Don’t Make Time; Find Time

I love listening to a good podcast. Something like Radiolab or StartUp — things that make me think, teach me something new, spin me off on a philosophical tangent for a half hour.

But I never listen to them.

I Don’t Have Time for That

I have a constant backlog at work. I have friends I want to visit. I like to go outside when I’m not working.

Sitting quietly for 45 minutes to listen to the latest Radiolab? Sorry, but it’s not high on my list of things to do.

The time spent listening to a podcast is too easy for me to reallocate to things that I deem “productive”, and therefore I rarely listen to podcasts.

The only times I ever listen to podcasts are A) when a friend hears a particularly good one and goes out of his way to listen to it again while we’re hanging out, B) on a road trip1, or C) when I’m sick/hung over/burned out and can’t imagine doing anything other than passively listening to something while draped over my couch like a threadbare blanket.

“You Should Make Time”

If it’s important to you, you should make time for it.

When I hear that, I get a twinge of guilt. I should. I’m such a slacker. Why don’t I just make time to do this if it’s important to me?

Well, here’s the thing: I’m making a lot of time for a lot of important things already.

I’m currently making time to write this post.

Tomorrow, I will make time to go to the gym for an hour.

In the evenings this week I’ll be making time to meet with friends for dinners and drinks.

If I keep “making time”, I’m going to run out of hours for work, sleep, and showers.2 And if I prioritize the things I’m willing to make time for, podcasts definitely fall after writing, my health, and my social life.

So does that mean I should just give up on podcasts and write them off altogether?

Don’t make time; find time.

Find the Time

In a recent conversation, I brought all this up to Nate. “I’d love to listen to podcasts, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day, you know?”

Being a particularly avid podcast listener, Nate didn’t understand. “You can always find time to listen to a podcast.”

Nate fits his podcast listening into the spaces where nothing otherwise engaging is happening. While cooking dinner, he’ll throw on the latest This American Life instead of background music. Or while cleaning, or folding laundry, or some other menial task that is otherwise less-than-engaging, but unavoidable.

“How many minutes of your day are full of little spaces where you zone out? Where you’re taking care of something, but your brain is completely off?”

If I wanted to listen to more podcasts, I didn’t need to make time at all. I needed to use the time I already had more efficiently.

Finding the Time in My Day-to-Day

I don’t own a car. It’s a benefit of living somewhere like Portland — I’m close enough to pretty much everything that I can walk there.3

I can walk a mile in about 15–20 minutes. I don’t like to talk on the phone while I walk, and I find it really annoying when people walk and text, so I try to keep my phone in my pocket. This means my walks are typically spent daydreaming or thinking about stuff that I can’t deal with until I get wherever I’m going.

Or, now that I’m thinking in terms of finding time, my walks are one or two podcast episodes.

Today I’m at Water Avenue Coffee, which is just under two miles from my apartment. It took me about 35 minutes to walk here, and on the walk I listened to episode 3 of StartUp. On the walk home I’ll listen to the latest episode of Radiolab.

I’ll have spent no additional time that I wasn’t already going to spend, but I’ll have listened to two podcasts that I really enjoy. That’s two more podcasts than I listened to in the previous two weeks because I was too busy and couldn’t make time.

What else do I put off or skip altogether because I can’t (or won’t) make time? And where could I find the time to fit it into my existing commitments?

I’m not sure yet, but I certainly plan to find out.

  1. Road trips are a very rare thing for me nowadays; I no longer own a car and I usually travel solo, which makes airfare a cheaper, faster option in most cases.
  2. I include showers here because I’ve tried the work-is-more-important-than-showers approach. It’s not.
  3. Or bike, or car2go.

What to do next.

As adults, we’re supposed to build careers, build relationships, build futures, build happiness… It’s all pretty overwhelming. It’s easy to feel stuck — like we’re on autopilot, punching a clock, and buried in tasks we don’t really care about.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get some balance back? To have extra time every day to dedicate to the things that actually matter to you?

I want to help: I’ve compiled 5 Habits of the Unfuckwithably Productive, and I want to give it to you for free. These are time-tested habits that helped me break the cycle of overwork and exhaustion; this is how I spend less than 40 hours a week on the computer — while making a living and traveling the world.

Click here to get the free guide.