Bend time to learn more

I want to learn more.

More about what? Doesn’t really matter. Almost anything. I once actually got sucked into a documentary about a font!

I love books, movies, and podcasts. The problem? Not enough time.

I’m here to suggest two solutions. Bur first, a quick sales pitch for audiobooks and podcasts.

Are you a person who thinks you didn’t really read a book if you only listened to it? If so, I urge you to reconsider. Audiobooks have two main advantages:

  1. You can “read” when your eyes are otherwise occupied–walking, driving, etc.
  2. The narrators are often the author herself, which adds an extra dimension when they add their own emphasis and style. Other times, an entire voice cast is used–it’s like an old-timey radio show!

Now, about podcasts. Yes, it seems everyone has one. Yes, there is a bit of tech know-how needed to subscribe and listen. Here’s the thing–they’re worth it. A couple of life-changing podcasts to get you started:

  1. This American Life – completely unique human interest stories. A universal hit with my family.
  2. The Daily – 20 minutes each weekday for a dose of real information – not talking heads screaming at each other.

So what does any of this have to do with “bending time”? Here are the two solutions I promised:

Audible at 1.5x
Audible is the leading audiobook marketplace. In addition to the sheer joy of listening to a book performed for you, Audible allows you to increase playback speed. More book in less time! I use 1.5x because any faster and my brain start to hurt. You may be able to go even faster.

Overcast with SmartSpeed
Overcast is my favorite podcast app. It’s iOS only, sadly, but it has a really cool feature called SmartSpeed that, when enabled, automatically sense silences and theme songs and speeds up to cut down on playback time. My experience is almost 1.5x using SmartSpeed.

With these time bending features I can get more learning in. You can too!

What’s with the title? Why so morbid?

I actually thought long and hard before naming this blog Not Immortal.   I almost named it Time Is Time (as a counterpoint to the phrase, “time is money”) and Dead One Day (which seemed a bit too much).

The reason I kept the macabre, slightly-depressing title is because we need the reminder.  None of us likes to think about death.  We, as humans, are wonderful rationalizers:

  • I can have another brownie.  I’ll take the stairs to my office tomorrow.
  • I’ll play $50 more at the craps table and then, win or lose, I’ll walk away.
  • I don’t need to wear my seat belt.  I’m only going up the street to get groceries.

We use this skill most effectively when we bury the knowledge of our own impending demise.  I think I ponder death a lot, and still I can go days not thinking about it.

Why shouldn’t we bury those thoughts, you ask?  What’s the point in obsessing over mortality; we can’t change it anyway.

I agree that spending time thinking about death itself is wasteful.  The key thing is remembering that the time between right now and your last day is not a vast expanse.  People constantly write poems and songs on the “if today was your last day” theme, and when you ask people, they’ll have some pretty clear thoughts on how to spend their last day.  Usually taking a job and shoving it ranks high on those lists.

Why are we so good at seeing the need to live differently on our last day, but so bad at seeing the same need for our last days?

I read an interesting article about a guy who uses one of those countdown clocks (17 days until vacation!) on his computer to remind him how many days he has left on Earth.  I used his calculations and figure I have around 12,000 days left (less if I don’t get better at resisting buildings with drive-thru windows!).  In one sense, that seems like a big number.  But when I think that I’ve already had more than that many, I get more nervous.

So, that’s why this blog is here.  Partly for me as a reminder to live conscious of my mortality and partly as a way to help you do the same.   I want to explore the balance between using our limited time wisely and enjoying the time we have.

Hopefully the mood around here will be sunnier than the title implies…

Photo courtesy of spoonmonkey.

How important is a clean house?

I’ll admit I have a bias here.  Ever since I was little, I’ve been a bit of a clean freak.  I remember being young (under 12) and sweeping my bedroom carpet with a broom because the vacuum cleaner was broken!  My kids will happily tell you several stories about “Dad’s issues”.

Bias aside, I make the case here that cleanliness is important.  It improves the quality of our lives.  Here are some examples:

The magic of empty space

We have a large dining room table.  It’s not ornate—just a big slab of butcherblock-like Ikea wood.   It attracts stuff that really belongs elsewhere.  Wrapping paper, ski clothes, old homework and tests.   I am militant about keeping it clear.

Why?  We use it for meals about four times a year.  Who cares, right?

I care.

When clear, it’s a wonderful space.  Good for working on school projects, playing board games, Perler beads, the list goes on.  I contend that none of these activities happen without first having an appropriate space.  Empty space = possibility.

Losing psychic weight

You have a junk drawer in your kitchen, don’t you?

Yes, you do.   I do too.

It makes sense for most of us.  Where else do you put the chopsticks, the random screwdriver, and the manual for the toaster oven that you’ll never read but are too nervous to pitch?

The problem with junk drawers (and junk dining room tables, and junk closets, and so on) is that they get so cluttered up that it becomes depressing to look at.  Much like checking items off a to-do list feels good, and not checking them off due to procrastination feels bad, clearing items out of your life feels good.  It may not seem that way when you’re initially decluttering, but trust me, when you open the newly-spartan drawer or open that nearly-empty closet, you’ll love it.

Steps toward minimalism

Zen Habits is a blog I read regularly.   The author, Leo Babauta, has many good ideas, and I have implemented many of them.  He has adopted a minimalist lifestyle, only keeping the stuff that adds value to his life.

Not only is that a good idea, but it minimalism lends itself naturally to cleanliness.  No need to pick up the stuff you don’t have in the first place!

I highly recommend Leo’s mnmlist.com site for more minimalism inspiration.

A final note of clarification: when I refer to cleaning, I’m mostly talking about decluttering.  I really don’t care about “true cleaning” like disinfecting, scrubbing, and even dusting (most of the time).   I equate cleaning with the act of getting rid of stuff and organizing what remains.

Do you disagree?  Anyone want to make the case that cleaning is a waste of our limited time on Earth?
Photo courtesy of Brian Teutsch
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