Thoughts #26: ‘I Don’t Have Time To Read…’


I’m sure you know the sort of person. You’re chatting, and suddenly the topic of reading comes up. You say that you read maybe a couple of books a week and that you spend a lot of your spare time reading. Then they say it:

“Oh, I don’t have the time to read.”


When people say this, it frustrates me so much. Do they have this image of us doing NOTHING but reading 24/7? Spending every spare moment with our head in a book, shirking responsibilities? Sure, it sounds like heaven – but that’s not how it works.

If you love something, if you’re passionate about it, you make time for it. Whether it’s reading, watching films, rock climbing, horse riding, knitting, whatever. That time that you might spend watching TV, I might be reading. So sure, you have the time to read – you just choose to spend it differently.

Basically, I’m pretty fed up with how, when I mention that I read a lot, many people seem to assume that’s ALL I do. Um, no. I’m currently studying for my Masters degree so I have lectures to attend, course reading to do, assignments to write, a thesis to start thinking of. Plus nights out with friends, day trips and more – and you know what, I still make some time for my other interests like reading and playing video games.


I’ve lost count of how many times the immediate response to me reading a lot is “I don’t have time to read”. Yeah well neither do I – I make it. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s just another way of saying they don’t particularly enjoy reading.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who comes across this regularly! Have you had a similar experience?

50 thoughts on “Thoughts #26: ‘I Don’t Have Time To Read…’”

  1. You’re absolutely right, they don’t LIKE to read. It’s just a typical response. I think I’ve said that same thing about other things, like exercise, for example. I hate exercising so my response when people ask is “I don’t have time.” It sounds more polite than I HATE to exercise!”

    1. Haha, I guess that’s true – although some people have just outright told me they don’t read and that somehow makes me less annoyed ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. It bugs me so much when people say that they don’t have time to read, as if it’s something that totally eats up time. Even if you read a couple of chapters before bed or during a commute somewhere, you’re still making time to read. I once knew this guy who was complaining about how he ‘doesn’t have time to read’ and when I told him to make time, he simply said ‘I don’t have time to make time’ what does that even mean?? Surely nobody is so busy that they can’t do anything that they want.

    1. Exactly! There are plenty of activities that can be enhanced by reading, like a daily commute ๐Ÿ˜€

      Wow, unless he literally worked all the time and only had time to eat and sleep when he was at home I don’t see how he couldn’t??

  3. I had someone (a librarian no less) say to me “I wish I had as much time to read as you do.” And I was like “Well when something is important you make time to do it. It takes prioritizing”. Everyone has the same 24 hours.Irritating!

    1. A librarian?! Wow ๐Ÿ˜ฎ That’s surprising! It also feels like people are saying you do less than they do and they’re better than you because of it, when they say something like that. At least to me it does…

  4. I’ve definitely had tons of people say this to me as well. And, like you, I end up thinking the person would have time, if it’s something they actually cared about doing.
    But I’ve never become frustrated by those responses, as I haven’t ever considered them to be implying there was something *wrong* with me necessarily. Just that it’s surprising/amazing I do read so much. That I not only make time to do so, but have a good enough attention span and willpower to do so. Because I do think that short tv shows and using the internet has the potential to mess with our attention spans and can make reading a more difficult experience for some. I can see how that could rub you the wrong way, though.
    Just remember how awesome readers are, how much enjoyment we’re able to get out of reading stories on top of everything else. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I think I just read into it a little too much ๐Ÿ˜› But I definitely agree about the attention span – I’m guilty of getting too easily distracted, even away from books.

  5. I kinda hate the phrase “I don’t have time” in general, because so often it’s just an excuse. There are times when I totally get people running out of time for stuff–like, if I’m talking to someone who works two jobs, maybe like 60+ hrs a week, and has a newborn baby & takes an online college class, then yeah, I TOTALLY believe they don’t have time for things they might want to do. But personally, I know I have free time. Not always a lot of it, but some. I MAKE time to do the things that are important to me, even in busy weeks. I spend my time on things I think are important, in some way or another(even if it’s just an hour to read in a week because it relaxes me). I have the same 24 hrs in a day everyone else does, so I try to only say “I don’t have time” very, very rarely–on that occasional weeks that are so busy that I’m gone from morning to the time I crawl in bed(those are rare). Otherwise, when talking to people about any hobby or activity I do, I try to say something more along the lines of “I use my time in other ways” or just be honest and say “it’s not a priority right now”.

