Optimize your life #6 – The daily commute and audio books

In my last article, I talked about what kind of tasks we can successfully combine together to save time.  This article discusses one specific way to multitask that I find useful, which is listening to audio books while driving to work.

Best use of time – drive less

First things first.  The top thing to figure out about your commute is how you can shorten it.  Who wants to spend time trying to get to where you’re going instead of actually BEING there?  It is my sincere hope that one day someone invents the transporter from Star Trek and we all start blinking to and from work in no time flat.

With that said, plenty of people, including myself, need to drive to work due to wacky real estate prices and other life priorities.  That isn’t going to go away any time soon.  In fact, plenty of people just take the commute for granted…they’ve become used to it as part of their daily grind.  Well, this article is all about NOT taking that time for granted.  Let’s take a considered approach to how we can get the most out of that fixed time allotment.

How we drive

When we drive in a car, we’re somewhat of a captive audience.  Obviously, our main priority is to get wherever we are going, and, beyond that, our options are limited.  After all, we’re stuck in a car and most of our attention is on the road.  What are we going to do?  The only real options we have are listening to something and taking occasional glances at the environment passing by.

This is why one of the most frequent driving activities happens to be listening to the radio.  Unfortunately, there is very little inherent value to radio programming.  In fact, in most cases, the radio is only turned on because it’s better than the next best alternative, which is being bored outright while you drive.

Radio talk shows, for example, are by their very nature incredibly light on information.  They have to be, because most of it is formulated on the spur of the moment.  Plus, the shows you might be interested in listening to aren’t necessarily on when you are driving.

And let’s talk about music stations.  Music stations are fine as a source of entertainment.  After all, watching television doesn’t necessarily make you a better person, but it’s fun, and often social.  Entertainment is a good thing.  But let’s be serious here.  Do you really need to hear the same song 100 times?Are you getting anything out of that song, or are you just using it to fill dead air?  For example, I certainly wouldn’t watch the same TV shows over and over again.  But maybe if I had nothing better to do…which is exactly the category that the radio falls into. I would argue that the radio, past a rather low bar, is less about truly entertaining oneself than it is about filling up sunk time.

And that’s where audio books come in.

Audio books vs the radio

Make no mistake…listening to an audio book is slower than reading that same book.  When you’re driving, however, listening is the only reasonable way to take in information.  Listening to audio books during your commute is all about getting everything you can out of all that you’ve got.

Here’s why audio books are a better alternative to radio programming.

  1. You can choose what you want to listen to.  Oh, how important this is!  Let’s say you don’t know anything about managing your money, but you’d like to learn.  What do think the odds are that this topic is going to come up during your daily commute?  Just about zero.  On the other hand, finding an audio book on that topic is incredibly easy.  You can target your own specific needs and address them proactively.
  2. You can progress on your own schedule.  Even if you found out about a money management radio show, it’s probably not going to be on when you can listen to it or as often as you would like.  On the other hand, if you have the audio book, you can just cruise through the book at your own pace, consuming as much or as little as you like.
  3. You generally get much richer, denser, and higher quality content from an audio book than any radio program will provide.  A large quantity of books are not written to be fluffy or created on the fly.  Most books are edited with some degree of care and are intended to communicate serious concepts.   Radio programs, on the other hand, are produced with different objectives in mind.  You’ll simply learn more from audio books in less time.  Who can argue with that?

Obviously, there are some pretty good reasons why listening to audio books has advantages over daily radio programming.  I’ve listed them here, so it’s up to you as to whether or not you decide to take the plunge after reading them.  Next time, I’ll get to the nitty gritty details and make some concrete recommendations about equipment and best practices that will help anyone interested in getting rolling.

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