My software developer colleagues often ask me where I do get all the time for reading all the tech books or articles, watching conference talks and listening to podcasts. I analyzed my consumption for November and December and here is, what I did (and that’s only the tech related content):

  • Listened to 7 podcast episodes: 5 hours
  • Listened to 1/2 of an audiobook: 7 hours
  • Watched 6 videos talks from some conferences: 6 hours
  • Read 3 books: 12 hours
  • Read plenty of articles on the internet and offline medium: 30 hours

Well, that’s 60 hours for two months (that seems huge) and 30 hours per months (seems reasonable), which means around 7 hours per week (seems doable) and 1 hour per day (that sounds easy!).

That’s one hour per day that has to be available for learning!

“Wait a minute! Should I sacrifice one hour of my precious spare time for learning things that I need for work? No way!!!”

You don’t have to (because you need that time for writing blog posts, coding and to prepare conference talks!)! It’s not “free time” aka time where I can do what I want (for parents: care and play with the children ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). It’s the time between working hours, free time and sleeping time. Let’s call it “duty time” (isn’t there a better term for that?). Duty time is the time that we have to spent for going to work, purchase food, cook dinner, going to sleep and so on โ€“ all activities we have to do besides your primary work.

The trick is to refine some of the duty time to learning time!

For example, I’m commuting every day 2×45 minutes to my workplace and back home. I need

  • 5 minutes to get to the train station with my bike
  • 10 minutes to wait for the (connecting) trains
  • 25 minutes actually on the trains
  • 5 minutes to get from the train to my working place

โ€ฆand vice versa. That alone makes 90 minutes of duty time per day! Or 80 almost freely available learning time (I don’t like listening to podcasts while I’m riding my bike, which makes 10 minutes that I can’t use per day)!

I also love cooking (but I also have to clean up the kitchen afterward ๐Ÿ™ ). Let’s say that takes me 40 minutes: 40 minutes duty time = 40 minutes time for watching videos of conference talks.

If I want to, I read in the evening (ok, that’s free time, so it doesn’t count) or listen to an audiobook to calm down or before falling asleep (yes, that’s also duty time!). That gives me easily another 30 minutes per day for free!

So I can easily transform 2.5 hours of duty time per day that I can use for at least 1 hour of learning time. I don’t even have to use half of the available time (that’s good because I’m not good at listening while I cope vegetables with a sharp knife)!

I think it also depends on the right tools for using the duty time efficiently, too. For example, I can’t do any housekeeping fully cabled or with a stationary desktop PC. So I’ve invested some money in optimizing my media consumption:

  • A small tablet (Dell Venue 8 Pro) for watching talks while working in the kitchen and traveling by train (luckily, a few sites allow you to download videos for offline viewing)
  • A smartphone with plenty of storage (Nexus 5, 32 GB) with a very good podcast app (Podcast Republic)
  • Two (because one for spare if the other is charging ๐Ÿ˜‰ )Bluetooth headphones (Philips SHB4000) for high quality, interruption free listening. I use them if I’m doing something alone or nobody in my family has to talk with me.
  • Wired Earphones with a good noise shielding capabilities.
  • A Bluetooth headset (Plantronics M55) and (since a week) bone conduction headphones (Aftershokz Sportz 3). That’s great if you still want to understand somebody while listening to something.
  • Some Bluetooth transmitters (CSL Bluetooth transmitter) for connecting non-Bluetooth audio devices to my Bluetooth headphones.

If I’m on the move, I mostly use my smartphone and the wired earphones. At home, it depends: If the kids are around while I’m doing work, I use the headset or bone conduction headphones, otherwise the headsets.

I also think it doesn’t matter that you’re 100% concentrated on all the stuff you consume this way. You’ll always get the key facts or main ideas. Really important information will be spared to be consumed in my free time anyway (because it’s worthwhile). For important stuff, I also write down some notes in a notebook that I have almost always on me. These notes will be (hopefully) featured in some upcoming blog posts.

There is plenty of time out there that wants to be spent well!

Update August 2023: I still do it this way and can keep up with the news in IT and more. What I would now also recommend: Practice listening to audio in at least twice the speed as the original! To get used to that, increase the speed every month by +0.1x !

Update end of August 2023: This blog post was on Hacker News. If you want to get other views on this topic, check it out!

How to find time to learn after work

21 thoughts on “How to find time to learn after work

  • January 10, 2017 at 7:54 AM

    Hi Markus,

    I can relate to all of this. I guess I should try and track all this myself as well! I’ve been cramming my “brain-idle-time” like this for years.

    I’m a heavy podcast listener too. I have a broad spectrum of podcasts for which I need different degrees of concentration, some of which – french daily news mostly – are perfect for listening while doing something else entirely ๐Ÿ˜‰ Have you tried raising the speed of the podcasts? Most apps allow it nowadays. If you go gradually, you can go up to 1.5x very easily. For some podcasts you will have to tune it down again depending on the speaker though.

