Narek posted the following comment that made me realize that the focus of this blog might encourage people to shift the work life balance to the extreme side of work:
It’s sad that you consider everything in life must be done productively.
“Wasting Time in the Car — Subscribe to podcasts and get a connector for your MP3 player in your car. Spend your time learning instead of just sitting there driving.”
That’s what pushed me over the [edge].. dude you just got to relax, just because something you are doing isn’t making your life more productive doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time.
Sometimes it is nice to just drive around to get out of the house or relieve stress. Listening to music in the car isn’t a waste of time either. Get a life, buddy.
Narek is right about one thing. I do want to do pretty much everything as productively as possible. When I work, I want to accomplish as much as I can in the shortest amount of time. When I relax, I want to really relax. I’m not focusing on being productive because work is the most important thing to me. I love my job, but I work so I can do other, more important, things.
When it comes to listening to audio while driving, let’s look at what I’m actually suggesting–that people take some of the time spent driving and use it to invest in themselves. By making yourself more valuable you should be able to spend less time working each year to derive the same monetary benefit.
Here is my personal example:
For the past 5 to 7 years, I’ve spent about 2 hours per week listening
to spoken audio. (This almost seems trivial compared to how much time
the average American spends watching television.) That means over the
past 5 years I’ve listened to about 500 hours of lectures, books,
technical discussions, etc. To put that in perspective, a Master’s degree usually requires 400 to 500 hours of listening to lectures. And all I had to invest was time spent on long drives (when I
usually get bored anyway) and while exercising (I spend a lot more time
in the gym when I’m listening to something interesting).
As a consultant, I am selling two things. My intelligence and my knowledge. I am of only average intelligence, so to justify my hourly rate, I have to invest in acquiring and keeping my knowledge current .
The enjoyable two hours I spend listening each week helps to keep me up-to-date in my areas of expertise.
Since my knowledge is up-to-date and continually growing, I can charge a much higher premium as a consultant than the average employee. This allows me to spend less time working and more time doing other things I enjoy.
In the past 6 months, I have spent more time vacationing than most people will in two years. I often work fewer hours than some people spend just on their commute.
To me, this is being productive. I get to work less and play more. Part of what lets me do this is the time I spend learning while driving and exercising.
I still have a lot of bad habits that waste time or get me distracted on things that aren’t really important, but I am making progress. For me, what is most exciting is seeing that my investment in personal
development over the past 10 years starting to pay off in terms of productivity–which means more free time to spend with people I love and do things that I really care about.
So yes, I do have a life–and the more I invest in my personal productivity, the richer it becomes.
Edit: RAS pointed out some problems with my original comparison to lecture time in a bachelors degree. I have revised it to compare with something where I more recent experience.
I agree with you that more work-related productivity can provide more time and energy for more personal, now-work related pursuits, such as family time and leisure. But permit me to take issue with your example that,
“For the past 5 to 7 years, I’ve spent about 2 hours per week listening to spoken audio. (This almost seems trivial compared to how much time the average American spends watching television.) That means over the past 5 years I’ve listened to about 500 hours of lectures, books, technical discussions, etc. That is four times the classroom lectures included in a typical bachelor’s degree. Four times!
Your estimate is more than 3 times lower than actuality. Assume the typical bachelor’s degree is a minimum of 120 credit hours. That’s roughly 40 3-credit-hour courses. The standard 3-credit-hour course requires about 42-45 hours of contact time–that is, class time. It is classroom contact time that would be equivalent to your time in the car with recorded audio. So multiply 40 courses X 42 hours of contact time and the typical bachelor’s degree is 1680 hours-almost 3.5 times your estimate. And that doesn’t include the commonly recommend 1.5 hours of study time per contact hour outside of class.
(A professor and college administrator at a large state university.)
I too suggest that your estimate is low. My BA involved at least 1800 classroom hours, by my estimate.
A 4-credit course typically met 3x/wk for about 1.25 hours/time. That’s 3.75 hrs/wk/4 credit course. A 16 week semester makes 4 credits equivalent to about 60 classroom hours. 120 credits to graduate means 1800 hours of class time.
That does not include lab time for lab science courses. And, my BA included lots of half semester courses worth 2 credits–but those classes met just over 4 hours/week, which again, makes my estimate of 1800 on the slightly low side.
On a side-note, the homework involved where I went to school was extremely heavy and significant toward earning my BA. I’d say 3,000 hours of learning is a low-ball estimate of BA hours (lecture and non-lecture).
Your suggestion that 500 hours is over 4 times a typical BA’s classroom time doesn’t hold water: At 125 hours per BA and 120 credits to graduate, you’re only putting in about an hour of lecture time per graduation credit. That’s like attending a little more than one week of typical lecture schedule per course.
@RAS and Dylan — You are both correct and I have modified the post accordingly. I remember thinking that it sounded a little strange when I first wrote it down, but it was late so I didn’t recheck it for obvious errors. Thanks for both of your input in correcting my numbers.
Ron Larson says
May I suggest another way of looking at this issue? The other day I heard the phrase “take control of your media diet”. I really like it.
What you were trying to say is for people to consider their media “diet”. They can consume junk (pop radio with ads), or they can consume quality media.
The key word here is quality. Remove the junk. Your quality media does not have to be work only. But work related training and education media is better than junk media.
I stopped listening to terrestrial radio a couple of years ago. I now only listen to (1) podcasts, (2) books on MP3, (3) music of my choosing, (4) silence.
I find the best combination for me is half podcast and half silence. The silence lets me think over my day, sort out my ideas, and think things over. The podcasts I use to learn when I don’t want to think about my work.
And to relax, books on MP3 is great for long trips. I get them free from the library and rip them in iTunes.
@Ron – When I was working on my bachelor’s degree in music, I would intentionally not watch television the week before I had piano juries (playing several pieces for my final grade). I found that television cluttered my ability to really concentrate on memorizing the music.
My audio media diet is similar to yours. Non-fiction books, industry news, and college lectures make up most of what I listen to. Oh and Mozart piano sonatas.
When I’m driving, I find that I have to spend about half the time with silence as well. I can’t fully absorb a lot of what I’m listening to unless I take some time to think about it.
Mike St. Pierre says
Mark, I’m a huge book on tape fan and use my drive time as well for learning. While I hear what Narek is saying (and sometimes random listening is ok), I’d rather bankroll knowledge than just fill my head with “chewing gum for the brain” and channel switching for 45 minutes.
Why look at it as “productive” use of time? Does it matter if you enjoy it completely? Lectures from a person with the art of thinking/speaking is a wonderful way to unwind and relax. Like listening to a well written novel, or a symphony… I thinking “justifying” the use of our time by calling it “productive” is the worst form of capitulating to an economy that is driven by our identification with the production/consumption paradigms. Just enjoy great words/ideas for their own sake.