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5 Ways to Find More Time to Read

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May is Get Caught Reading month, a nationwide campaign dedicated to reminding people how fun it is to get lost in a good book. Most of us are so starved for time, though, reading often seems like a luxury. However, there are a few clever ways you can squeeze more time for reading in between your work, gym, and sleep time.

1. MAKE IT A MORNING RITUAL.

It’s painfully easy to reach for your phone first thing in the morning to scroll through emails, headlines, and Instagram. Rather than start your day in work or news mode, put down the phone and pick up a book instead.

"For me, it is important to get in the right frame of mind before the noise of the day begins. That's why I get up at 5 a.m. so that I can read something inspirational before the kids get up and the daily responsibilities start,” says Brooke Thomas, an author and business owner. “It's easier to absorb what I'm reading when I am not tired and the house is quiet.”

Thomas says that this ritual helps her start each day mindfully and with a positive attitude that tends to stick with her throughout the day. Don’t see yourself waking up at the crack of dawn? Read during your commute instead. If you take public transportation to get to work, your commute is the perfect time to open a book or turn on your Kindle. If you drive to work, look into audiobooks. You can download them to your phone, then connect them to your car stereo to turn rush hour into story hour.

2. CARRY A BOOK WHEREVER YOU GO.

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“The hands-down easiest way to make more time to read is to always carry something to read,” says Gretchen Skalka, a consultant and coach from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Skalka says we live in a service economy, which means we spend a lot of our time waiting, whether it’s at the doctor’s office, getting a pedicure, waiting in line for coffee, or sitting at the laundromat. These are perfect opportunities for reading, Skalka says. “Think of how many times you've been annoyed, or been in the presence of someone who was annoyed, over a wait for some type of service. Why be annoyed? Why not read?”

Over at Harvard Business Review, author Neil Pasricha recounts a story about Stephen King making good use of this strategy. Pasricha writes:

A good friend once told me a story that really stuck with me. He said Stephen King had advised people to read something like five hours a day. My friend said, “You know, that’s baloney. Who can do that?” But then, years later, he found himself in Maine on vacation. He was waiting in line outside a movie theater with his girlfriend, and who should be waiting in front of him? Stephen King! His nose was in a book the whole time in line. When they got into the theater, Stephen King was still reading as the lights dimmed. When the lights came up, he pulled his book open right away. He even read as he was leaving.

If you don’t want to carry a physical book, you can always download ebooks or bookmark articles on your mobile devices. This way, you’ll still have access when you don't have WiFi.

3. TRACK YOUR TIME.

We spend our time much the same way we spend our money: We don’t have much of it, and we’re not sure where it goes. To remedy this, track your time, says Lisa Gessert, a professional organizer and Productivity Consultant in Staten Island, New York.

“The key to finding more time in your day is to keep track of your day for one week,” Gessert says. “I will bet you spend way too much time on things that just don't matter. Social media, getting ready for work. Monitor your days for one week and see where you are losing your time. For example, I bet social media takes up way too much time in your day. You will find the time to read more when you let go of the other time sinks in your life.”

Free tools like RescueTime and Hours can help you identify these time sinks by automatically tracking how you spend your time online. You can get a detailed view of exactly which sites and apps you use the most. Chances are, you’ll be surprised at how much time you spend in certain areas.

4. START SMALL.

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“Set aside 10 minutes to read. Just 10 minutes,” says Skalka. “You'll be surprised how much you can read in 10 minutes—and the sense of accomplishment stays with you all day.”

Skalka recommends setting an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to take regular 10-minute reading breaks. She also suggests reading when you’re eating breakfast or lunch alone. Again, this is a great way to trade your rushed, frazzled start to the day with a calming ritual.

5. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS.

Finally, keep track of your progress with your new habit. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, which will motivate you to keep up with it. Sites like Habitica make this fun by turning your goal into a game. The more you read, the more points you earn.

Skalka also recommends Goodreads, a social networking site for avid readers. “You can use an app like Goodreads to keep track of what you're reading, what you've already read, what you'd like to read—and it's social, so you can use the app to keep in touch with what other folks are reading and talking about.”

That social factor is a good way to hold yourself accountable, too. Let other people know what you’re reading, and you’ll likely feel more pressure to actually finish the book. But remember: Reading is supposed to be fun, so find something you want to read in the first place.

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Make Spreadsheets a Whole Lot Easier With This Excel Trick
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While data nerds may love a good spreadsheet, many office workers open Microsoft Excel with a certain amount of resistance. Inputting data can be a monotonous task. But a few tricks can make it a whole lot easier. Business Insider has a new video highlighting one of those shortcuts—a way to create a range that changes with the data you input.

Dynamic named ranges change and grow with your data, so, for instance, if one column is time and another is, say, dollar value, the value can change automatically as time goes on. If you do this, it's relatively easy to create a chart using this data, by simply inserting your named ranges as your X and Y values. The chart will automatically update as your range expands.

