Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Motivating yourself to get ahead on your reading lists

Returning home for summer is always chaotic. You’re either working 24/7 to try and replenish that overdraft or you’re one of the lucky ones who’s travelling and taking incredible Instagram photos for us losers to scroll through and dream about. Whatever we’re all doing though, we all share one common thought – the fast-approaching return to university life, and for many of us that means one thing: reading lists.

I’m going to be honest: I’m a serial procrastinator when it comes to summer preparations, so anything I suggest or recommend is more of a desperate attempt to change my own ways by publishing my failings for all to see. However, like many procrastinators I have tried and will continue to explore many different methods of motivating myself to get ahead of those reading lists this summer.

The first thing I’ve learned is that you must be realistic. You cannot read 10, 20 or 30 books in a week; it doesn’t matter how much coffee you drink. Take it at a leisurely pace that allows you to actually enjoy the books that you’re reading. If that means Milton is left to gather dust until October, then consider paradise, lost. If it means you’re only reading one book every couple of weeks that’s cool too. As long as you’re enjoying the reading and are working at a pace that suits you, it’s certainly going to be more beneficial than the 10 books you would have tried to speed read in the last week before term starts back up. At the end of the day summer prep is just prep, there’s no point burning yourself out before the course has even started.

At the end of the day summer prep is just prep, there’s no point burning yourself out before the course has even started

Secondly, get creative with how you’re taking in the reading. Don’t be afraid to try audiobooks or e-readers, mixing up the media you use can sometimes helps to maintain your focus whilst reading. This applies especially to audiobooks; it’s essentially like reading your book aloud but without having to listen to the sound of your own voice. And let’s face it, who could turn down Ian McKellen’s voiceover of Homer’s Odyssey? I definitely couldn’t. Equally, if you’re reading scripts or plays, check out some performances alongside them. Sometimes certain images that writers create can only be properly appreciated when heard out loud. Plus, when you use audiobooks or online performances you can gain a more accurate idea of how long it would take you to read a book, so for those proper soul-destroying reads you can count down the hours until your freedom.

Besides anything else think practically, you’ll need to check the ‘Pass the Book’ Facebook group early if you want to get the larger anthologies on the cheap (Shakespeare, I’m looking at you buddy). Chase those bargains! And then ride that high as you start your reading. Besides, this way you can use the money you’ve saved to fund that coffee habit that’s keeping you alive whilst you’re working and reading nine til’ five.

Don’t be afraid to try audiobooks or e-readers, mixing up the media you use can sometimes helps to maintain your focus whilst reading

Furthermore, be honest – those of you who’ve checked their reading lists will have an idea of which texts you’re going to enjoy and which texts you’re going to curse in the early hours of a Monday morning before your first seminar. As much as it may seem like a great idea to start with the latter first to avoid the inevitable Monday morning dilemma; from my experience, trying to avoid the inevitable just leads to the same crisis but with more books and less sleep.

The key to getting ahead, I think, is using the summer to reinvigorate your love for reading. Let’s face it, the reason us procrastinators struggle so much is because we’ve begun to associate reading with work, as a chore to complete. Therefore, the simplest solution is to have fun with it, read for the pleasure of reading. We’re incredibly fortunate, as students, to be in this position and to have access to all these wonderful resources and vast libraries of literature, and it can be easy to forget that. So when you’re letting out a sigh as you plan your summer reading, remember back to why you chose to study your course and think positively about all of the texts you’re going to enjoy this coming year, rather than dreading those that intimidate you.

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