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 😉 ). 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 – 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
…and 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 🙁 ). 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 😉 )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!