There are several reasons I wanted to start reading again.

First, I had come out of a year in which every ounce of my spare time (aside from full time work) was spent assisting others.  I was caring for my Mum who had Stage IV lung cancer, caring for myself with hyperemesis in pregnancy, and helping my husband study for his Fire Department Training Academy Exams (my full time career is showing people how to learn and study – basically academically succeed at the University level.)

It was a time in life where everything was very much focused on the present moment.  There was no mental or emotional space to take in extra information.  When the dust settled and I was settling into life with a baby, some time for reflection and learning opened up.  This went straight onto my project list as one of the first entries.

Though I was extremely reluctant, investing in a kindle was a game changer.  It allowed me to easily read with one hand while feeding a baby, and I was able to do it in low light situations.  I will always have books on a book shelf, but for the purposes of maternity leave reading, this was brilliant.

Reading is incredibly beneficial not only for the mental escape from the intense immersive experience that is life with a baby – but also for getting that brain back on line and going into learning mode.  And no, I don’t mean googling baby stuff and reading zillions of forum posts (which are horribly misinformed anyways!)

On my first maternity leave, I read the following books which were all fantastic reads.  This is a selection from an extremely varied list, but all were topics that I wanted to learn more about:  Other cultures’ styles of parenting, mastering self confidence in a totally new area of my life, time management and balance.

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam

Being In Balance: 9 Principles for Creating Habits to Match Your Desires
by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

The Power of Self-Confidence: Become Unstoppable, Irresistible, and Unafraid in Every Area of Your Life
Brian Tracy

Please note – though I am genuinely sharing these books I have read, the links to Amazon put a note on my own Amazon account – so if you happen to buy these books on Amazon, I will be paid a very small portion of the proceeds. Which is cool, because I think Amazon is the best place to buy books, period.  Prices are good, shipping is great.  
Though you are supporting Jeff Bezos over at Amazon with your business, he’s a bazillionaire…  and I am not, so don’t you feel good getting Amazon to send some money to me, too? haha.    

The nice part about this reading project was that technology is so integrated these days.  The Kindle App for iPhone is free to download, so I could switch between the Kindle and my iPhone for reading, depending on which battery was dead 🙂

Fast forward a year and I am on second mat leave, and once again hitting the books.  However, I have another tip – this one even more profound.  I have a lot of learning to do on this mat leave, and a rather intense desire to read – but my time is much more limited now.  I recently started using a new German start-up’s app called Blinkist.

Blinkist condenses the latest non fiction books into easy 15 minute reads using a rhyming technique that assists with memory retention. Blinkist can be read or listened to with a brilliant audio button at the start of each “Blink.”

I’m currently testing out the free trial for 7 days, but once the trail ends, it is a relatively affordable $4.83 per month for membership!  Which is much more preferable to me than Audible! I remember signing up once and realized I couldn’t afford $15 a month on leave!

What I am finding on this leave (with a foggier mind than ever,) is I am only able to retain small chunks of information.

I was listening  to a podcast by Derek Sivers talking about the fact that most non fiction books only have a handful of key lessons.  Books are structured by arguing and supporting the key lessons with evidence and examples. (Hey, that sounds like my Masters Thesis!)

For more efficient reading and to pull the information you need, just cut to the chase.  This is exactly what Blinkist does and you know what, it is helping my memory and retention of what I have read.

I’ll never be my Military and Strategic Studies Masters Supervisor who could randomly pull a book off the shelf and tell me to read page XXX and then proceed to quote the page.  Nope.  Not operating at that level on mat leave.

Previously, I’d read an entire novel and if I was lucky, I’d take away and remember a few points vaguely, and then people would ask me about my latest reads and I’d mumble incoherently about one or two main things I remembered. Of course, the ones I remembered were important to me – because I needed to learn them and they resonated with me at the time.

Now, with the limited brain power, time and focus (I am very realistic when I am operating in a sleep deprived state) I can spend that limited energy retaining all of the key points because my reads are much more compressed.  That is exactly why I am a huge fan of this app.

This post got more onto the topic of technology than the benefit of reading in itself!  but I hope my digressions became useful, and that this post assists you in your aspirations to read.  🙂  Let me know what novel you are into at the moment!