Has this ever happened to you? You get your drink of choice, sit in your favourite chair, maybe wrap a blanket around you. There’s no one else home, nothing to disturb you, no chores you’re ignoring. None of your family members’ birthdays are right round the corner so you’re not scrounging around trying to think of a last minute present that hits the boxes of thoughtful, personal, and doesn’t break the bank. You’ve just been paid so you have a good two weeks before you need to remember that you’re meant to be saving.
In other words: you are relaxed; you are zen.
So what do you do? You snuggle down in that favourite chair, press play on your audiobook, ready to shut your mind to the world and listen and… you can’t. Your mind wanders. You’re not paying attention. You’re thinking about what to have for dinner instead.
I’m the same, I simply cannot just sit down and listen to audiobooks. I can sit and listen to an album just fine but for whatever reason, no matter how interested I am, it just isn’t stimulating enough for me…
And yet, in spite of this block, I manage to burn through far more audiobooks than I do physical books. In fact, I keep a log and in 2021 I read 22 audiobooks and only 11 physical books.
“How does she do it?” I hear you cry. Fear not, little one. Here are some of my tips to get around this block and aid you on your noble quest to read more audiobooks!
First thing’s first: before you purchase an audiobook always listen to the preview so that you don’t end up with a book with dodgy narration. This is a rare occurrence and I’d say a solid 9/10 audiobooks I’ve listened to have perfect narration, but I have come across the odd book narrated by someone with a voice that, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t sit through (the worst was a book I downloaded that was narrated by a text-to-speech reader). As a result, there’s a couple books on my phone that I’ve had for years now that I don’t think I will ever be able to finish (at least not in audio form!).
Once you’ve downloaded your book, perhaps the most obvious answer is to read on your commute, but this doesn’t work for everyone. When walking through the city, I’m paying too much attention to the traffic and turn signals to concentrate on reading, and sitting on a Tube and listening to an audiobook, to me, works just as well as trying to listen in my favourite chair. In short: it just doesn’t work.
So, what I do, is I pair sitting on the Tube with mobile games. My favourites are Star Blast, Solitaire and Sugar Swap Mania. These games can all be played offline and are simple puzzle games that do not require too much concentration, meaning they keep my mind and hands active enough so that I can pay proper attention to my audiobook. I also enjoy Pokémon GO, but this does require mobile data so is not always ideal when travelling.
This works just as well at home of course, where you can choose between digital games and physical games, like jigsaw puzzles or… again, Solitaire, but this time with real cards.
The other method that I find really works for me is to listen to audiobooks whilst completing my menial tasks, such as whilst cooking, cleaning, doing the dishes, or whilst hanging up and folding laundry. But also whilst brushing my teeth, putting on or taking off make-up and showering. I also often listen whilst food shopping (this works especially well if I already have a list prepared and I’m just auto-piloting around the shop. It also helps my bank balance because it takes my attention away from the iced coffee section, where I would inevitably wander into out of boredom (and lust) if I wasn’t distracted by some compelling audiobook pumping through my ears).
I digress. Listening in these short bursts might at first feel unnatural to you, but it becomes more natural as you go on. It can really help break down a long, intimidating chapter, so long as you remember to stop listening at a sensible moment where you can pick up again fairly easily (and you can always rewind the text by a minute or so to refresh you memory).
Something else you can do is play around with the speed settings (note: speed setting are able to be modified on Audible but I don’t know about any other apps as I don’t have them). This can help with books that are a little slow-paced; increasing the speed ever so slightly helps replicate when you read faster with physical books, like when you get to a really juicy moment in the story and want to gobble up the book even faster. Ditto, if what you’re listening to is quite complicated, slowing the speed down just a bit can really help you concentrate better. I only recommend shifting the speed a little bit on either side, or else the audio gets distorted.
As you experiment with these different methods, you’ll find what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s all trial-and-error but I promise, some things will stick. There are plenty of methods I’ve tried that don’t work for me, but do work for others. Here’s a few examples: one of my friends listens to books whilst exercising, which personally makes me suspect that she’s a serial killer but I also support her listening time. Many of my friends listen whilst walking (I’m too busy birdwatching to be interested in a book when I’m outside). Another of my friends took up knitting and found that she really enjoys pairing this with listening. So if you’re thinking of taking up a new hobby that uses your hands but keeps your mind somewhat free, now might be a good time to give it a go.
By pairing listening to your audiobooks with these daily tasks, you’ll be surprised how much more you’re able to enjoy listening. And once you get into the real swing of things, it’ll get even easier: I usually find that the more I read, the more I want to read and so the more excuses I will find to do so.
Sugar Swap Mania: link
Star Blast: link
Pokémon GO: link