OPEN THREAD: How can we make time for tarot when we’re super-busy?

In my recent survey, I asked you what was the main issue that you felt held you back as a tarot reader.

The replies have been interesting, and have given me plenty of food for thought! Time, confidence, a grasp on card meanings…these were all struggles that large numbers of you face. I’m looking forward to addressing some of the most common concerns here on Little Red Tarot.

If you want to know more about the results of the survey, I summarised some of the key things you shared here.

Let’s start with a real biggie: time.

You folks are busy! Work, families and jam-packed community lives leave many of us with nowhere near enough time left over to pour ourselves into tarot studies as we’d like. Some are also dealing with illness, disability and mental health barriers too, adding to the time-consuming nature of life, and subtracting still further from tarot-time, even when it’s viewed as an important part of self-care.

Hot milk

So, if you’re not planning a tarot retreat or some drastic life overhaul, how do you make time to do a little tarot on the regular, and ensure that you keep up your learning? There are of course loads of practical little ways you can work with your cards that don’t take a huge amount of time.

Here are my thoughts (bearing in mind I’m a pretty busy person myself – but I don’t have any major responsibilities such as family or healthcare). I’ve mentioned self care, but this is a whole big discussion of its own. This post looks at practical little ways to make room for tarot, but I hope to explore self care and mental health barriers to tarot practice in future posts.

This is an open thread post. There’s no way I’ll think of everything, or address anything like all of your personal time barriers – and the suggestions below won’t all be appropriate for everyone, so please, contribute your own suggestions in the comments below!

Daily cards

You knew I was going to say that, right? It’s so damned obvious. One card. Every day. Ten minutes, five minutes, two minutes, one. You don’t need to spend a lot of time – just get into the habit, and start making it part of your most mundane daily routine. Like…

  • While you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.
  • On the bus or train to work.
  • When you take a cigarette break.
  • Before you shower. Or after you shower!
  • The moment you get in, before you get sucked in to other things.
  • Just as you find yourself reaching for your phone to check Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Reach for your cards instead, just once a day.
  • When you get into your car.
  • Last thing at night, when you climb into bed.

On the Alternative Tarot Network, people have been sharing their suggestions around daily cards. One that I really loved was that of taking a photo of your card, then making it your phone background for the day, so you look at it each time you use your phone. If you’re not super-precious about your cards, you could carry it around with you

In the Alternative Tarot Course, daily cards are an essential part of the practice of forming a relationship with your cards. The simple act of picking up your deck and shuffling them every day reinforces the feeling that your tarot deck is as much part of your life as your phone or your wallet, the feel of them regularly in your hands becomes more and more familiar, less weird, more like just something you do.

ED: And – as commenters below have mentioned – don’t beat yourself up if ‘daily’ isn’t strictly daily! Some days it just doesn’t happen, and that’s fine. Better to do what you can, when you can than to abandon the whole thing because ‘daily’ is too big a commitment.

Wild Unknown Tarot - The Chariot

Get over the overwhelm.

There are 78 cards in a regular tarot deck. If you’re a newbie or you’re not confident with what they all ‘mean’, then the idea of starting to learn can feel really, really daunting. I’m willing to bet every confident, seasoned tarot veteran went through that initial feeling of ‘argh! How will I ever learn what all of these cards actually mean?’ – I certainly did. If you’re feeling the same, just the size and weight of the mammoth-seeming task ahead can be enough to make you give up and put your cards away.

So – you need to get over that.

Yep, it takes time. But you have to start small. With one card at a time. 

Here’s the thing: you will learn what all of those cards mean. More than that, you’ll develop a personal relationship with each and every card, getting to know each one in your own way, in relation to your own life, and the lives of people you read for. And the only way to do this is by meeting one card. Just one.

When you’re working with one card, forget about the others. Never mind that there are 77 other cards you haven’t learned yet. Work with that one card. Read about it. Examine it. Carry it around with you. Allow yourself the luxury of having a one-on-one talk with just that card, like a perfect moment with a good friend, where it’s just you, and them. The next day, or the next week, you’ll choose another, but for now, give your undivided attention to that one card.

