Having always been an avid reader, it was a bit disheartening when the babies came along and there were no minutes or seconds to enjoy perusing a new book. Though I loved those years, they were intense days of living by the clock, when the only books I read were school assignments to keep up with the older children, or Dr. Seuss and other authors for story hour with the little ones.

While that was fine during the most demanding times, I still wanted to find a way – between diapers, homeschooling, meals and the rest – to sneak a peek into a new book. Novels were off-limits during this time, as I didn’t need my emotions to be swayed in the directions of romantic interludes (however innocuous), or living vicariously through the pages of some fictitious character. Give me an organization or leadership book – something to inspire – and I was thrilled.

So, how to fit it in? For me it was basically a retraining process. Retraining myself to remember the book’s conversations when a few days might pass between meetings. Retraining my mind to work on several books at a time, and remember the points of each. The reason for this is that I decided to put my books around the house, in places where I tended to set a spell. This might be in our library, where the décor is so soothing, and fire beckons me to sit a few moments more. Or next to my bed so I can snatch a few pages or paragraphs before sleepiness overwhelms me. Or in our bathroom, where I put a bookshelf against the wall, to hold my books. I could also put a small table in there to hold the book. Or perhaps just a pretty little basket, just large enough to hold my book and some little decorations, possibly potpourri, rolled up hand towels, or even extra rolls of toilet paper. Then when I have a few moments, I’ll pick up whichever book is there and read for a short bit. I’m amazed at how these small snatches of time add up, when I realize I’m nearly finished with a book. Sometimes the starting overwhelms me, because the task of completing the book seems daunting. So, my mantra has become: Just start! I read just the first page – and I’m usually hooked.

When I want to learn something new, I’ve been known to make up my own “Mommy Lesson Plans.” For instance, I wanted to learn how to make lingerie. So, I bought a book on the history of lingerie and bra making, the different types of fabrics used, the grain-lines and how to use them to the best advantage and then the basics of making and tweaking patterns for myself.

The book was rather intimidating in size, but I was determined. I looked at the table of contents and saw the chapter titles and set deadlines for finishing each one – with wiggle room for life to happen. Then I set out. No practice yet, merely gathering information and learning. With my schedule set, I was determined to finish on time, and begin the fun of making lingerie. You see, I have found that another name for deadlines is GOALS! And I absolutely love goals. They help me do things I would never do on my own. It’s not that I am so determined to accomplish so much, it’s that my calendar and deadlines become my gentle task master, and they push me to succeed.

While setting my goals/deadlines, I also peeked at the materials list and made sure I had everything on hand for that delightful time when I was ready to sew. My life works best – and my mind just naturally works this way – when I think of the next steps to come: the shortest route from point A to point B, the next five things the children need to be prepared for and what they need for it, or the supplies we need for next month’s family vacation. My mind is always scanning my mental To Do lists, to help me be prepared for life – several steps down the road.

So, I bought the fabric and specialty items needed for making these lovely things. It was all ready, waiting for me to finish the “book of understanding,” so I could sew. That gave me even more incentive to stay on track, or finish early. I was primed to learn.

With setting the goals, dividing the larger task into small ones, and giving myself incentives, I find I complete more reading and learning projects than I would otherwise.

Getting back to my goal of how to fit more reading and learning into my life, I have found that online classes are easy to do and fit in with most any schedule. When Spouse bought me a specialty sewing machine, I was so excited – but it took me weeks to actually sit down and play with it. I just wasn’t sure where to begin or what to make. Then I found a teacher who set up guidelines, deadlines, shared information, and asked us to post pictures of what we made. It took a lot of dedication, focus, and making time to finish – and I couldn’t live with those demands on my time constantly – but I learned so much with the accountability.

In various seasons of our lives, we might not always have time for a coffee klatch with other ladies, or attending the women’s Bible study at church, we can often find room in life for the friendship of a good book. Curling up to enjoy just a few pages can put us in such a wonderful state of mind, we should probably do all we can to make it a habit to read. Wherever we are, whenever we can snatch a few minutes. And keep our minds active in productive ways.

Mark and Kym Wright have been married for 32 years. He still flies and computes, and she still sews and writes. And he’s building her a greenhouse to make room for another of her passions. They have also encouraged their eight children to find and pursue their own hobbies. Visit her at: www.KymWright.com and www.The-Mothers-Heart.com.

Publication date: January 18, 2013