“Making” Time to Study

I bet you feel like you don’t have time to study, right?  I bet you feel like you don’t have time to work on passion projects, right?  I bet you fell like you don’t have much time for anything, period.

Let’s break this down.


Do you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning?  Maybe you have medications that you need to take at certain times of the day.   Are there shows you stream or watch the old fashioned way on television?  Do you hand water parts of your garden?  Do you lay in bed for a few minutes before falling asleep?

What all these have in common is they’re all opportunities to harvest time to study or work on particular projects you otherwise don’t think you have time for.

Listening, watching, reading can all happen during these activities or, when it comes to watching movies or television shows, in place of these activities.


How I study

Here’s what’s on my dining room table.

At any given time, I’ve got 2 books going; both non-fiction but one will be more demanding intellectually than the other.  You can see two books on my reading stand, one opened in front of the other.  When I’m highly charged, I’ll choose the more intellectually rigorous text but when I’m more low key, I’ll pull the lighter read from right behind and I’m good to go.

But what’s the point of reading if you don’t have a way to extract usable info that you want to use to upgrade your game, right?

Let’s look at my super simple system that I use to capture usable wisdom from any book I read.

Three highlighters and a note pad are all I need in order to extract from the full text what I want to build on for my own work.  Each page of my notes is sequentially numbered, and each handwritten notation I make includes the page number from the book where my notation is found.  Handwriting passages of interest helps me layer the information into my brain; some of my notes are just a few words long while others are entire sentences.  All of my handwritten notes correlate to highlighted passages in the book so, working from my notes, I can easily find the passage of origin.  Sometimes, I type up my notes but most of the time I simply fold the pile of paper-clipped notes and put in inside the front cover of the book.  Whenever I loan a book, my notes go with it.  Sometimes people want my books instead of ordering their own copy because they want the benefit of how I’ve marked my books up with my own highlighted notations.  Whenever anyone has asked me for my own copy of a book, I’ve given it to them but I’ve kept a copy of my notes which is all I really need to have handy to guide me through what I learned from that particular reading.

From there, my notes travel up several other avenues of application.

I have 1) a folder titled “By the Factor of Another Day” and in it, I have notes on information I want to immediately implement into my teaching.  2) I work from my handwritten notes to insert into workshop materials any references I want to include.  3) I tweet about what books I’m reading and for any books I find highly influential, 4) I include them on my recommended reading/viewing list which currently is over 24 pages long and includes more than 150 links.  That constantly-updated list is included in all my long format courses, and is available as a stand alone purchase for $250USD.  I also might write in 5) emails or 6) on my blog or 7) podcast or 8) video about a particularly interesting book.

The system you use to harvest wisdom, and apply it, from any book you read or lecture you hear/watch has got to be simple and organic to your process.  What works for me may not work for you but if you don’t have a method, using mine will at least get you started.


Now let’s talk about having the time to read or view video or listen to lectures like Ted Talks or podcasts.

Watch this RIGHT NOW – you DO have time!


Laura Vanderkam helps us realize just how much time we really do have, so there’s that, but here’s a way to help you think about time a little differently in hopes you’ll be able to harvest, like I do, parallel or lost time from tasks you’re already making time to do.

It’s not that we don’t have time, it’s that most of us are so very disorganized in how we manage our time.

Every day I have to take medications that require food to be in my tummy and I’ve found my day flows most effectively when I get them in me in the morning.  Every morning that I’m home, I make espresso, pour it over ice, eat cottage cheese from the small, individual sized portion container but with a beautiful fancy tiny spoon, and read while I take my “with food” morning pills.  This ritual might take 8 – 10 minutes before I know it, morning after morning of doing it gets me through the book, even long, technical, intellectually challenging ones. Sometimes I’m the rabbit but mostly I’m the hare!

I travel a bunch and I do not take my books on the road with me but BONUS: My note taking strategy helps me remember where I left off so I’m never lost or need to re-read anything to find my place.

That’s how I get reading into my schedule; here’s how I get in everything else.

While I’m doing dishes, cleaning or cooking, while driving or before drifting off to sleep, I’ll listen to a podcast or Ted Talk.

Instead of watching a movie/show in one sitting, I’ll watch educational video for part of that time.


Because I work almost all the time, I’ve divided my days into layers of tasks that correspond with times that I’m naturally most accomplished at achieving them.  In order to do that, you have to know what times of the day you’re best at problem solving, creative thinking, physical work, communication, etc., and then you have to build your schedule around those peaks.

I normally do what most people consider to be “work” 12 – 15 hours a day, so I have the added difficulty of factoring in energy levels – sometimes I’m just too plain old tired to be smart!  NOTE: I do not consider the way I spend my time to be “work” and I am nothing but invigorated, astonished, fascinated and delighted by doing it.  I’m never bored, I’m never exhausted by it or unmotivated about it, I’ve essentially built a castle and get to play in it every day.  If you don’t understand/believe that, you’ll look at my schedule and think it’s some sort of hell on earth, punishing slog when the precise opposite is, in fact, true.  Consider this: if I weren’t delighted by how I work and live, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain this pace since 2000.

