Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Reading In The Small Moments

A photograph of a watch lying on an open book

I’m not sure if there’s an established, or relatively established, term for this – reading in every available moment you have free. Reading in queues, whilst waiting for people, at stations, and so on. I recently added ‘in the car wash’ when you’re a passenger. (I get travel sick. I recently turned to my nephew, sat reading in the back seat, and asked him, ‘don’t you feel sick reading in the car?’ He had no idea what I was talking about. I’m jealous!)

I’d heard people reference the small moment ‘method’ of reading many times before but never paid it much heed as I always got caught up wondering how it could work – attention needed, time to find the book in your bag, your place, and so on. I finally decided to try it out a few weeks ago after reading about how a person who read many more books than me in a year did it. They credited reading in the same moments, a big factor.

First thing I learned: it takes practise. Starting out, you have to remember it’s something you can do. You also have to be prepared to look anti-social.

There’s a learning curve I’m still on: the thought of ‘is this going to be enough time?’ takes time – unless your answer is an immediate ‘no, because they’ve taken one step away to throw something in the bin’ this self-questioning isn’t productive in any way.

You’ve got to work out how short a moment of reading is your limit in terms of retention. A two sentences read moment is likely pointless – better to add the two to the three pages you’ll be getting to whilst your friend pops into the store to get a coffee. In a similar vein, it works best when you’re with people you know or when you’re at a place you know fairly well. Is my friend likely to spend time chatting at the counter with the barista? Yes. Will this queue of twelve people at the hardware store take time? No, because there are eight cashiers on duty and everyone has one item. (I don’t encourage tracking things in this detail, but it works as an explanation.)

Easy going books that you’re enjoying work best. You’re pretty much primed to step back into the fiction or non-fiction quickly, which again means more time used effectively. Anything heavy going is possibly going to be hard to fully comprehend.

Ebooks work best in terms of finding the book in your bag and getting to your page, but only if the device is already on. (I’m still working through the ‘sleep mode uses a lot of battery when I don’t know when I’ll be picking it up again’ conundrum.) Bookmarks in physical books are a must unless you know you have a fair amount of time.

You’ve also got to remember to take the book with you. Everywhere. It’s going to be the times you don’t that you’ll find would’ve provided the most time. I do find now, having got into the habit, that when I don’t take my book (at this point that’s an active decision), I regret it.

So reading in the small moments has been cited as a reason for having read many books in a year; I don’t think it’s as much a factor as people might lead you to believe, but it does definitely help. For me, my August stats will show that, combined with the big effort I made to make up for less reading in June and July.

There can only be one question: do you read in the small moments?


April Munday

August 30, 2017, 12:01 pm

For years I carried a book with me wherever I went, but now I have a much smaller handbag. These days I’m more likely to use those small moments to ponder a plot or character problem, or to think about blog posts. I think I might get a bigger handbag. Reading in queues feels a lot more productive.


August 30, 2017, 2:11 pm

I’ve always read in the small moments. I find that having different books in different places helps me with this. I like to read multiple books at the same time anyway, so I have some by my chair, others by my bed, always one in my car, and currently I have one in the bag I take to physical therapy, for the waiting room.

Tracy Terry

August 31, 2017, 6:42 pm

Never without a book hence the need for what my husband swears is a bag with a TARDIS like capacity.

Laurie Welch

August 31, 2017, 7:26 pm

I am a big small moments reader. Even though I have a Kindle and a smart phone, I prefer to bring a book with me.

But, I am also a people watcher and often put the book down to observe the human race. We are so interesting!

Tanya Patrice

September 1, 2017, 2:43 am

I’m a fan of reading in small moments. I try to always have a book with me so I can do it. I pretty much always have an audiobook, an eBook on my phone and a physical book.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

September 2, 2017, 4:06 pm

As long as I can remember I’ve used every opportunity to read. For example, waiting for the lift at work was an ideal place – so much time was wasted waiting for that slow lift – except when people wanted to talk to me! I always take a book/my Kindle to read in hospital/doctor’s/dentists’ waiting rooms – helps calm my nerves.

Sarah @ PussReboots

September 4, 2017, 7:22 pm

I do creative things in the small moments. It’s not always reading. If I have my camera with me, I’ll often photograph things that interest me — shadows, bits or architecture, flowers, etc.

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

September 4, 2017, 11:32 pm

I use my phone for reading in the random minutes I have. I often read in supermarket lines and the like—why not use the time I have? :-)


September 12, 2017, 7:19 pm

Oh Charlie, sounds like a challenge, I want to try to read in the small moments!!! haha
For a time I used to read while going to work – walking! It takes practice too, but it’s great when you get used to it.
The problem now is that I already have many heavy things in my bag, and a book is not an option, and believe me, I spend much time in queues…



Comments closed