There’s moments when I long for more time to read, particularly as seasonal errands consume what used to be my leisure time. Because reading requires a certain amount of concentration, it’s difficult to perform alongside another activity.[*] It’s among the reasons why you don’t see many people mulling over books while paying their bills or partaking of novels at parties.[†] After all, attempting to carry on a conversation while reading a crime thriller only guarantees someone’s going to lose the plot.
While reading might not lend itself readily to multitasking, that’s never stopped anyone from trying.[‡] With varying degrees of success and risk involved, some folks manage to combine reading with seemingly incompatible tasks. For the curious, here are three types of multitasking readers I’ve identified and how sensible or sketchy their choices are:
- Secret Readers. Reading at work or during class may be appropriate when required, but secret readers discreetly (they hope) read when their time should be allocated to something else, like listening to lectures or, well, actually working. It’s obvious why people read during lessons. Either they haven’t done the assigned reading and are catching up, or they’re sneaking a book because they’re bored. As I discovered in sixth grade, even reading ahead in your text book doesn’t go over particularly well, regardless of how well you understand the subject matter. And while I haven’t done much extracurricular reading at work, I understand the temptation to do so when stuck in long, irrelevant meetings or when there’s downtime with nothing to do. Many bosses, however, tend to be unsympathetic in such cases. As for readers whose work and school tasks languish whilst turning pages, this constitutes a read-at-your-own-risk scenario.
- The Well-Exercised Reader. It never occurred to me to combine exercise and reading, but I found several fans (check here and here). While there is some debate about whether reading and exercising together is a good idea (some of which involve safety concerns), it is possible to read and exercise with due care. As long as the equipment and activity intensity allows it (eg, avoid awkward body positions or go hands-free with an audiobook), reading during exercise is surprisingly doable. Other factors such as noise levels[§] and one’s health/balance should still be considered, but reading could be a great motivator for reluctant and bored athletes alike. Read on, friends!
- The Driven Reader. Driving tops my list of “Times Not to Read”, whether the individual is steering a tricycle or a truck. Both reading and driving require roughly the same amount of focus, and I don’t think I need to explain the dangers of doing the latter poorly. Yet, I’ve seen people perch books (or their phones)[**] on the wheel whilst driving. Bizarrely, I once witnessed a woman put on her hazard lights, stop her car in the center lane of a busy highway, [††] and review a map with her companion. That she repeated this behavior every few miles…I digress. Friends, please don’t do this. It’s risky reading at its worst.
Did I miss any other great (or horrid) examples of multi-tasking readers? Let me know below!
[*] The primary reasons not to read involve timing (previously engaged in another activity) or the wrong environment (too loud, too dark, etc.)
[†] Some exceptions apply: book readings/signings, book groups, poetry readings, and the like.
[‡] Whether or not the attempt should have been made is entirely different story.
[§] My last gym was very noisy, with multiple televisions tuned to competing news stations. During last year’s election, I wasn’t sure whether the exercise or the news increased my heart rate.
[**] Texting adds writing to reading-while-driving, which increases the danger as far as I’m concerned.
[††] The road in question is the Garden State Parkway. At the time, the speed limit was around 55 mph (roughly 88 kph).