Wild Unknown Tarot - Six of Pentacles

Add one more.

Already doing daily cards? Tomorrow, pull a second card. Now – what do you get from the two cards together? Where is the common ground, the tension? Adding a second card to a daily draw doesn’t have to take much longer, but it adds a huge amount to your learning.

Short readings are as good as long ones.

I’m a beggar for creating lengthy tarot spreads with seven, eight, ten cards, sometimes more. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a longer reading is necessarily better. You can spend an hour obsessing over your cards, getting deep into each one, finding the story, journalling, thrashing it out with a mate… and that’s awesome. I’ve had some of the most profound conversations (with a friend, or just with myself) this way. It’s intense and brilliant.

But that intensity and all that hard work? Sometimes – often – it’s just not realistic. As well as the time thing, sometimes you just don’t have the emotional wellbeing, the intellectual wherewithal, or the simple desire to go that deep or for that long.

So – do a short reading. So you only have ten minutes? Try a two-card spread, or three simple cards in a row. Get away from the feeling that to ‘do tarot’, you have to get super intense – your ten-minute reading can bring just as much insight and just as much value as an up-all-night tarot session, and will probably stick in your head a lot better, too.

Say goodbye

Choose a special time for occasional readings

Read on the full or new moon if that’s your thing, observing the shifting energy. Read to mark each festival of the wheel of the year. Read on Sunday nights to process the week and look ahead to the next one. Read on your birthday. Read in the bath.

Take your cards to the pub

If you go out a lot with friends, take your cards with you. If you’re a confident type, you could pull them out and read for a friend, or get everyone to take a card. Or maybe you find that totally nerve-wracking!! But you could still get your cards out and just allow people to play with them, explore them and talk about them. You might be surprised at the insights people can give you when they see tarot cards for the first time.

Get a tarot buddy

I can’t believe I just said the words ‘tarot buddy’. But seriously! Find a friend – if you’re lucky enough to have a pal in real life who’s also into their cards, then great, grab them. Or if not, join the Alternative Tarot Network or find someone you like on social media, and set yourself little challenges, such as…

  • Pulling a card for each other
  • Swapping readings
  • Checking in regularly to find out what each others’ daily cards were
  • Work though the Alternative Tarot Course together and swap notes about the exercises
  • Jointly read a tarot book like Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, and discuss the ideas that most resonated for you.

Join the Alternative Tarot Network

Guess what? There’s a whole social network with about 600 members devoted to tarot! It’s here, at community.littleredtarot.com.

People are asking questions and sharing answers, talking over cards they love or struggle with, swapping readings, posting readings for others to add their thoughts, geeking out about tarot decks, creating spreads and discussing all kinds of related topics including astrology, history, journalling and more.

It’s an encouraging, friendly place. If you want an online tarot community to inspire and motivate you, you should check it out!

Do it to be kind to yourself.

For many, the key thing you need here is a bit of commitment. I don’t say this to be patronising or annoying, but in response to the large numbers of you who confided that you could make the time and you really, really want to…but for some reason, you just don’t.

If that’s you, just sit with the idea of committing just a little bit of time to something you genuinely want – and how good it can feel to do that, without any pressure, just as something nice for yourself. It’s a luxury, but one you can probably afford: devoting just a short moment each day or week or whenever to giving yourself the pleasure of working with your cards. Little and often, bit by bit, if you keep picking those cards up, their images and ideas will seep into your consciousness and you’ll develop your understanding. For many of us it really is that simple, but you’ve got to want to do it, and you’ve got to know that you deserve it.

Brooklyn, NYC

So – those are just some starting points, but how about you? How do you squeeze in a little tarot when you can, or make space in your schedule? Any tips you’d care to share? And what specific barriers prevent you from working with your cards on the regular? Let’s discuss!

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30 comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    I swear by daily cards for study (obviously), but there’s an important thing I think needs to be said about it in regards to self care.

