Balancing Act: Reading fills many needs for busy professionals

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"Holiday overwhelm" is upon us. Will we ever find the time to sink into the couch with our new electronic reader or devour the paperback we picked up at the book fair?

Between holiday shopping, parties, email and work obligations, it's easy to feel like we don't have enough hours to get it all done. Still, somehow Americans are finding time to send new authors skyrocketing up the best-seller list.

Here is how and why some people find a way to fit reading into their work life balance.

* It's for leisure. Laurie Levine of Cooper City, Fla., uses her 45-minute commute to and from work to listen to audio books. The leisure activity makes her drive seem productive and enjoyable. Ms. Levine, vice president of business and finance at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., says she usually listens to fiction, particularly series like "Game of Thrones." "It needs to capture my attention and make me forget about the drive."

With her two children now away at college, Ms. Levine said, she also reads books on her iPad at night while her husband watches sports on TV. She brings her iPad with her wherever she goes, hoping to squeeze in some reading whenever there's a wait. As a member of two book clubs, Ms. Levine, 51, estimates she reads four to six books a month.

* It's stress relief. When David Gold of Weston, Fla., reads, the possibilities of material are wide open but the purpose is specific: "It helps me unwind from a busy day." Mr. Gold, a 47-year-old workers' compensation attorney and father of two, does most of his reading at night but says if a book is particularly gripping, he will read for about a half-hour in the morning, too. "I will shoo my boys out the door for high school and read before I take a shower," he said.

Mr. Gold alternates between historical fiction, science fiction, mysteries and best-sellers and does most of it on his Nook. While he has friends who read autobiographies and nonfiction for educational reasons, he said that's not his thing. "For me, reading is pure recreation."

* It's career development. A few years ago, Nicki Anders, a 47-year-old Weston mother of three, began to combine exercise and her love of books to create the time to read that previously eluded her. These days, you will find her on an 11-mile bike ride or walk listening to books about leadership and corporate strategy downloaded from Audible.com onto her iPod. "I look forward to my bike ride even more if I'm in the middle of great book."

Ms. Anders, former vice president of collaboration at Ultimate Software, said she finishes about 25 books a year. "It may seem boring, but I love the anecdotes in business books."

* It's to provide customer service. Ted Fernandez, chairman and CEO of The Hackett Group, a global strategic business advisory consulting firm headquartered in Miami, doesn't read books, he reads articles, research and in-depth reports on regions to which he is traveling or industries in which he has clients. "When I walk in the room, my client expects me to be conversant on any topic or event affecting their business or region whether it is sports, music or politics."

Though Mr. Fernandez, 57, often receives business books as gifts, he said he doesn't have time for that type of big commitment reading. "I have 15 books sitting around right now, and I haven't been able to pick up one."


Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC; email balancegal@gmail.com.

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