I have a lot of what I had called downtime in the past, lets call them lost hours. I have a one hour to one hour and fifteen minute commute each way to and from work each day. On top of that, I am an Audio Visual IT Support Technician for a large school district. From the North end of the county to the South can take an hour and a half or more to traverse in my work truck and the East to West is just as long, and with 46 schools to support with only one other person in my specialty, I spend a LOT of time between schools. I have always had a desire to be a lifelong learner but that time used to be spent listening to the radio or just whatever. I despised it and here is why:
First, the state of Christian radio in America is abysmal. Seriously. You can listen to it for a few weeks and then not listen for 6 months. The day you turn it back on 6 months later there will be the exact same songs still playing. Let’s be honest, it is the same songs that were playing a year or two ago as well. This is not to say there are not great new songs and artists out there…. They just get NO PLAY for some reason. Infuriating.
Second, I am a firm believer in my life goal of trying to learn how to do absolutely everything I can as well as I can. I intend to be a voracious and constant learner because I think that makes me a more capable man, husband, and father. I am talking welding to baking, small engine repair to farming. Carpentry to blacksmithing and butchering to hunting. There is something deep inside me that simply desires to be so self-sufficient that I can do almost anything for myself and my family and friends.
Finally, I do not like to be idle. It is not that I am a busy body who MUST be doing something at all times, it is just that I view a lot of the time that I spend idle as being wasted time in my life. By wasted, I mean it is time that I could have spent in a more responsible or productive way. I can’t help but view it as time I COULD have spent doing something else; something productive. Because of that stance, I was very frustrated with how my commutes to and from work and my time in truck between stops was disappearing into the void. I had to do something.
So I sat down one evening and totaled up what my estimate was of the amount of time I spent in the vehicle in a given week. I have two hours per day of commute to and from work (an hour each way), and on a typical day I will spend between two and three hours in truck between stops at schools so I used two hours for my calculation… go on the small side. So ten hours a week back and forth to work and another ten to fifteen hours sitting in the truck driving. 20 to 25 hours PER WEEK that was being spent listening to the same old tired songs, arrogance on talk radio, or Dave Ramsey on the way home.
That means that in a 50 work week year I was going to spend 1000+ hours doing…..nothing. All that would happen is I would become more angry with the CCM scene, listen to more arrogant and opinionated commentary on politics, or become a black belt level expert on how Dave Ramsey answers questions. In a brief period of introspection and reflection I decided that this was not what I wanted to be.
This is a bigger issue in my mind now than it was before, but were my calculations TRUE to what actually occurs in a normal week for me? In short, yeah. I calculated my actual time over the next week to know for sure. I spent 11 hours 14 minutes commuting to and from that week, and 17 hours 12 minutes driving at work. 28 hours and 26 minutes on a fairly mundane week. That comes out to more than 1400 hours a year. Something has to change. This is TOO MUCH wasted time.
I need some ways to redeem this time without a big expense on my part. I immediately thought audio books, but didn’t want to pay……Public Library. I started out by asking my wife to get me some C.S. Lewis books on CD the next time she was at the library with the kids. She picked up The Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity, and the Screwtape Letters to start. No CD player in the work truck but I had reclaimed those 11 hours of commuting each week. I thought maybe I can rip the audio of these CD’s and play the MP3’s on my phone and then delete when I am done…… but for some reason Mere Christianity and The Screwtape letters both showed up on my computer as being albums by a German metal band and overwrote themselves. No go there.
Then I saw an article on the Facebook page for Art of Manliness that talked about their podcast and the light clicked. I should find a few of those that cover topics and information I would like to expand myself with and go for it. I wanted to learn…. anything. So I started researching what podcasts I should consider. I started to assemble my list and then I had to pick a player to download and play them from. That ability was important to me because I did not want to burn up my wireless data so the ability to download on Wi-Fi at home and take with me was important.
I ended up landing on Player FM as the app I was going to use. I can download the ones I want, put together playlists, and it works well. Then I had to start subscribing and downloading. I pulled down ones on how certain government functions are carried out, innovative technologies, inspirational talks, sermons, lectures, and a few for pure entertainment. The podcast world is deep and wide for sure with casts ranging from just a couple of minutes to multi hour lessons that can fill a day. I started getting more and more of them and then I realized that I was hooked.
I think that the clincher for me was this, I personally needed to find a way to take something that becomes wearing and grating and annoying like a commute, and I turned it into one of the better parts of my day. Learning and expanding my understanding of things, discovering alternate points of view, and molding myself into a more rounded human during what would have been throw away hours was becoming my norm. I now view my commute in an entirely different way, and it has made my days better, improved my attitude, and I love that. Find a way to redeem your lost time. There are only so many hours in our lives and using them in redeemable ways is of extremely high value.
What do you do to fill your periods of idleness? Have a favorite Podcast? Let me know.
Here are some of the podcasts that I listen to:
HBR Ideacast – Harvard Business Review’s Ideacast has some really cool things that come up on it that are quite interesting
How To Do Everything – This is like a digital survival guide for life. Lots of fun and interesting topics
Stuff You Should Know – It is a podcast about stuff you should know, hosts have a left leaning liberal bias, but lots of good information to be had
The Ted Radio Hour – Hosted by Guy Roz this is just a great podcast that is an amalgam of great Ted talks and interviews with those who gave them
The God Dad Project – There are tons of mom blogs and podcasts so one that focuses on dads is pretty refreshing. Good stuff here
The Dave Ramsey Show – Great financial advice that grandma would have given. Motivational and informative on personal finance, real estate, and getting out of debt
Freakonomics – In this podcast the hosts “explore the hidden side of everything”. Enlightening and sometimes infuriating
99% Invisible – Explorations into the mostly invisible and un-thought of worlds of design and architecture in our everyday lives. One of my favorites.
The Way I Heard It – Mike Rowe’s podcast. Interesting stories and anecdotes. Awesome stuff
Art of Manliness – Podcast of the website Art of Manliness
Radio Lab – Unique and unusual…. This is a show about curiosity into anything and where it can take you
Church Leaders Podcast – A podcast for those who serve in ministries. Great topics and interviews
The Alton Browncast – This is Alton Browns podcast. Mister Wizard meets Julia Child. Awesome stuff here
Sporkfuls – A fun and interesting podcast for eaters and foodies.
America’s Test Kitchen – Another great food centric podcast.
Here are a few Christian Artists that don’t get a lot of radio airtime, but whom I truly enjoy.
Tenth Avenue North – They get on there some and for good reason since they put out some amazing singles, but I have personally met these guys and the walk backs up the talk. Their songs are absolutely powerful in the lyrics department and I love listening to their albums start to finish.
Rhett Walker Band – Christian country rock is probably the closest I can come to accurately describing Rhett Walker Band’s style. Just plain good music, great lyrics, and a very tight band.
Gungor – Really good musically with some really great songs. Enjoy.
Bellarive – A very interesting group with some great songs.
An Epic, No less – Think Owl City but with more tattoos.