    “Daily” can vary. I have bipolar disorder. When I’m on a downswing, I count it as a win if I manage that four days in a week. It’s important to do as many days in a row as you can when you’re trying to establish the practice, but it’s at least as important to not get upset with yourself for missing days. It’s ok to miss one. Just start again the next day. It’s ok to pick up yesterday’s card and look at it again, and make that today’s card as well, if you’re not up for a new card or if you feel like you didn’t really “get it” yesterday. Don’t get mad at yourself, don’t feel like you’ve failed. You haven’t. It’s ok. You’re ok. Just keep trying. If you can’t manage it this week, try it next week.

    Another suggestion: Tell a story with the cards. I don’t mean draw cards and write a story using them. I mean the reverse. Have a story in mind, from your favorite book or movie, from your life, from the fanfic you wrote last week. Then pick out a sequence of cards that depict for you the major events of the story. Whatever events in it matter most to you.

    If that doesn’t quite make sense, I recommend the Italo Calvino book The Castle of Crossed Destinies / The Tavern of Crossed Lives, an interlocking set of short stories that people who have temporarily lost the power of speech tell each other using Tarot cards. In the Castle, they use the Visconti Sforza deck, each politely taking their turn. In the Tavern, using the Marseilles, they all “speak” at once, crossing their narratives with one another, Scrabble-style, using cards from one another’s narratives. Calvino doesn’t use traditional Tarot meanings, but instead allows just the illustration on each card to carry all the meaning needed, but it’s still a fascinating display of what one might do with the cards.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      I love the idea of telling the story in reverse – great idea. I used to do this not so much with stories but with situations – so, a thing will happen, and it’s like ‘which tarot card best illustrates this? How could I explain this with one (or two) card/s?’

      And in terms of ‘daily’, yes, yes yes. ‘Daily practice’ is awesome but as you say, that looks different for everyone. There is no point doing anything like this if it makes you feel bad.

  2. Shonna says:

    Get yourself a tarot app — now you can tarot on a bus, on a boat, on a train, in the rain, in Spain…

    I do a monthly general celtic cross and a new moon reading for myself with The Wild Unknown Tarot app, and then periodically pull them out as the month goes on to contemplate. I also use an app to do a daily draw occasionally.

    (full disclosure: I make tarot apps, but even if I didn’t I’d think they were great!)

    • Evvie says:

      I love tarot apps! Downloading some apps to my phone made it so much easier to keep a daily draw habit. I use my phone as my alarm clock, so it’s always next to me when I got to bed at night. Before falling asleep, I’ll pull a card or two and mull them over. I don’t have to take out and put away a deck, and I have multiple decks at my fingertips if I want to cross reference. (Bonus: If you’re an active dreamer, drawing cards before bed and meditating on them can connect card meanings to your dreamscape. We activate our intuitions and learn a ton through dreams, even if we don’t remember them all the next day.)

  3. Ali says:

    Daily cards are huge for me too. One way I’ve expanded on daily cards that’s really added a lot for me is this – I have a friend who likes me to read cards for her (she doesn’t read them herself). So as many days as I can manage, I also draw a single daily card for her and send her a short quick email about it. That’s been great practice for describing the cards to someone else.

    I also carry a deck with me wherever I go. Sometimes I’ll end up doing a one or three card reading for a friend, sometimes for myself. Sometimes when waiting I’ll just flip through them and try to come up with a couple words of description.

    Small amounts of time on a consistent basis really do add up.

  4. Becca says:

    I have a 2 year old and work from home so I definitely get this! Although I know it is important to TRY to journal, I’ve found I draw more cards when I tell myself I don’t have to journal every time. In other words, if the lack of time for journaling is actually preventing me from drawing a card, I’ll draw one anyway.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      That is such a good point. Journalling is awesome but it can make a simple moment into a chore if you don’t actually have time for it. It’s way more important to hold the cards in your hand for just a few seconds regularly than to put off doing a single card pull because you fear you won’t be able to spend time writing it all down.

