Yes, You Do Have Time to Read (or Do Anything Else You Want to Do)
I’ve interviewed dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of job candidates through the years, but one interview last year stands out as the most memorable.
It was more memorable than the interview in which a woman detailed her messy divorce. It was more memorable than the interview in which a man made racist comments. And yes, it was more memorable than the interview in which a teenager told me he had a felony for robbing a bank.
In this particular memorable interview, things began to get interesting when I asked my favorite interview question: “What are you really passionate about?”
I love that question because it allows job candidates to briefly escape the stuffy professional setting and talk about something that makes them comfortable and excited: working out, raising kids, traveling, etc.
On this memorable occasion, the candidate said she was most passionate about cooking and reading.
My eyes immediately lit up. My biggest passion is reading, and I never hesitate to divert an interview to pick up new book recommendations.
I attempted to bridle my bookish enthusiasm by first asking about the candidate’s love of cooking. “What are your favorite meals to cook?” I asked.
She responded that life has gotten hectic these past couple years, so she unfortunately hasn’t had much time to cook. However, she loves to cook when she gets the chance.
Looking to give her a second shot at the question (as well as indulge my love of reading), I asked about her second passion: “What’s the last book you read?”
Her response: “It was called something like The Habits of Effective People, but I never finished reading it, and now that you mention it, I haven’t read much of anything in the past couple years. Too busy, I guess.”
To me, that answer torpedoed the interview.
I pushed back with what I hoped would be a life lesson of some sort: “I asked what you were passionate about, and you told me two things — the two things you’re most passionate about in the world. And yet, you don’t really do either one of those things?” The interview fizzled after that.
Whether or not she remembers that interview, the incident stuck with me. It pops into my head every time I hear someone talk about something they love but “have no time to do.”
I hate it when people play the time card. Inevitably, whenever I pry deeper into a person’s lack of time, they relay a long string of things they do have time to do: television, movies, Instagram, video games, etc.
Somehow our biggest passions and desires often don’t make the cut for how we actually allocate our time.
Now, let me get off my high horse for a second.
I get it.
I’ve been there.
For over a year, I went around telling people I was passionate about writing without ever picking up a pen and paper. That level of douchebaggery is worthy of an award.
I too am guilty of failing to prioritize my passions. But I’ve been working really, really hard to correct that fault.
I realized that the key is in reprogramming habits. We are habitual creatures, and the best way to structure our days around our passions is to focus on our daily routines. There are countless resources to help in this struggle, including the books The Power of Habit, Deep Work, and — ironically enough — The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (the book the interviewee failed to finish).
It’s truly incredible how many of us fail to prioritize what is supposedly most important to us. Our distraction-laden world doesn’t make it easy for us to do what we set out to do in any given day. But it is absolutely possible to realign our days around our priorities.
Whenever I tell someone that I read over 70 books per year, they inevitably respond with an incredulous stare or a proclamation that I must be a speed reader.
Nope. I’m not a speed reader and it’s not that incredible. I just make time for it. Reading is important enough to me that I will let many other things slip in order to prioritize my reading time.
On average, I spend a couple of hours per day reading, which means I neglect a ton of meaningless shit.
My list of “must watch” Netflix shows recommended by friends grows by the week. Those shows remain in the ether of things I would do if time was limitless (which it’s not).
I often don’t know what’s going on in the daily news. Ninety-five percent of today’s news will fade by next week, so I try to not get lost in meaningless updates.
I don’t have an Instagram account, and I couldn’t tell you which of my friends’ Facebook pages depicts their recent vacation to Disneyland or Cancun.
Yes, I still use social media. I use select platforms (primarily Twitter), but only because I have determined that I get legitimate value from them.
For example, James Altucher posted on Twitter yesterday that the average person spends 4 hours and 40 minutes on their phone every day. That is a relevant (and extremely disturbing) fact that makes me want to double down on my efforts to use my time more productively. And to me, productivity generally equates to reading and writing.
Now it’s your turn to answer my favorite interview question: What are you really passionate about?
Does the amount of time you spend on that hobby reconcile with your passion?
If not, what gets in your way?