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 πŸ˜‰ ). 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 πŸ™ ). 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 πŸ˜‰ )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!


How to find time to learn after work

4 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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜€

    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 πŸ™‚ .

  • 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 πŸ™‚ !


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