  6. Yep, and the other one that amuses is “How do you read so fast?” Sure, I may read more than the average person, thus probably more books in a given amount of time. But Like you said, when one has a hobby they’re passionate about, they make time for it. I don’t think I read faster, I just do a lot of something I enjoy.

  7. All of this. When I mention how much I read, people assume I’m really introverted and a homebody, that I need a “real life”, etc. EXCUSE ME. Reading is a hobby and a pastime, just like watching TV or going to the gym (both of which I do as well). It’s not that I have scads of free time laying aroundโ€”it’s that I prioritize the time I do have and use most of it for reading. I go out every weekend and most weeknights, I do very well in my classes, and I’m very outdoorsy. But I also like to read, and I have made time in my busy schedule for reading.

    It’s not that people “don’t have time to read”, it’s that they haven’t prioritized reading enough to find time. I mean, unless you’re taking 22 credit hours and working full time or somethingโ€”then maybe you really don’t have time. But otherwise? Nah.

  8. I only know one other person in real life who likes to read, and I’m pretty sure everyone else I know thinks I’m really weird, for reading as much as I do. But, I think they’re all weird for one reason or another, so it’s all good lol.

    1. I used to, but I’ve found more and more people lately which is great. I still hear that comment though. I just don’t understand why reading a lot is considered weird!

    1. I bet if we replied with ‘how do you have the time to watch all that TV?’ or whatever, they’d give the exact same reasons as we have for reading – but somehow it’s different??

  9. I hate when people say I don’t know how you find time to read so much. As if I have no life. As if I don’t have a child or a job or anything else going on AT ALL. It’s rude. I don’t ask those people, where do you find all the time to binge watch Game of Thrones? How many hours does that take? Probably the same amount I spend on books, so there. It’s super frustrating and it’s just a case of nonreaders not understanding the reading life.

    1. Yep, it really does feel rude most of the time. How is reading any different to watching TV, it’s a form of escapism and a sedentary activity (although it doesn’t have to be). It’s just a different form of media.

  10. So many people said this to me when I was handing out flyers on campus for our book club. Like ok, I guess. They probably just don’t like books…..but you can make time for reading. ๐Ÿ˜›

  11. I’ve heard this quite often and sometimes people just don’t care about reading at all and admit it. How you spend a time is a choice, I guess some people just rather do other things, but at least they can admit that don’t like reading that much instead of using an excuse. I had a few busy weeks and while I didn’t got that much reading done, I am still reading, but slower then normal. And indeed it’s not like we never do anything else beside reading.

    1. Some people just say they don’t like reading, but the one I hear most is the ‘I don’t have time for it’. And add to that the ‘how do you have the time to read so much?’ and I will probably instantly dislike that person ๐Ÿ˜›

  12. Never got it either. I have a four year old who takes up huge chunks of time, love to go out with my wife, play basketball several times a week and work full time. Plus i friggen blog which takes it’s own chunk of time. Yet I still read a book or two a week without any problems.

    If you don’t wanna read, just say so.

  13. You are so right! I don’t have the time either, but you better believe I find a way to fit it in! How about reading on your phone while eating breakfast, or a quick ten minutes before bed. I really don’t have the time for blogging either, but here I am, making it work. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yes ๐Ÿ˜€ I always try and read at least a little bit before bed – it relaxes me more, if I go straight from my computer to bed then I’m still pretty wide awake.

  14. Go you for making all that time to read! And blog too, because that takes up so much time. I remember I found your blog by checking it out from a comment you left, actually.

