Round about now, it might be useful to note how I take in information, and what I do with it.
I’m laying this out not because I think anyone else should do things the way I do, but because doing so gives a way to talk about some other possible approaches and issues, and figuring out what choices might work for you.
You should know about me…
I have – for reasons related to the chronic health issues – a pretty set routine about my life. This means my day to day is pretty consistent (and that I try to keep it like that.)
I read very fast compared to most people, but find watching videos for active content very tiring (and I also have a very limited amount of time that’s something I can reasonably do.) Audio’s somewhere in the middle: I can only do some things while listening to podcasts, but they include driving and time at work.
(I’m also laying this out because I’ve been thinking a lot recently about different kinds of media and how I use them, for an upcoming post, and explaining it here will make it easier to reference when I get there…)
Where I get things
The former takes me about 10-15 minutes to read several times a day, unless someone’s made an extra long thinky post, the latter runs between about 20 minutes a day and an hour or more, depending on what replies I make.
I have a large number of blogs in my Feedly rss reader, and they produce about 120-200 posts a day. A number of these are from very busy sites (Metafilter and Ask.Metafilter) where I read only the ones I find intriguing from the opening, and it also includes a handful of Tumblr blogs where the posts tend to be short.
On an average day, I probably read 30-50 actual posts, and skim a lot of others.
I find Metafilter and Longform.org both fabulous for finding longer in-depth reading material that gets me looking at things from a different perspective, or getting me to read about something I might not have selected.
I dip into Twitter, though I have lists set up so I can keep up with a few close friends on there, and skim other things as I have time.
Finally, on the news front, I have digital subscriptions to two papers and one of my local NPR stations. They all send me at least daily updates on new stories, and I click through the ones that interest me. (Plus various other newsletters, information from organisations I donate to monthly, and the other stuff that happens in email.)
I have a long To Be Read pile, read some amount of fanfiction on a regular basis (some of which can be quite long). These days, most of my reading is in electronic form (three long distance moves will convince even the most ardent adorer of books that moving the physical objects is a pain in the neck. And the arms and the back.)
So I mostly only buy print of titles I might want to lend out or reference with people in future (Pagan titles, mostly, or things where the print layout really matters) and everything else is digital. Conveniently, this also means I can walk around with 600+ books in my pocket, and never have to have the “Might I run out of book while out today? I’d better bring another one” mental discussion with myself, like I do with print.
My ebooks go into Marvin, an app that has a very functional list feature. I move items into “to be read” lists by broad genre (fiction, non-fiction, and Pagan) so I can skim different things, and then have a “read next” list for things I want to read sooner than later, a “read” list for things I’ve read, and so on.
I read about 10 books a month, give or take, though I’ve had months where it’s only about 4, and months with 15 or more (especially if I’m travelling.) In months where I’m short on brain, it’s a lot of reading things I already know something about, or rereading old favourites.
I’ve read for at least 10 minutes (and usually more like 30) every night of my life I could read, except for a handful of times. Since I do most of my reading on my phone these days, I also do a lot of bits of reading at other times (waiting for my work computer to boot in the morning, while things are processing, etc.)
I got the podcast bug fairly hard within the last year or so. I actually have three different kinds of podcast listening I do.
I swim three days a week before work, and I have a waterproof MP3 player and headphones. I put them in when I get ready to swim, and turn it off after I’ve showered and changed and gotten back to my car, which is right around an hour total. Keeps me from getting bored. I mostly go for longer ones here, and usually with multiple hosts, because I find that easier to follow early in the morning.
Some of my work tasks involve routine sorting of information that gets a little tedious, so I listen to podcasts while I’m doing that.
Since I work in a school (not directly with students, but with a range of people nearby at times), I want to be attentive to content, so I avoid some topics and podcasts. I mostly aim for history podcasts about topics I know something about (but not tons) which works out well for me.
My commute is about 25-40 minutes (depending on traffic) and I listen to podcasts there. This is when I’ll listen to other content (there’s a couple of spooky or true crime ones that I won’t listen to at work, or Pagan/esoteric topics, and I avoid explicit political discussion there too.)
A lot of my video watching is material I am already familiar with – it’s what I have on while I’m home after work (or on the weekends) doing other things online.
Right now, I’m watching Classic Doctor Who from the beginning (BritBox made all the surviving episodes available streaming last year: I’ve seen them all at one point or another, but in many cases, not for decades.)
I usually get through 1-2 hours in a given night, but if I need to really focus on content, then the video is the only thing I’m doing, and time for that is a lot harder to come by.
What that looks like in a day
On the average workday, I get up, read my core online spaces, get dressed, get my things together, and drive to work, while listening to about 30 minutes of a podcast. (Some days I go swimming, first, and listen to about an hour of podcasts while swimming. Either way, I’m out the door within 30 minutes of getting up.)
I go to work. Sometimes I can’t listen to anything (because there are other people – volunteers, interns, visiting researchers – working in my office.) Sometimes I listen to music. Sometimes it’s podcasts. It probably comes out to 3-5 hours of podcasts a week.
During this time, I’ll take breaks while I’m waiting for things to run, check in with the core online spaces, read blog posts, and so on.
I drive home (another 30 minutes of a podcast), get home around 5 and do things like make dinner, be sat on by the cat, eat dinner, and other necessities.
From here, on a good day, I’ve got about 3 hours of time I could do something with (including making and eating dinner) before my concentration goes away. On a bad day, I’ve already run out of focus. That’s due to multiple chronic health issues that can play havoc with concentration, focus, and ability to process new stuff at all efficiently.
This is my time for writing (hi!), reading more blog posts, knitting, making images for the blog, some kinds of other project work, and basically any other small hobby things.
This is also the only slot where I can actually watch video. So for me, video has to be really extra important for me to make the time for it. Written material (blog posts, books) or podcasts, I’ve got multiple places I can do them, and they take me a lot less processing energy.
It’s often a question of “Watch this video thing attentively or write a blog post?” or “Watch this video attentively or help out a friend with a question” or “Watch this video attentively or do this project” Most of the time, the video loses.
About 9pm, I start wrapping up, do one more pass through my core online spaces, and I try to be lying down in bed by 10. I read for 15-30 minutes (This is my one solid book-type reading time, though I read in small chunks at other times during the day. I read about 10 books a month, to give you an idea of my text to audio processing ratio.) Then I fall asleep.
How does that add up?
In total, my average weekday involves:
- 1-3 hours of audio material
- 30-60 minutes of reading a book
- 1-2 hours of background video time
- A hard to count amount of time in text-based online spaces (reading, commenting, etc.) but probably 3-4 hours most days.
- Little focused video time (an hour once or twice a week at most, usually)
My weekend time is obviously a bit more flexible – there’s no going to work in there! – but it’s also when I work on larger projects at home, or just relax.
Where do you get your information, and what forms work for you?
I share some of the reading I’ve found particularly interesting in my fortnightly newsletter (and a new one will be out on Wednesday) so if that’s a thing you’re intrigued by, you can sign up over here.