Audiobooks now fill up the silence in my days. Whether I’m cleaning the house, driving, or going to the gym; I start playing an audiobook. I’ve increased my reading from 3 books last year, to almost a book a week this year. But reading audiobooks did more than increase the amount of books I’ve read. It made starting and completing those mundane habitual tasks an exciting prospect. Instead of dreading the time wasted, I look forward to the time I can read while completing tasks. Overall I’m learning more and more every day, in whatever spare time I have.
First, find yourself a pair of lightweight and durable headphones – mine are bluetooth wireless (no cables allow for freedom of movement). That way you can hang them around your neck wherever you go and read your audiobook whenever possible.
Also, lets make this clear: listening to audiobooks is reading. Why? Because visual and auditory systems are similar cognitive processes. So much so, that our listening comprehension correlates with our reading comprehension. But why read an audiobook and not a physical book? I love audio books for the times when I have free working memory available but I can’t hold a book. When we practice habitual skills like putting on clothes, driving, or cleaning the dishes, the working memory required to perform and think about the process is minimal.
This is because we have synthesised and compacted the thinking required to perform the task due to a cognitive process called chunking. Our brain chunks information by forming neural patterns that it can recall and use more efficiently in the future. In effect, habitual skills utilise very little chunks of working memory, and therefore do not constrain our information bottleneck, allowing for our attention to be divided to something else: like audiobooks. Whenever you have free working memory, and it’s safe to put some of your attention into reading, play an audiobook. I was surprised by the amount of times throughout the day I could spend reading
So, besides reading many more books a year, reading audiobooks taught me some important learning principles.
The big lesson I learnt was audiobooks became the best incentive and reward for completing tasks. The main reason I started listening to audiobooks was to enjoy my driving trips to work. Before this, I had hated driving. But I soon began looking forward to driving only to get back into the book. Now, audiobooks compel me to complete or continue any task that is habitual. It altered my belief about the value of committing to any task, and relieved some of my bad procrastination habits. So, use your audiobook to incentivise completing boring, repetitive, habitual tasks.
Secondly, by focussing on the potential time I could spend on reading an audiobook, the idea of completing the task didn’t seem as daunting. By focusing on the process of performing a task, and not the product, I felt comfortable starting any task. From a learning perspective, the concept of process over product is a useful technique for overcoming procrastination. It avoids visualising work as an end goal and shifts your efforts into miniature working stints. Through focussing on the process I also became very good at gauging how long tasks might take based on the amount I had read.
Finally, audiobooks have contributed to improving my life-long learning habits and broadening my passions. Time to read and learn was always there, but I didn’t know how to utilise it. I’d been procrastinating for years on reading book after book. I’d always desired to read, but I just never prioritised it. Audiobooks has become a surprisingly important tool in my day to day life. The first place I started from was finding a book on the shelf that I kept telling myself I would read. Download a copy from the library, Audible, or wherever you can find a copy, and start reading today.