    Last year I picked audiobooks with Audible and kind of manage to listen to 1 per month. But with my podcast load, that’s barely fitting.

    And bonus points for taking notes! I always have a notebook with me, or ask Siri to remind me things when I cannot type it down.

    Nice to find someone that has kind of the same workflow ๐Ÿ˜€

    Thanks for sharing

    • January 10, 2017 at 9:49 PM

      Hi Tim, I completely forgot about the speed function of today’s podcast apps. Thanks for reminding! Default speed is now at 1.2x ๐Ÿ™‚ .

  • April 29, 2018 at 5:34 PM

    I think I do it more or less the same. And this is a good approach, to get some basic idea of all the latest topics. But from my point of view, it is a conpletely other beast if I really want to get into something. For example, O heard the basic ideas about deep lerning for maybe 10 tomes from different authors. But to really be able to do it, I would have to spend several evenings at the keyboard to get the helloworld example of recognizing handwritten numbers done. And several further evenings to implement my own ideas. And this time is very seldom, since there is always something more urgent. So how much time did you really spend learning stuff like this in the last two months and how did you managed to do it?

    • April 30, 2018 at 5:29 AM

      Yes, you have to spend several evenings or weekends for learning completely new things like deep learning. There is no way around that. In my case, I don’t watch TV in the evening but program my way through online courses (e. g. using or watch videos (e. g. on If I know the fundamentals of a new technology / approach, then I switch from learning to applying. That’s how I’ve learned the new stuff in the last months: I’ve either learned the things by preparing workshop content or blogging about it ๐Ÿ™‚ !

  • August 29, 2023 at 8:35 AM

    Neoliberale Selbstoptimierungskacke!

  • September 7, 2023 at 12:44 PM

    I would love to hear how can you learn when you don’t have time slots when you can listen to *anything*. My commute time is super short (about 2 songs), I don’t cook, I never clean the home by myself, and usually spend my free time with some kind activity, never spending my evenings with doom scrolling or binge watching.

    • September 25, 2023 at 7:12 AM

      That’s great! Then, you can just use your free time! E.g., I also like listening to podcast while I’m on a hike.

  • September 7, 2023 at 1:42 PM

    That’s a compelling thought. However, I believe we need designated device-free periods. Spending 8 hours on a computer, continuously streaming on Spotify, texting on our phones, and watching Netflix before sleep can be overwhelming. It’s crucial for our well-being to occasionally pause, observe our environment, let our minds wander, and even embrace boredom. Constant stimulation and filling every spare moment might not be in our best interest.

      • September 25, 2023 at 7:17 AM

        Yes, just consuming stuff doesn’t create new stuff. That’s why I want to have dedicated time slots where I consume absolutely nothing, but being creative just with a piece of paper.

    • September 9, 2023 at 11:49 AM

      I agree with main idea and also use something like that, but have some concerns – listening to during other activity (like cooking, housekeeping, running etc) is fine, but IMO only for fiction stuff. For some scientific, knowledge, it’s worth to make notes, and then it will be more challenging. Maybe voice recording? Not sure, it’s just idea

      • September 25, 2023 at 7:23 AM

        Exactly! I want to have some dedicated premium time with my wife and kids but I also need to learn new stuff. That’s why I’m doing this. It’s a nice sweetspot for me.

        Regarding keeping the new stuff in your head: I tried to keep notes while listening to podcasts and videos and even put some of them on my blog (see e.g. here). But I had to stop this because cooking took forever, and other family members were complaining . I also see it this way: When you listen to so much stuff, topics are repeating. And if they are repeating, then you know, it’s important to remember this stuff. I also skip back to the part of a podcast or video when a very important aspect was mentioned.

    • September 25, 2023 at 7:15 AM

      Highly agreed! That’s why I’m putting those days to day learning stuff in a time slot that’s not so precious for me. I like my device-free time slots during the day.

  • September 7, 2023 at 4:56 PM

    Adobe Reader on Android can read aloud the text.

    That also good to transform a text to a podcast ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  • September 9, 2023 at 4:28 PM

    Great article. I do need to find technics to find time to keep on learning.

  • September 20, 2023 at 3:41 PM

    Hi, I was just wondering if you have any tech-related podcasts to recommend?

  • December 31, 2023 at 9:43 AM

    How about your kids and their future? Someone will need to look after us when we are old and infirm, don’t you agree?

  • February 13, 2024 at 12:40 AM

    Thanks for the article, Markus…
    Its nice to see such detailed plan…
    I am encouraged to follow on…
    Its a struggle (after finishing 9-5 job) to finish off laundry, cooking tasks and talking to kids and tucking them to bed…
    once all that happens, its just fun to learn new things or research on a problem you encountered at work.
    I dont have that travel time


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