25-Minute Study Bursts: Finding Time for Self-Education in a Busy Life

Feeling like you can’t find time to study your interests? 

I was, and to an extent still am, right there with ya. 

When I first started taking my self-education seriously, I felt like I needed to spend hours at a time hunched over my books, or else it wasn’t worth it. 

Therefore, I’d plan to study for 2 hours straight at night, and end up skipping it and watching tv instead because it was just too much for my tired post-work self to do.

It was too big and scary. I just wanted to eat some combination of chip and dip and call it a day. 

I’m not really sure where I got this terrible, self-limiting idea from. 

I’m sure the anecdote of Jack London studying 19 hours a day didn’t help. 

Regardless, over the years I’ve found that short bursts of intensive study are usually the best way to approach self-directed study sessions, for a couple reasons:

  • 20 or 30 minutes isn’t intimidating, so you won’t feel as much resistance to do it. 
  • Focus usually starts to dip for me around 35 minutes of hard reading anyway. 
  • You can spread these intensive bursts throughout the day and rack up hours. 

It’s amazing how much you can learn in these short intensive sessions, and how quickly all that knowledge adds up. 

You don’t need to do 2 hour sessions to become an expert in a subject. You just need steady, consistent study over the course of a long period of time that doesn’t burn you out. 

To illustrate this in action, lately I’ve been following a study schedule that goes more or less like this: 

  • 20-30 minutes of reading in the morning before work.
  • 20 minutes at lunch. (usually a lecture)
  • 20-30 minutes of reading right after work. 
  • 45 minutes of reading at some time between 8 and 9 PM (sometimes I skip this one). 
  • 30 minutes of reading before bed. (this is usually a contemporary novel and sometimes Audible). 

This approach has enabled me to regularly hit my self-education and reading goals

The video that really sold me on the idea was this one from a professor on how to study:

He recommends building up the time per session as you get more experienced. 

For example, you might start with 15 minute reading sessions and then in a month move up to 25 minutes. 

By the way, you can also Pomodoro this and do them in a string with a 5-10 minute break in between. Sometimes I’ll do that at night if I’m really curious and motivated. 

Anyway, hope this helps! 

If you want a full guide that’ll help you read 2 hours per day, check out my article on the 4 things potentially holding your reading back and 35 tactics to overcome them (I’ve used all of them). 

Also, Audible is super helpful for reading more. I use it pretty much every day  — sign up for their 30-day free trial and get a free audiobook to listen to as you commute, walk, or do chores.


After graduating college with an econ degree I realized I was still anything but well-educated. Over the last 4 years, I've been trying to fix that, autodidact-mode — by reading books and engaging in self-directed study across multiple subjects. On this blog, my goal is to share my learnings and help others get a well-rounded education outside of school. Education, after all, is a lifelong process, one well worth the investment.

Recent Posts