How to Grow your Mind in your Downtime

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Drive your own self-development.

The average person spends more than 18 months commuting to and from the office in their lifetime, more than a year stuck in traffic jams and 248 days searching for a parking space, according to a survey. Apparently, the average person also spends 16 hours a year waiting in airports. If, like me, you travel for work (a lot!) your statistics are probably even higher.

Imagine if you could use this downtime to expand your mind, learn new skills, soothe your soul and generally get one step closer to reaching your full potential? There is a way you can view travel time – even the delays – as a blessing rather than an inconvenience.

It’s all about the company you keep.

I’ve road-tripped with Nelson Mandela, Amy Poehler, Richard Branson and Gabrielle Bernstein. I’ve sat in traffic whilst Deepak Chopra teaches me about the pillars of wellness. I’ve waited at an airport departure gate with Sheryl Sandberg telling me how to lean in. I am, of course, talking about audiobooks – my downtime pleasure!

Ironically (being an author myself and the owner of a print mag) I have little time to read books cover to cover, however I do spend many hours in transit. When I’m in Sydney it can take me up to 40 minutes to drive from my home in Bondi to Collective Hub HQ. With the average book being 10 hours in length this generally means I can listen to a book per week, give and take a few pages. That’s 52 books a year, if I wanted to.

I’m not the only person with this kind of listening time at their disposal.

A study commissioned by Audible.com.au found that 62 per cent of Australians feel they could be learning more. I have one entrepreneurial friend who listens to audiobooks whilst running on the treadmill. Another startup founder I know listened to Steve Jobs’ entire biography in sections whilst waiting for people to show up for meetings. Their bad time-keeping allowed him to knock a book from his reading list.

In conjunction with the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, the audiobook platform Audible has released a list of the top 24 list of the books to grow your mind. You can learn how to change unhealthy habits – and why they exist in the first place – with business writer Charles Duhigg, read up on the story of success with Malcolm Gladwell, learn a language, delve into the unabridged biography of Elon Musk, or just escape into the world of Harry Potter.

I just returned from a 16-day holiday in Italy where I clocked up some serious kilometres whilst driving from Rome to Florence, through Tuscany to Sienna, from Naples to Sicily and back to Rome again. Over 16 days, we clocked up over 30 hours of drive time in total, and, while absorbing the incredible scenery, I was able to finish three books on my bucket list.

Next time you’re complaining you’re stuck in traffic or have a lengthy road trip ahead of you, consider sharing the drive with a New York Times bestseller.

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