  5. 3Jane says:

    Use a spaced repetition system (SRS) to learn the basic keywords for each card. (This is the kind of tool that people use to learn words in a foreign language, that quizzes you about words you learned after increasingly longer periods of time, optimised for how human memorisation works). Memrise is an example tool – has free and paid plans, has an iPhone app, and already has one Tarot course (although you can also make one yourself with your chosen keywords, which I’m going to do for Motherpeace.)

    Re: time – swap your normal bog reading material for a keywords list. Instead of playing games on your mobile, learn the keywords.

    Re: overwhelm, I like a quote from “The Artist’s Way” that goes kinda like this. “Do you know how old I will be by the time I learn this? The same age as if I don’t”.

    • erinfae says:

      Thank you so much for the memrise suggestion. i’m using it right now and feel it’ll really help me to learn more.

      As for me, i’ve always just used the collective tarot and just refer to the book that comes iwth it, but lately, i’ve been impatient with not having an intuitive approach.

  6. Moonstone says:

    Some fabulous ideas on here. I especially like the idea of taking a photo and using it as your screen saver for the day. How do people come up with these brilliant idea’s?

    I am also doing a tarot challenge on Instagram – 30 cards in 30 days based on set questions for the day. It is the most committed I have ever been and I am enjoying it so much. I would not commit myself to one every month as I don’t really like commitments, not because it is time consuming. If you miss a day or two you just catch up when you can, it’s not really carved in stone. It is surprising how many other participants pull the same or similar cards on the same day.

    I am using this particular challenge as a means of getting to know a new deck and it is very worthwhile. I feel I am picking things up from it due to the use that I wouldn’t get from just using it randomly. I may just use challenges when I want to get to know a new deck especially if it isn’t based on the RWS meanings.

    BB

      • Moonstone says:

        Hi Becca,

        I am on with the #devseptember challenge and there are a couple starting in October that I know of:

        @blackandthemoon has set #batmtarotchallenge

        @mnomquah has set #ShadowWorkOctober

        and @ethony & @gypsyarts have set one #innerwitchoctober but it isn’t strictly tarot, it is more an exploration of your pagan side.

        Hope these give you some ideas
        BB

  7. Coco says:

    Of course, daily cards! This is so helpful and simple; it deserves as much reiteration as it can get.

    Something that I find extremely helpful with my daily cards is to put what I draw out into the world (social media is perfect for this). Each day I ask the universe to help me draw the right cards for the day, and giving the results back to the universe by putting it out there for others to see, feels right to me. I use twitter for this, with the added bonus that it keeps my readings brief!

    The other recommendation that I have is to find some way to be creative with your cards, and one card is plenty to focus on at a time. But give it the opportunity to speak to you. There are so many ways to do this, so find the one that suits you! It can be as simple as keeping a stack of trace paper handy, so that when the mood strikes you can trace a card from your favorite deck; really seeing all of the images and symbolism that the artist has embedded in that card. Or taking a card to the library or movies and looking for where its theme to fits into the stories. I, personally, like to write haiku’s about them, using a notes app on my phone to do this whenever I find a free second. In the end, the point of this is that you don’t need to be stuck at a table to incorporate tarot into your life.

  8. KATHY says:

    Recently I find I am having some trouble getting to sleep. At first I would toss and turn. Now I use that time to do a bit of tarot study. When I finally do drift off to sleep it is with more uplifting thoughts.

  9. Tango says:

    If I had a dedicated space for reading my cards (like an altar, but not necessarily) that would certainly motivate me to interact with my cards more. Maybe even just commonly open space on a coffee table.

    Living on a sailboat, all space is occupied & everything is transient. Setting up my altar space has almost become a chore, which (for me) means I’ll begin to subconsciously avoid it. I’ve subverted this by allowing myself to read with just a candle, a resonant stone, and a cup of tea as my sacred space markers. I save the full altar shebang for deeper readings, especially ones that align with moon phases.

    For some a dedicated/sacred space might feel limiting, but for others it could be motivational (like, “look the elements are already present and my cards are right there waiting to be shuffled”).

