How You Have Time to Finish More Books

Hello readers, my name is Matt Clagett. I am a senior here at Haas and one of the new undergraduate bloggers. I plan to share some perspectives and insights on topics that I have grown to love as a student here, ranging from innovation, data science, sustainability and travel.


As the semester progresses, it is increasingly difficult to keep up with readings. Not just assigned cases and textbooks for classes, but pleasure reads – you know, that pile of books sitting in the corner of your room that you will get to once you have time.  Yes, reading to learn the material for a class is one thing, but if we neglect the books that we really find a strong personal or professional growth-value, we are getting robbed of awesome material.

What if I told you that I have finished five such books already this semester. Well you would probably think that means I have just neglected reading my textbooks and readers, which is partially true, but that has only been true because of recruiting. I finished these books not by reading, but by listening to the audiobook versions of them.

The trick is to choose times to listen to them during low-focus parts of your day, such as commuting to and from school. Maybe you want to lay on Memorial Glade and rest your eyes and listen. Doing laundry? Buying groceries? Eating those groceries? Use that time to be a Student Always. It is likely you have at least an hour a day that you can optimize by listening to books. This translates to 365 hours, or roughly 40 books in one year. That’s a lot of knowledge.

Audiobooks are Better

Have I still not convinced you? On top of their inherent portability and ease of use, audiobooks have many great advantages over traditional books.

Text can be limiting. Often, messages are not clearly articulate, so key ideas are unintentionally brushed over. You have probably encountered this when trying to text message somebody using sarcasm, then having to follow it up with “lol jk” or an emoji.  When an author or reader reads an audiobook, they often vocally emphasize key ideas and points, and add footnotes to elaborate. Not only do you hear the words, but you can hear the author’s emotional tone, making it easier to empathize with the message being expressed.

Just as your favorite song can make you excited, when you hear the intended emotion behind the author’s words, you can more similarly emulate their perspective. This is a powerful concept, as you can use it to set the mood and mindset. Listening first thing in the morning, when your mind is clear, has the power to set the tone of your day. If you listen to a book on productivity, you start your day thinking like a productive person. Listen to books related to your courses, and you will have stronger perspective from which to understand the course material.

Audiobooks make exercise better and exercise makes audiobooks better. Time flies when you are lost in a book. An audiobook during light endurance exercise might make you forget you are even on a treadmill. This will also get your blood flowing and extra oxygen delivered to your brain, giving you the power to digest even more of the book. I suggest walking though, as famous philosophers including Neitzche and Aristotle would often do in order to think. Too strenuous of activity requires too much focus, so you are probably better off listening to Taylor Swift or whatever pumps you up.

Just as you can learn to read at a higher level, as you start listening to audiobooks more often, you will better be able to understand the material. As you listen to learn, you learn to listen.

How I Got Started

I first downloaded the Audible back in community college, when my life was not what I wanted it to be and I needed some extra guidance to help reach my goals. I knew what I needed to work on – my time management, motivation, and productivity. I found some great reviewed books on each topic, and feeling as though I did not have the time to read them, I decided to use my 30-60 minutes of commute time to listen to the audiobooks. Bike rides turned into libraries. My free time was always spent learning from people that I admired. Instead of taking time out of my day, listening to audiobooks made me more focused and gave me knowledge that enabled me to positively change my life’s trajectory.

How to Start, and What to Start With

  1. Download a listening app, I suggest Audible.
  2. Search for that book you always wanted to read. Seek out something you want to improve on, or something that you know will prove valuable to your life.
    • Stressed? Download a guided meditation book!
    • Looking to contribute more in your Marketing class discussion? There are plenty of highly rated marketing experts waiting to share with you.
    • Want to know about the life of Steve Jobs? Don’t watch a movie. Get a biography.
  3. Find a time and place where you will not get too distracted, and start listening.

A Few Great Audiobooks That I Have Recently Finished

  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
    • Biography of the legend.
    • Time taken: Two weeks of commuting on BART.
  • Data and Goliath
    • Nonfiction about big data usage, policy, and ethics.
    • Time taken: A drive to LA and back.
  • On Power
    • Abridged biographies on NYC urban planner Robert Moses and President Lyndon Johnson that illustrates sociopolitical power in the US.
    • Time taken: A five mile Sunday hike.

My On-Deck for Listening

  • Back Channel to Cuba
    • Cuba and US relations history,  I am studying abroad in Cuba this winter.
  • Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of the Human Brain
    • Structured / logical thinking strategies for life.
  • The Autobiography of Gucci Mane
    • BURR.

No Substitute for Books

Another option would be to listen to podcasts, which I often do as well. It is all personal preference on what you want to learn. I prefer books because you can dive deep into the story or subject, and cross them off your reading list at the same time.

As much as I love audiobooks, there is nothing like the focus when reading a physical book (I can not stand PDFs). Although audiobooks are convenient and can communicate on a more emotional level, they fall short for quantitative and visual topics. This is why I would not suggest finding audios to replace a textbook. As students, we have obligatory readings that should come before exploratory or pleasure reading. Adding audiobooks, we do not have to make that choice. We can learn our coursework and any supplementary topics simultaneously, having more control over the direction of our education.

Feel free to share if you found helpful, and make sure to subscribe at the top right to stay updated on life at Haas!

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