How to hack time?

Sergii Lysenko

Sergii Lysenko

May 21, 2022

NOTE: This article was originally published in Russian in 2019 and you can read it here.

I had a friend at school who was a real fast-talker. Most of our classmates were not able to get what he is talking about. Due to that he was not very popular via classmates. Hence, I was excited to know him better, so I was trying really hard to keep up with his talking speed. Obviously, I stopped to feel any discomfort in our communications when some time passed. Nowadays, my wife Anastasiia took the role of that “fast-talker”.

These days amount of information around us is huge. It coming from many sources: blogs, social media, books/audiobooks, podcasts, video platforms, etc. And what if I told you that you can speed up the process of getting necessary information by 1.5x? Or maybe even 2x? For example, let’s imagine that you want to listen to some interesting podcast with 60 minutes duration, but you do that in just 30 minutes. Or maybe you want to watch some video tutorial, but do not want to spend 30 minutes of your time on that. So you do that in just 20 minutes! Sounds cool, right? The thing is the average person reads with a speed of 200 words per minute, but the average speed of talking is 150 words per minute.

Few years ago I discovered that you can listen books with a help of screen reader, which is embedded into iOS and MacOS. So I decided to try it while commuting to work. I’ve launched the reader and started listening, but the speed of talking seemed too slow to me and I pressed the 1.25x button. At this speed I felt comfortable and after finishing this book I understood that this speed-up button really saved me a lot of time.

Some time after I tried to change podcasts playback speed to 1.25x in Overcast app. But decided to not stop there and tried to do the same with YouTube. In a few days I was feeling like 1.25x is too slow to me, but 1.5x seemed like too fast at that time. So, I decided to look for some type of browser extension that allows more flexibility in setting playback speed for all embedded videos on the web. And found Video Speed Controller. After that unusual thing happened to me. In the following days I was slowly but constantly increasing playback speed by using this extension, because I was feeling like my brain is fine with that and gets all the information promptly. When you start with such experiments, increasing speed by another 10-20% feels challenging. Meanwhile, few days after you can’t return to the normal speed because you will have a feeling like you are watching some slow motion.

Also, I want to point out that not every type of content can be digested in accelerated mode. For example, you can’t watch your favorite movie or listen to your favorite artist’s new album in such speed mode and at the same time enjoy it. But for some entertainment or learning content it works very well. The playback speed for different types of content will and should be different. Sure, one should not forget that every human being talks with a different speed, so some podcasts or videos can be played with increased speed while others will be more comfortable to listen with a speed that is slightly decreased from your current default setup. Obviously, the content in your native language can be perceived at a much higher speed than the content in languages which are less familiar to you.

My current speed for the content in Ukrainian or Russian is 1.9x (so, as you can see, I am not so far from the promised at the beginning of this article 2x). And I’m satisfied, whilst I can add some additional time to my standard 24h day ;)