    But I am honestly getting angry at the the thought of people thinking that I have so much time to read. I don’t. I’ve never gotten that treatment before, but what people never get is that the trick to doing things is making time for it. That’s how it always is! High school doesn’t allow for you to have a lot of time, but I read after tests when there’s nothing to do or when we’re switching teachers and the teacher isn’t there yet.

    It’s always about making time.

    1. Yep, blogging eats up a lot of time – a lot of reading time, actually ๐Ÿ™‚ But I’m trying to set today aside to catch up on various blog things.

      I know, it’s like they think you’re super lazy and do nothing else. Grrr! I even read during the two minutes I’m waiting for the kettle to boil or something ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I’ve definitely experienced having someone say this to me. I hate that the statement implies bookworms merely do nothing else besides reading. We read not because we have all the time in the world and aren’t busy with daily work. We read because it’s something we love and something we think worth finding time for. Excellent discussion! โค

    1. Yes, and I wonder how that person would feel if I knew they spent a lot of their time watching TV, and I said something like ‘I don’t have time to watch TV’. I bet they would say the same things we’re saying about reading!

      Thanks, Hazel ๐Ÿ˜€

  16. I agree wholeheartedly..I think perhaps people feel like reading is something they should do, like exercising and eating right, rather than viewing it as something pleasurable or fun. If you enjoy something you make the time for it!

  17. So far, no one’s really used this line on me. The main responses I get for saying that I love reading are that they don’t really like to read or they don’t have the attention-span for it. Which is them being honest, so I appreciate it.

    “I don’t have time to read” feels like such a cop-out, even if I sometimes use it. ๐Ÿ˜› Usually that translates to me saying “I am so exhausted at the end of the day that I just can’t read without wanting to fall asleep” or something like that. But lately I’ve been changing my evening routine to incorporate more reading before bed. ๐Ÿ˜€ We make time for it indeed!

    1. Yeah, I’d rather people said they just didn’t enjoy it!

      Well when you use it, you mean you don’t have time to read at that precise moment – not that you never have time in your LIFE to read, which seems a bit extreme!

  18. Oh my goodness, I so agree with you! People are always asking me how I have so much time to read and it’s like they think I’m trying to be funny when I say I make time. It’s like they think I don’t put effort into med school or something. It’s the whole Parkinson’s Law thing: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
    Anyway. LE SIGH.

    1. I reckon many people just don’t realise that reading is something leisurely, and it’s used to RELAX. Maybe some people see it as another form of work? :/ Ughhh!

  19. I’m sure this is going to be an unpopular response, but… I can see getting to a point in my life where I “don’t have time to read.” Because I don’t want to just read for ten minutes before I go to bed, or in five minute snatches here and there. I don’t read just to find out what happens in a book; I read to lose myself in a book. And if I can’t cut out a solid chunk of time to do that, I could see myself choosing to just stop reading altogether, or cutting down to just a few new books a year.

    Yes, most people who say they don’t have time to read are not willing to find the time (whether they’re just giving the “polite” response or they actually have themselves fooled). But it’s a lot easier to find time than it is to find quality time, and I think that’s an important distinction.

    1. Well that’s you choosing not to, rather than using it as an excuse instead of saying you don’t enjoy reading – although it’s just my assumption that that’s what people normally mean when they say it!

      I understand what you mean though. Personally, for most books, I don’t mind just diving in for a minute or two here and there, but there are some that need full concentration. Normally the best ones ๐Ÿ˜›

  20. Now that I work at a bookstore, I hear that phrase all the time. It completely rubs me the wrong way because, like you said, I specifically make time to read. That’s why I’m always so behind the times on my Netflix queue. I read before bed, or during breaks at work, it’s always a little bit here and there. Sometimes, I hate the phrase because it almost feels like an insult and makes it sound like I don’t have a life–like I lock myself in hermit-style and do nothing else. Like you, I’d rather them just come out and say that they don’t enjoy it, that way I don’t feel so criticized. Okay, rant over! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Exactly, that’s what I feel it’s like and it bugs me ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I have so many other things I should do now I’m at uni, but I have to make at least a little bit of time for reading every day (or every other day) or I would just go insane!

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