How to learn when you have no time

Updated: Feb 18

“Between working 9–6, some family time, an evening with friends and you know, a life — I simply don’t have time to take that course”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that sentence, or variations of it from friends of mine. Especially as we’ve progressed in time from our early 20s to our early 30s — kids, work, commutes —  they’ve all taken their toll.

Unfortunately, the need to upskill, career development and general lifelong learning has never been greater. And so the questions I keep on hearing: “How can I learn when I don’t have the time?”

How can I learn when I have no time?

The problem with online learning today is that it’s built around high friction time. I’ll explain. It’s built around video — Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, Teachable etc, all the online learning platforms are built around video.

Watching videos is a high friction activity. Think about it. You have to dedicate time to sit in front of your computer. That’s time you could be working, spending with your family, or just watching Netflix at the end of a long day. No one wants to dedicate that time to learning — we’ve got a regular life.

The solution lies in finding the time. You might not believe you have the time, but in truth you do. It all comes down to changing your frame of reference.

How can you learn when you don't have the time? Find the 'sand' time in your daily schedule - audio courses

Rocks sand and water

Our day is divided into three blocks of time as Sarah Tavel explains in her post on user engagement:

Events that span bigger blocks of contiguous time (“Rocks”), micro events that take advantage of attention gaps between or during those blocks (“Sand”), and things that can overlay over the other two (“Water”).
Each day, we fill our cup of 24 hours with some combination of the three (+the rare air bubbles), constantly allocating that time across and between our options to maximize our dopamine/serotonin/etc while at the same time fulfill our responsibilities to work, family, and health.

When you feel you have no time, you’re really talking about rocks. The blocks of time that are rocks are taken up: work, family, friends, sleep. But, and this is a big but, you still have all that sand time. At Alpe we call that ‘on the go’ time.

The time you have — on the go learning and audio courses

When my friends tell me that statement “How can I learn when I don’t have the time” — this is what I tell them. You have time, it’s your sand time. And the format that works is audio. Audio is our sand.

What is the time we do have? When we’re “on the go”: commuting, at the gym, washing dishes or at the grocery store. This is time our hands might be full, but our ears and minds are free. This is the power of audio. Audio fits into our daily routine when it’s convenient for us. — How on the go learning can save online learning

Audio courses are the answer to this. Your friends don’t have time to brush up on their market skills? We’ve got a course for that. Product Management? We’ve got a course for that. Productivity? Yup Yup Yup.

Everyone has time for audio. That’s the beauty of ‘sand’ time — it just fills up that empty white space between the rocks. And if you’re worried about not remembering what you’ve learned or being a visual learner, well, there’s a way around that as well, as we dive into here and explain here:

This starts with proper structuring of information and building in elements of spaced repetition, but doesn’t stop there. Spatial and audio cues can help. Repetition in key lessons can improve our learning. AI and personalization can improve this even more: imagine a “make your own adventure” lesson: struggling with a concept? No worries- we can repeat again during your morning commute tomorrow. On a training run? Great, we’ll have low focus material today. — How on the go learning can save online learning
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