on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

The power of 8 minutes

I have begun to instill a new habit for myself – which is to bring my kindle on my very short commute to work everyday. The BART ride is 8 minutes and initially I thought that is too short to get any proper reading done.

I proved myself wrong.

I wanted to make myself read even more, keeping in mind Warren Buffett’s statement that reading is like compound interest for knowledge, in addition to the strict daily 30m of reading I do before I go to bed. I was trying to think of ways to make reading more an actual sustainable habit that would automatically be part of my routine, so reading during my commute made a lot of sense, at least in theory.

Anyway, my newish mantra is that, there is no harm in trying, so I started to see how it feels like to read for 8m every single morning.

I was pleasantly surprised by the results, mostly the way I felt. First of all, I speed read, so within 8m I could read an average of 10 pages. Which could be an entire chapter for a lot of books.

Secondly, which is the more significant for me, choosing to read a book helps to block out all the distractions I could potentially have on the BART. I tend to either have very scattered, noisy thoughts or check my phone a lot. The implicit effect is, I tend to become immersed in what I was reading, even if it is just for a short 8m, my mind goes into a state very similar to what people experience in meditation.

The choice of book is really important. It ensures that the contemplation which will result for that 8m of reading is conducive for the rest of my day. I am put in this state almost the first thing in the morning, and it sets the tone for the rest of my day.

For example, this past week I have been reading a memoir of Iris Chang – yesterday I came across this quote in the book:

PLEASE believe in THE POWER OF ONE. One person can make an enormous difference in the world. One person—actually, one IDEA—can start a war, or end one, or subvert an entire power structure. One discovery can cure a disease or spawn new technology to benefit or annihilate the human race. You are ONE individual and can change millions of lives. Think big. Do not limit your vision and do not EVER compromise your dreams or ideals.

If you have read my writing on Medium, this is exactly what I have been passionate about advocating. Choosing to read on the BART first thing in the morning, being selective about the book I am reading, empowers me to use my mind to think deeply about the issues I care about, instead of thinking aimlessly about some random thought or some random tweet. The choice of thought is very specific and very conscious.

So when I came across that quote on my 8m commute yesterday, I felt a tingle down my spine and I am being reminded by the books I read, how much there is still to do in this world, how much has already been accomplished by some very determined individuals, how little time I have to waste, how much time I can actually maximize.

I still love checking twitter and watching tv of course, but that very deliberate 8m of choosing to frame my day in a certain way feels very empowering to me.

It is incredible to me how the way I choose to spend my 8 minutes of commute can alter my consciousness and the rest of the choices I make throughout the rest of the day, if not week.

I implore you to try doing the same, perhaps it may not even be reading, but it could be something you care about.

One thought on “The power of 8 minutes”

  1. Terence says:

    Hi Winnie

    Thank you for this post. Very well written.

    It is quite liberating once you find you’re achieving something in the ‘dead time’ of the commute.

    Earlier this year I decided to choose worthwhile things to read or do on my hour-long commute. It has literally opened my mind from the doldrums of mediocrity.

    I wrote an article about it here. 🙂

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