It's easier to see in the program itself, so watch the full video on Business Insider. Microsoft also has its own instructions here, or you can check out this video from the YouTube channel Excel Tip, which also has dozens of other useful tutorials for making Microsoft Excel your hardworking assistant.

[h/t Business Insider]

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5 Tips for Becoming A Morning Person
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You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that influences your daily routine: when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Our biological clocks are, to some extent, controlled by genetics. This means that some people are natural morning people while others are night owls by design. However, researchers say the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, which is good news if you want to train yourself to wake up earlier.

In addition to squeezing more hours out of the day, there are plenty of other good reasons to resist hitting the snooze button, including increased productivity. One survey found that more than half of Americans say they feel at their best between 5 a.m. and noon. These findings support research from biologist Christopher Randler, who determined that earlier risers are happier and more proactive about goals, too.

If you love the idea of waking up early to get more done, but you just can't seem to will yourself from out under the covers, here are five effective tips that might help you roll out of bed earlier.

1. EASE INTO THE HABIT.

If you’re a die-hard night owl, chances are you’re not going to switch to a morning lark overnight. Old habits are hard to break, but they’re less challenging if you approach them realistically.

“Wake up early in increments,” Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis suggests. “If you normally wake up at 9:00 a.m., set the alarm to 8:30 a.m. for a week, then 8:00 a.m., then 7:30 a.m.”

Waking up three hours earlier can feel like a complete lifestyle change, but taking it 30 minutes at a time will make it a lot easier to actually stick to the plan. Gradually, you’ll become a true morning person, just don’t try to force it to happen overnight.

2. EXERCISE IN THE MORNING.

Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, so jumping on the treadmill or taking a run around the block is a great way to start the day on a high note. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising early in the morning can mean you get a better overall sleep at night:

“In fact, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00 a.m. sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.”

If you don’t have much time in the morning, an afternoon workout is your second best bet. The Sleep Foundation says aerobic afternoon workouts can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night. “This may be because exercise raises your body’s temperature for about four to five hours,” they report. After that, your body’s core temperature decreases, which encourages it to switch into sleep mode.

3. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM IDEAL FOR SLEEP.

Whether it’s a noisy street or a bright streetlight, your bedroom environment might be making it difficult for you to sleep throughout the night, which can make waking up early challenging, as you haven’t had enough rest. There are, however, a few changes you can make to optimize your room for a good night’s sleep.

“Keep your bedroom neat and tidy,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of psychology on staff as an expert in sleep hygiene at Seasons Recovery Centers in Malibu, suggests. “Waking up to clutter and chaos only makes it more tempting to crawl back in bed.”

Depending on what needs to be improved, you might consider investing in some slumber-friendly items that can help you sleep through the night, including foam earplugs (make sure to use a vibrating alarm), black-out drapes, light-blocking window decals, and a cooling pillow

Another simple option? Ditch the obnoxious sound of a loud, buzzing alarm.

“One great way to adapt to rising earlier is to have an alarm that is a pleasing sound to you versus an annoying one,” Dr. Irwin says. “There are many choices now, whether on your smartphone or in a radio or a freestanding apparatus.”

4. TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY WIND DOWN.

Getting up early starts the night before, and there are a few things you should do before hitting the sack at night.

“Set an alarm to fall asleep,” Torgerson says. “Having a set bedtime helps you stay responsible to yourself, instead of letting yourself get caught up in a book or Netflix and avoid going to sleep.”

Torgerson adds that practicing yoga or meditation before bed can help relax your mind and body, too. This way, your mind isn’t bouncing from thought to thought in a flurry before you go to bed. If you find yourself feeling anxious before bed, it might help to write in a journal. This way, you can get these nagging thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Focus on relaxing at night and stay away from not just exercise, but mentally stimulating activities, too. If watching the news gets your blood boiling, for example, you probably want to turn it off an hour or so before bedtime.

5. GET YOUR DAILY DOSE OF LIGHT.

Light has a immense effect on your circadian rhythm—whether it’s the blue light from your phone as you scroll through Instagram, or the bright sunlight of being outdoors on your lunch break. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists compared the sleep quality of 27 subjects who worked in windowless environments with 22 subjects who were exposed to significantly more natural light during the day.

“Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on two SF-36 dimensions—role limitation due to physical problems and vitality—as well as poorer overall sleep quality," the study concluded. "Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”

Thus, exposing yourself to bright light during the day may actually help you sleep better at night, which will go a long way toward helping you wake up refreshed in the morning.

Conversely, too much blue light can actually disturb your sleep schedule at night. This means you probably want to limit your screen time as your bedtime looms closer.

Finally, once you do get into the habit of waking up earlier, stick to that schedule on the weekends as much as possible. The urge to sleep in is strong, but as Torgerson says, “you won't want your body and brain to reacclimate to sleeping in and snoozing.”

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