How I listen to podcasts and get the most out of them

I am a regular podcast listener even before the recent upsurge of numerous podcast shows that has cropped up in recent times. This year I have listened to a record number of podcast episodes. I have learned a lot from them and I have also improved the way I listen and take notes. In this post, I will explain why and where I listen to podcasts, how I listen at nearly 2x speeds and the quickest way to take notes.

Why listen to podcasts?

The reason I listen to podcasts is very simple. Podcasts allow me to sit through a conversation between two important people who you could never meet in real life. I can be a “fly on the wall” listening to their conversation, learning from the best minds in the word.

Just imagine being able to sit with some of the brilliant marketers, entrepreneurs, copywriters, and other heroes and listen to their story. You get an hour of quality time with them and you don’t even have to ask them any questions. The host is doing all the hard work of researching about them and making the conversation interesting.

Where do I listen?

listening to podcast in carThere are only a few places where I listen to podcasts. Occasionally I drive to work and I listen to few episodes during my drive. But since my commute is only about 20 minutes, I can squeeze in one episode maximum (I will tell one trick to listen to a 30-minute episode in 20 minutes).

Sometimes when I drop my wife at her office (which takes at least an hour) I can get some real quality time listening to more than 1 episode or one longer episode. However, I can listen to podcasts only when I am lonely in the car. My wife doesn’t like to listen to podcasts and would plug in her iPhone and play music.

When I Uber to work, I don’t listen to podcasts as the driver sometimes talk to me or ask directions and I don’t want to be rude.

podcast while walkingOther times, I walk a bit and come back home on a train or sometimes even walk all the way home. This takes at least 1.5 hours and this gives me some serious podcast listening time. Of course one has to be mindful of the surroundings with earphones plugged in when walking on the roads.

A decent pair of wireless earphones makes it easy to listen to podcasts when walking. Since it’s all speech, I don’t care about the audio quality too much.

I have tried to listen to podcasts when I get onto the bed, but unfortunately, after 5 minutes I doze off and the podcast keeps playing for hours before I pause it. So I avoid listening in the bed.

How do I listen?

I use the Overcast podcast app for iPhone. I would say this is the best podcast app for iPhone. To my knowledge, this is the only app which has the “Smart Speed” feature, which shortens unwanted silences and other fillers in conversations. You can get 1.15x speed increase just by turning on “Smart Speed” with no noticeable difference in speech.

overcast smart speed

I go even one step further, where I increase the playback speed. I have heard of people go crazy speeds like 2x or 3x. But I have found that 1.75x is the maximum that I can sustain, especially when I am driving.

It isn’t too hard to train your ear and brain to start listening to 2x speeds. As you keep listening to speech and conversations at higher speeds, your brain automatically processes it without any loss of information. There are visually impaired people who have screen readers speaking at 5x speeds. Those are crazier compared to the 1.75x I listen to.

Along with the Smart Speed feature, I can hit 1.9-2x speed and that is a good enough pace to listen to podcasts. Once you start listening to such high speeds, if you try to go back to the old normal speed, it would feel as if everyone is deliberately slowing things down and it begins to feel funny.

How to get the most out of podcasts?

Podcasts are useless if you just keep listening to them and going on to the next episode. You are spending a significant time listening to it and it would all go to waste if you didn’t have a method to take notes of the episodes. I tried a variety of tools to take notes, here are them all.

Ask Siri to “make a note”

When listening, you can just say “Hey Siri, make a note. <insert your nugget of information>. I usually turn off the “Hey Siri” feature and prefer pressing the physical button to activate Siri. When driving, I can long press the phone button on my steering wheel to activate Siri.

But the problem with this is many times Siri doesn’t transcribe my message properly and I missed a lot of messages. Also, Siri would assume that the message is completed even though I am still talking.

Ask Siri to “record a voice memo”

Another option is to ask Siri to “record a voice memo” which opens up the voice recorder. Now you can talk speak your message and it gets recorded in your own voice. This is much better than making a note.

But voice recorder is all hidden away and I prefer to use a much simpler tool for recording short notes.

Send a Whatsapp message to yourself

Initially, I was sending voice messages and short notes to my wife and she was getting confused why I sent unrelated messages. Then I started sending Whatsapp messages to myself. Yes, you can send messages to yourself (sort of).

To do that, you have to first create a group with one other person. Name this group and then remove the other person from the group. Now you have a group with just yourself. Name it as “me” or “Myself”. Now you can send short messages and notes to yourself.

I prefer this nowadays as I have a history of all the messages and voice memos. Now I have a long history of conversations containing little nuggets of information, which I can later research on and move to my permanent Evernote notebook.

Listen to important episodes again

If you have some important episode which has so much information, it would make sense to listen to it again, and again. The goal here is to not memorize the content but to listen to it again in a different setting which will allow you to pick some new useful information every time.

I have noticed this when watching some comedy movies, on watching it once more, you unearth some small piece of comedy or dialogue which you missed earlier. I have experienced this during podcast episodes too. For important episodes, I just note down the episode number and I listen to it again.

These are my tips to listening to podcasts. What are some of your tips and tricks? And how do you take notes of your favourite episodes? Leave them in the comments below.


Also published on Medium.

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