If I were to choose one habit that would have the most significant positive impact on a person's life, it would be continuous lifelong learning through books and audiobooks.
I often ask people if they read or listen to books. Among those who don't, the most commonly cited excuse is, "I don't have time."
If you would like to get the equivalent of a university education every year for the rest of your life on whatever subject interests you with no extra time commitment and for only a few hundred bucks, keep reading.
Reading paper books takes time. There is tremendous value to reading, but we have many hours per week that we spend doing tasks that don't require our full mental attention. These are times we could be listening to audiobooks.
Audiobooks are simply books that are read to you by a narrator. They contain the knowledge acquired over a lifetime by smart people who have done much work to record their ideas in an easily digestible format - available to you for $10. The return on investment of books is mind-boggling!
Of course it's the non-fiction books that will make you smarter and provide you with actionable insights. Reading non-fiction books will make you more knowledgeable. All else being equal, if you're more knowledgeable, you:
make better decisions
get better results in your life
are more valuable to your family, friends, and community
are more likely to avoid costly mistakes
For those who "don't have time" to read, here are some ways you can start listening to audiobooks with no additional time investment.
Listen to audiobooks in the car. Turn your car into a rolling university. This alone will change your life. The average American spends 293 hours behind the wheel each year. If you listen to audiobooks for 80% of that time, that's the equivalent class time of a college semester right there. This one is easy to do. News and talk radio is mind poison, and how many times do you really need to hear that song?
Listen to audiobooks when you're exercising. I get it; you might want some motivating music if you're doing a high-intensity short workout. If you're doing a longer workout such as running, walking, biking, rowing, or a longer gym session, try listening to an audiobook. I recently started listening to audiobooks on my trail runs. It has given me more motivation to run since I feel like my time is maximized by getting exercise and learning things to improve my life simultaneously.
Listen to audiobooks while you're doing mindless tasks. Some tasks you do throughout the day are habitual and don't require your mental attention since they're more or less automatic. These are great times to listen to audiobooks. Here are some ideas:
brushing your teeth
taking the trash out
cleaning the house
making coffee or tea
going to the bathroom
refilling your water bottle
walking down the hall to speak to a coworker
Do not listen to audiobooks when you're working. Working should be a task that requires your full focus and attention. You cannot put your attention on listening and working at the same time. Both will suffer as a result.
How do you get started listening to audiobooks?
Get an Audible account and the app.
Buy credits (it's like $10 per book).
When you listen in the car, connecting your phone to your car's audio is easy with Bluetooth or a cord. You can play the audio right out of your phone or use headphones or earbuds for all the other times. Personally, I use "bone conduction" headphones for running and during mindless tasks.
So that's it. We all have time to learn. The question is, is it worth it to you?