Make sense?

Once I’ve worked through the many phases of what we’d normally consider to be work-type productivity, I still have things that need to be accomplished.  For me, living alone and not having any help, I have to do every fucking thing myself which is both a blessing and a curse.

Because I have to do everything myself, I routinely have to work until I figuratively and literally drop, but I do it in layers.

When I’m too tired to be smart, I clean.  When I’m too tired to clean, I straighten.  When I’m too tired to straighten, I stretch or practice concentrated breathing and let my mind settle.  When I’m too tired to do that, I sleep.

When I lecture on this, I describe my approach to any night’s sleep as a mini-death to the life that was my day.  With that attitude, and on that immediate cycle, the bigger concept of “life” and “death” becomes immediately understandable, accessible, confrontational and very, very motivating.

Here’s what that means:

If you don’t like the way your day went, you won’t like how your life is going.

If you’re not happy with how your day settled out as you go to sleep, you won’t be happy leaving your life when death forces its way onto your “must do now” list.

The trick to living well is in taking responsibility for wisely, aggressively structuring what you can about how you spend your days, practicing pristine self-care and making sure all your actions are driven by emotional maturity and impulse control.

Fuck, right?  Right.

I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s possible and I’m definitely saying I can teach you how.

Back to how I do it which will hopefully help you do it.

When I’m teaching, my schedule is set but when I’m not teaching courses, I’ve arranged my schedule around my own peaks in productivity, and organic desire for hard, sweaty physical work, so that every day, I’m running on high octane and being my most productive at any type of task.

You, too, can set your schedule this way.  I learned about it from reading articles by productivity specialists who work for the folks that started and run companies like Google and Facebook.  Reading an article about the famous movie director Baz Luhrmann’s creative process taught me that he and I have set up some of our basic organizational structures the same way.

If we don’t streamline our tasks, we don’t have the resources to do the great work that it takes to be our most creative and accomplished.  Without supreme time management skills, you simply won’t succeed.  Period.

I’m well practiced in helping others develop these skills because my box set video bundles include 40+ days of content and my hallmark service includes helping you actually use everything I offer so here’s how I suggest they make their way through all that valuable information.

Much of the value of my work is “listen only” so as long as you can hear what’s going on, you’re getting everything out of it.  The minority of my work is “must see” and for that, you’ll definitely need to stare at the screen.

Also, much of my work is topic driven so unless you’re ready to focus within a particular topic, you can set completely aside big segments of my work until the time comes that it’s more relevant to your needs.

All my courses are spliced by topic so it’s super easy to pull up exactly the hours you’re interested in.  My classical repertoire course comes with an Excel spreadsheet that lists each of the 150+ exercises it includes, with a data point breakout that includes lecture topics, who modeled the exercise, the piece of equipment, the start and stop time, the video file segment number, etc. so you can perform a quick search for what you’re looking for and with precision – bam – find it.

Each of the 15+ Desktop Pilates exercises that are part of my 2-day Desktop Pilates training are divided into their own file folder which is named after the exercise – how obvious is that?  With me, you never have to worry about an inefficient structure because I always set everything up for ease of retrieval.

That should help you understand how easy it is to find your way, organizationally, thorough my full archival box set of content,  Now, let’s find time for you to get smarter.


Any parallel or lost time embedded in routine tasks (as listed above), use it to listen to the audio of video; you don’t have to watch the screen!

If you normally get a manicure every week, watch/listen/read/study while you’re being worked on.

If you normally grocery shop, order online and use the time to watch/listen/read/study. If that’s not an option, put in earplugs and play content while you shop.

Delegate to family members every possible household task you normally perform and use 100% of that time to watch/listen/read/study.

Run errands?

Take baths?

Wait in lines?

Wait for kids to finish school/sports/lessons?

Those are all opportunities to watch/listen/read/study.

Do you help your kids with their homework?  Work on yours at the same time.

With my stuff, you can even fall asleep listening to it and much of it will still get in there.

If you love working in groups, form study groups with others who attended the same course you did, or I’ll put you in touch with others who attended the courses you’re studying the video of, so that you can review materials on a mutually agreeable schedule together.  That usually works out to a morning a month when they meet via Skype.

For box set purchasers, I recommend taking a 4 – 6 hour day a month and work through the more meaty content all in one go.  If you set the same day each month as your “in service” educational day, it’ll be easier for you to protect the time on your schedule.  Let’s say you choose the 3rd Sunday of every month as your “get smart” time, your family and friends will be able to easily remember that you’re not available at that time and they’ll support you in scheduling events around it IF they know when it is.

To recap, you DO have time to do everything you want to do, get organized, figure out your unique daily ebb and flow of productivity and build your day around it, bite off teeny tiny portions and just by living another day, you’ll be that much closer to finishing the intellectual equivalent to War and Peace.

Does this help?  If not, let’s set up a time to talk so I can learn more about your situation and customize an approach that will work, just for you.


Questions or need help?

I’m right here.

+1 206 963 0755

[email protected]

“Making” Time to Study