, which leaves me half an hour to read and another half an hour to get ready for bed. You’re probably at that point where you think you must keep going with studying but your brain isn’t really capable anymore, so why not give your brain a break and read for a bit instead of wasting your precious time at your desk with no progress? Sometimes, you just have to call it a night.

Read during your commute

Obviously, this doesn’t work for students living on campus, but for people like me, this is one possible way of squeezing in one chapter a day on my way to and from uni. It doesn’t work for everyone who uses the public transport. Chantal, for example, is easily distracted by all the noise. If this is the case, you might also want to try listening to an audiobook on your commute und drowning out other passengers’ chatter with your plugs. When I’m not in the mood to read on my commute, I usually do some blog planning or bookstagramming which is easily done from my phone. Don’t let those minutes you sit in the public transport go to waste. You can use it for all sorts of book-related activities, even if it doesn’t turn out to be reading.

Binge-read with longer gaps between your reads

So, Chantal is the audiobooker whereas I’m the binge-reader. At the beginning of the semester, I’ll read a lot but then it gradually becomes more difficult to make time to read as deadlines and exams approach. What I usually do is sit down and read a book in one go, and then concentrate on my studies for 2-3 weeks without picking up a single book. This isn’t entirely voluntary as I can’t restrain myself once having started a book, but I’ve realized that my lack of restraint hasn’t been the worst thing. It doesn’t interfere with my studies, as I’ll take a few hours to read a short book (again, this is where shorter reads come in handy) during the weekend and can go back to focusing on my studies for several weeks straight without having to apply any of the techniques mentioned above. This doesn’t work for everyone, especially if you’re a slow reader, but it’s worth a try for quick readers who can breeze through short reads in no time.

Read between lectures at uni

I have read at uni before but I seldomly do it these days. However, I have plenty of friends who take their books to class and read in the hallway or cafeteria between lectures. If you’re not busy socialising or running after much-needed food during breaks, this is certainly not the worst of options to get some leisure reading done during uni. I’ve also seen people take out their Kindle during a particularly boring lecture. Everyone probably has their laptops and tablets out to take notes anyway, so you can easily conceal your reading activity among all these electronic devices.

So, what if everything fails?

Honestly, there are times you just don’t have the energy, the capacity, or the will to read because university (or work) takes up so much space, and no trick will be able to change that in such a situation. Similar to a reading slump, you shouldn’t beat yourself up for not reading or posting anything for a while. Just keep your eyes on the silver lining – your breaks and vacations – and push through the busy periods of the semester. You’ll come back to reading, don’t worry.

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So, these were some of our tips for organising your reading around your studies! You may or may have not learned something new about how to organise your reading during the semester, but even if the latter is the case, you sometimes just need a reminder to make your life easier. We hope you enjoyed this post or found it useful regardless of your profession or year/field of study. If you have any suggestions of your own about how to find time to read, please let us know in the comments and talk to us about your experiences with juggling reading and studying/working. We’d love to hear from you! 🙂

I start uni again tomorrow. I hope everyone who’s back at uni or who has yet to commence (again) has a semester of success and learning and, hopefully, some reading!

6 Comments

  1. These tips are really helpful as I personally experience the struggle to find time to read at uni. I’ve never tried audiobooks before because I couldn’t concentrate enough on the book by simply listening to it but I guess I’ll give it a shot next time! It took me years to figure out the most effective way to read while studying and I’m happy you already listed them out so hopefully this post will help other book lovers in uni! 😀 Really well done, ladies!! Btw, my new semester starts tomorrow as well! Happy studying & reading to you both! <3

    • nina

      September 17, 2017 at 1:14 PM

      Thank you, Jasmine! I’m glad you found our tips somewhat useful. Audiobooks aren’t my first choice, either, but they do work well when you’re busy. Some of my friends also listen to them when they do sports, so you can combine two recreational things at once. What is your most effective way to read during your studies?

      In that case, we wish you a good start at university tomorrow and hope you can balance your studies and reading well 🙂 ❤

      • Cool! I’ll try doing that while jogging or walking. 🙂 For me, the most effective way to read during school time is definitely binge reading something light, quick and fun. There’s no way I’ll survive to both study and read HUGE book series such as The Lunar Chronicles or The Mortal Instruments. Haha, I’d love to read them but I may not be that interested in reading them in one sitting so that’s why I’ve been putting them aside for a long time now. *Oops* Just like you, I really enjoy binging reading one or two books before switching to the full-on studying mode. 😛

        Ah! Thank you, Nina! <3 You guys are truly one, nope, TWO of the most genuine people I've ever met in the book community! Have a great week! :-*

        • nina

          September 18, 2017 at 6:15 PM

          Ah, another binge-reader! 😉 Yes, I’m not reading any huge books or series, either, but try to stick with smaller, less challenging ones. I’ve tried reading in chunks, for example one chapter a day, but that doesn’t work anymore as soon as the book becomes interesting. Aw, thank you, Jasmine! You too! ❤

  2. I know these struggles! I’m lucky if I can finish a book every two weeks and have no time for any sort of binge reading (which sucks because it’s my preferred reading method). I use a lot of techniques you mentioned, especially having a set reading time (for me its 20-30min before I go to sleep) and listening to audiobooks when driving.

    • nina

      October 8, 2017 at 12:16 PM

      Thanks for stopping by, Bec! Yes, I’m sure you have a super busy schedule as a vet student as well. I still resort to binge reading but then stay ‘book abstinent’ for 2-3 weeks because I have work to catch up on, so that’s not super satisfying either. With a set reading time, you can at least tell yourself you’ve done some reading every day 😉 Hope your final semester/year of studies are going well for you!

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