Too Busy To Listen? Get Your Time And Your Life Back
Updated October 2022. Listen to this article as a blogcast or continue scrolling to read it.
Read this first: approx reading time 8 minutes (I know you’re busy).
“How’ve you been?”, asks a friend.
“Busy”, you sigh. “What about you?”, you enquire.
“Busy”, she sighs back at you.
Why has this become the default response to “how are you?”?
- Why are we all busy all the time?
- What are we doing?
- And more importantly, are we doing the things that are important to us?
In this post, I’m going to encourage to ask yourself some questions about your time and where it’s going. So go grab a piece of paper and write down your answers. Got it? Ready? Let’s unbusy your life and find you more time to listen to English.
The Best Time Management Hack Ever
My mentor from afar, Darius Foroux (a non-native speaker of English too) says that we can’t manage our time until we know our priorities. He’s got tens of thousands of subscribers on his newsletter list. But he took the time to reply to an email I sent him, thanking him for his podcast episode with Paul Jarvis.
I like and respect Darius because he’s got his priorities straight. It was worth taking a couple of minutes out of his day to acknowledge and quickly reply to my email. No doubt because interacting with and responding to his subscribers is one of his priorities.
Once you realise this simple truth, you can start to look deeper at all this “too busy” stuff. You’re reading this blog or listening to this blogcast so that means understanding spoken English is one of your priorities, right?
Now how does that show up in your day to day life?
- Do you listen to English every day?
- Are you applying the tips from this blog?
- Have you invested in improving your listening?
- Are you living your life according to your priorities?
By the way, this is the part where you grab that piece of paper and answer these questions. Are you doing that? Good!
Figure Out Where All Your Time Is Going
I hate it when people say “we’ve all got the same amount of time”. I mean, if I had a housekeeper doing all my cleaning, laundry, shopping and cooking, I’d have a ton more time.
But, ironing my clothes isn’t one of my priorities, so I don’t do it. I cook every day (because you have to eat right?) and I do the food shopping on Thursdays. I’ve taken a lot of stuff off my to-do list.
So take a look at your to-dos and your time. Are you doing things that aren’t a priority? That you feel you have to do, but don’t want to.
Figure out where your time is going. Yes we all have jobs and families and commitments. But are you saying yes to things that aren’t a priority for you? Seriously, the world won’t stop turning if you turn down some requests: you’re not indispensable (sorry, not sorry – see below)
If you need some more help with saying no or prioritising I recommend:
- The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck: use the “sorry not sorry” method to stop doing things you don’t want to do, without hurting other people’s feelings
- The One Page Financial Plan: once I wrote out what I wanted to do with my money, I knew exactly where not to spend it. I’m also tracking it more carefully now. It changed everything for me.
You Need To Do Less
Often when we say we’re too busy we mean:
- We’re exhausted from the hamster wheel that we’re on: work, family, stress
- We need time to just do nothing to recover
Daily life is hard. Well, in rich Western countries like the one I live in it’s hard and not hard. I mean, we’re not working down a mine 12 hours a day for pennies or anything.
But we’ve made our lives more complicated in other ways. We raise our kids in isolated nuclear families. We work far too much, because we worry that redundancy is just around the corner. We compare ourselves to others and work and consume more to keep up.
Worse still, we’ve never had more distractions or decisions to make. One of the most life-changing articles I read recently was on decision fatigue. Our decision making capacities are like a battery. They drain as the day goes on, the more decisions we make. That’s Darius’ image, not mine: he was talking about attention, but the analogy works, ok?
Discovering this made me simplify my life and my choices:
- I’ve decided, as you saw, to go food shopping on a specific day.
- To 80/20 my wardrobe. The 80/20 rule suggests that 20% of our efforts produce 80% of the results. It also states that you probably only wear about 20% of your clothes.
- I eat the same thing (porridge+banana) for breakfast every day. I always have crêpes on a Saturday night and prepare pretty much the same meals all week, with slight variations.
We need to do less in the first place. So we have more time for what we really want to do.
This is why the first 2 steps are so important:
1.What are your priorities in life?
2.Are you doing too many things that aren’t priorities for you?
Once you know what they are you can decide:
3.Can you say no to them? Can you delegate them? Can you eliminate any decisions that are draining your time and energy?
How Long Do Things Actually Take?
Do you do this too? I know I put off a lot of projects because either:
- I don’t know how long they’re going to take.
- I’m scared they’ll take ages so that stops me from getting started.
I’m a recovering perfectionist and I’ve always believed that the more time you put into something the better it’ll be. I’m a bit older, wiser and possibly more jaded now so I don’t worry so much about being perfect. I focus on being good enough. That’s another great time management strategy by the way.
But I’ve been carrying forward the story of “if you don’t put a lot of time into it, you’ll fail”. So I’ve been trying to get better about tracking my time and giving myself deadlines. It’s hard to estimate at first, but you get a better idea as you go.
- In one pomodoro (that’s 25 minutes) I can draft 1000 words of a blog post. I’ve always been a fast writer, but if I’ve been thinking about a topic for a while I have the ideas. I just need to write them down and start organising them.
- It takes me around 5 minutes to create an image for my blog post. The other week it took me over an hour because I was desperately searching for a particular stock photo that I couldn’t find. Oops.
- At the moment I’m figuring out how long it takes me each week to create the speaking and listening tasks for my “Movie Club” members
What’s helped is estimating the time required, putting that in my calendar and then measuring and adjusting as I go.
Are you putting off working on your listening because you think it’s supposed to take hours every day?
Or that you’ll need a million different resources?
Pick 1 podcast you want to listen to weekly, 1 TV series you want to follow and 1 film you’d like to watch. Follow them for a set amount of time. 30 days is a great start. 90 days (or 3 months) will give you the time and space to really see results.
Write down what you want to watch on that piece of paper and commit to that. If you need more help with this, check out the article I wrote for Kirsty on making listening a habit.
If you want to see results in just 2 weeks then Movies on the Run (MOTR) gets you there in just 20 minutes a day.
Taking Back Your Time
Take a look back at your answers to the questions in this blog post.
You now know:
- what your priorities are.
- whether or not you’re working on them.
- if you’re making listening a priority
- where your time is going
- what you can say no to, delegate or remove decision-fatigue from
- how long you really need to spend on listening
- which podcast, series and film you’re going to focus on for the next 30/90 days
Still Feel Too Busy To Listen To English?
If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare in your daily schedule (that can even be 2 10-minute slots) and you want to understand fast, conversational English, then Movies on the Run is the course for you.
Are you going to make any changes as a result of this post? How can you make more time for listening? Which podcast, film and series are you going to focus on? Let me know in the comments.
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Want to use your favourite movie or TV show to understand native English speakers when they talk fast? Download your free guide, Understand Movies in English.
I’ve been listening the podcast Easy English Expressions from coach Shane and watch the TV Series the Flash. Movies are something that I’ve watched only in the theater once in the mounth.
Hey, Ricardo. Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’re doing the right things. For movies, what you could do is either watch them in sections (that only works if you have a copy to watch at home). So you could watch a 2-hour movie over a month by watching it in 30 minute sections – it’s less overwhelming and it’s easier to go back and listen to different sections. Or you could watch movie clips every week. I love this YouTube channel for that: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3gNmTGu-TTbFPpfSs5kNkg
Cara, by the way, I’ll have you know that my boyfriend and I have perfected a system, over the years, to give clothes an ironed look without actually ironing them. Well, an almost ironed look… 🙂
Your writing is very encouraging I have just decided to change
Great! What are you going to change?