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Tango – re boats and dedicated space, I feel you. Now I’ve got my studio I’m excited that for the first time I might have space for an altar!! But on the boat? Nope. And I do think having dedicated space helps. It’s not essential, but it helps.

  10. Ruby says:

    I have the Shadows capes tarot app that lets me draw a card every morning to contemplate. I try to read with my physical decks as frequently as possible, but sometimes it falls by the wayside.

  11. anemonerosie says:

    Are you one of those who is a fan of livechat or IRC?
    I admin a drop-in chatroom with a mental health focus. When we need to quickly change the topic I’ll pull a card to find one (we can only talk about food and cats so much in a day). I’ll also pull one to help me find self-care suggestions for folks who are struggling. I rarely feel that I’ve hit a mark, but the accuracy makes people cry with hope (they may have felt hopeless for days/months/years) on a regular basis. That’s pretty powerful! (It’s also why I have fewer qualms reading around certain healthcare topics than many other readers).

    Some of my members do this as well with oracle cards when they feel that the room needs a bit of a morale boost. It’s somewhat contagious. I suspect that this might also work in forums.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing this – how amazing you’re using cards in this way.
      And you know I think that’s part of the power of tarot, that ability to externalise what’s happening inside. We can know a thing deep down, like how strong we are, or what we really want in life, or whatever, and constantly ignore that wisdom…but if we see it in a ‘sign’, like a tarot card, or whatever, suddenly it becomes unignorable.

      • anemonerosie says:

        Agreed. Using them as a sign is definitely powerful. It’s good for me, too, because I can keep my brain full of things that aren’t conversation carriers or conversation starters.
        Plus it’s a good way to gain familiarity with topics that go beyond yet another relationship reading.

  12. Evvie says:

    Just wanted to add that allowing yourself a slow pacing with tarot is fine if that’s what you need and that’s what your life allows. I often get frustrated with my slow & steady development in all areas of my life (spoonies represent). It took me about 13 years of sporadic but steady tarot use to internalize all the cards, and I’m still learning. I am a tortoise. But when I look back on that time period now, it seems like a flash. Tarot is something you get to spend your entire life with. You don’t have to carve time for it every single day to do right by it in your practice. We all want more time to spend on the things we love. Not having as much time as you’d like doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong or not doing enough.

    • SJ says:

      I LOVE this. I’ve studied Tarot cards on and off for many years as well, and currently I *am* trying to figure out how to balance my health issues with getting familiar with my cards and saving my spoons for things like eating and buying groceries… A big part of the struggle IS letting myself be okay with being as slow as I am to progress on things. Because what matters right now is still that I’m alive and respecting my needs.

  13. Bianca says:

    I had a small spreadsheet for the Major Arcana and those weren’t a problem but gods, studying the minors looked so daunting. Then I had one idea, and even though it may not work for ‘deeper’ readings, it was easy to start with and gave me confidence with the minors. So I’m gonna share it – hopefully you’ll tell me if this could be useful for others as well!

    I took a sheet of paper and folded it so to have two columns. Then in one column I wrote the main domains of the four elements in Tarot (I took notes from Biddy Tarot and Tarot Elements, for example), and in the other the meaning of the numbers (1 for beginnings, 2 for choices and balance etc. etc.). Whenever I had time I’d ask a question, draw a card and then use the paper to decipher the meaning. So, for example, if I had had problems writing an essay and the Four of Pentacles came up, I’d think, “mmh, so four stands for stability and pentacles for material stuff and roots, so… maybe I haven’t enough data to support my theory.”

    Now I know that some cards require a lot more of interpretation, and that, of course, the imagery of the single deck can change the meaning a lot, but at the beginning it helped me truly a lot, and I still use that sheet every now and then when I need a fresh perspective (according to the principle of “more is less” XD)

    • Bianca says:

      Yeah, just realised it doesn’t really fit with the problem of having time to read Tarot. At least it helps to do readings a bit faster when you really don’t have timeXD

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