• Wellbeing
  • Work/Life Balance

Book Clubs: a secret time machine?

If you had asked me three years ago whether I thought I’d be meeting friends on a regular basis to catch-up and talk about our lives I would have said ‘absolutely!’, while contemplating which coffee shop, restaurant or bar we might be in. If you’d asked me instead if I thought I would be meeting up with friends to catch-up and also discuss Harper Lee’s recently released novel, my answer would most likely have been very different.

But that is the case. Like a growing number of people, I’m proud to admit that I’m part of a book club. Albeit we’re not the most professional of clubs (naturally there’s often a glass or two involved…) but we’re a club nonetheless. We aim to meet every six to eight weeks to talk about a novel we have chosen and our thoughts on it.

You might be thinking at this stage ‘well that’s very nice but I’m not sure why it’s interesting and I just don’t have the time to read’, and I completely understand. I can’t say I’ve always had a great interest in popular literary works or be often found deep within the pages of a great novel. I’d also be the first to admit that with work, mobile phones, emails and an endless list of jobs, there never seems to be a practical time to sit down an open a page.

But actually, joining a book club has changed everything – and not just my very impressive reading list (did I mention Hemingway?). Rather strangely, taking the time to read has actually given me time back. I am by no means suggesting there’s a time machine hidden in the chapters but there is a little magic.

Juggling responsibilities at home and at work is a great challenge – whether we’re navigating our social calendars with 10 work deadlines all on the same day, or planning how we’re going to attend an important work meeting and our child’s festive play at the same time. With pressures from both sides, our mind naturally begins to wander and the worry sets in of how we can do it all. Before we know it, we’ve spent 15 minutes panicking about what to do and another 15 feeling frustrated about time we’ve just spent panicking.

However guilty we might initially feel, taking 30 minutes of time back for ourselves to spend on a hobby or interest can be invaluable. The time we allow ourselves to forget about the day to day, clear our minds and enjoy an activity can enable us to be more focused and more productive when we need to be.

With almost a third of working families also feeling burned out most or all the time and three-quarters highlighting a need to change their work/life balance to cope, 30 minutes can be crucial in providing a little ‘me time’ and a chance to relax and recharge - while also helping to retain our talented people.

So whether we’re immersing ourselves in the works of Dan Brown or joining friends for a game of tennis, a little time to ourselves can in turn help us to give a little extra back.

Stephanie Kowalewicz, Research and Public Affairs Manager, Bright Horizons

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