Most people use podcasts to pass the time. They listen to whatever a friend recommended or what’s popular. They listen when they’re driving, commuting or walking.
I’d invite you to consider using podcast listening more proactively. Why not use podcasts in a more self-coaching manner and let your habit of podcast listening level up your life.
Be proactive when you pick the voices in your head.
Ask yourself — what’s my purpose in listening to this podcast? Do I want to change my internal narrative? Do I want to learn something? Do I want some distraction from bad news? Do I just want entertainment? Do I want to think in a way that gets me better results? You’re turning two of your most precious commodities — your brain and your time — over to some voices. You’d better know what you want to get out of the podcast.
Use your podcast listening to level up your life.
Ask yourself why you’re listening, decide when you’re going to listen, and consciously choose what you’re listening to. I’ve got my favorite podcasts for treadmill work, park walking or to refocus myself. Actively making a choice based upon style, content and voice will insure that you get the most out of the time you’re putting into listening. You’ll be an active not a passive consumer.
These days podcasts typically come in two formats: a monologue which generally means the podcast is shorter between 15-20 minutes or an interview format with one or maybe two people that generally runs for 30-60+ minutes. Learn to pick your podcasts for content & time to get the most from the experience.
Here are four ways to use podcasts:
#1 Use Podcasts to Extend Your Workout.
Several years ago when I started listening to podcasts, I listened as a way of distracting myself so I would last longer on the treadmill. It worked. I’d find a podcast episode I really wanted to listen to and start walking. I was amazed that my 30 minute routine flew by.
After a few weeks I realized I could hijack this routine and get even more out of the treadmill. If I chose podcast episodes that held my attention and lasted 45-60 minutes, I could double my workout mileage without adding stress or pain. It was like magic. I still use the method today.
An aside: Conducting a great podcast interview is a skill. There are many more podcasts than skilled interviewers. Great interviewers requires someone who has: (1) an ability to build rapport immediately, (2) great listening aptitude, (3) a firm grasp of the backstory, research and/or knowledge of the subject matter, (4) interesting, open ended questions that allow the guest to respond authentically (5) genuine curiosity and (6) an ability to keep the conversation on course yet an ease if the conversation moves in an alternative direction — but still engaging for the interviewee and the audience. The more you listen to podcasts, the more you’ll be able to spot a good interviewer.
#2 Use Podcasts to Replace Your Bad Habits.
When I announced to friends that I’d stopped watching TV, I was so proud of myself. I told myself and my friends that I was more productive because I wasn’t wasting time with the ‘boob tube’ as my Mom called it. (Watching TV turned you into a boob.)
What I didn’t tell them was that I’d replaced my TV addiction with a web browsing addiction. I wasn’t watching TV but I was consuming hours and hours of You Tube videos, website searches, Facebook browsing and news site feeds.
Truth was, my internet addition was worse. My TV addition was limited to a few hours in the evening. My internet addiction with pointless content was a battle I faced all day long on multiple devices. It was far more devastating to my productively, my focus and my well-being than my TV addition.
If the TV was a boob tube, the internet was a black hole that was threatening to consume my heart and mind. I got ratcheted up about the news, annoyed with people on Facebook and obsessed with entertainment gossip from around the world. I’d grab my phone first thing in the morning and check to see what was happening — invariably it put me in a bad mood or took up space in my brain with thoughts that were fruitless. The time I spent added up over the course of the day to hundreds of minutes — leading into hours of wasted time.
But I couldn’t stop.
I started to hate myself until I realized the technology and the website headlines were supposed to consume me. The technology and the content had been designed to get me addicted. Nir Eyal has written about this in his book, Hooked. If I wanted to change, I need to take control of my behavior and find some fixes.
Make the Podcast a Reward
One of the fixes I used was to set up a reward system that combined movement with podcast listening. If I could get myself started in the morning — dressed and out the door without checking my phone, I’d reward myself with a walk and a listen to my current favorite podcast. If I could do 4-5 hours of dedicated writing at my desk without checking the internet news, I’d reward myself with a walk in Central Park and a podcast.
It wasn’t easy. And there were plenty of days I didn’t succeed. But on those days I did, I got to the end of the day and I’d accomplished more toward my goal and I felt better about myself. Plus, as I got better at targeting my podcast listening I even learned a few new things.
I didn’t just stop a habit, I replaced the bad habit with a reward that if used thoughtfully provided real benefits toward a more mindful life.
#3 Use Podcasts to Put a Better Voice in Your Head.
One of the great challenges in life is to mange the voice in our head. Often, we’ve got a monologue running that isn’t serving us. “You sounded totally stupid in that meeting.” “Bob hasn’t called me back. I wonder if he’s pissed?” “I wonder what she meant by that comment? She sounded annoyed.” “I should have said……blah, blah, blah.”
Often it’s not easy to shut down that inner monologue that runs. But by doing what psychologist call a ‘pattern interrupt’ with a podcast listen, you immediately change the conversation between your ears.
“A pattern interrupt is a technique to change a particular thought, behavior or situation. Behavioral psychology and neuro linguistic programming use this technique to interrupt and change thought patterns and behaviors. It can be as simple as initiating a handshake or as definitive as seizing the moment to travel or fulfill your bucket list.” — Helen Roe, from HuffPost 9/30/2015
It’s a joy to think about changing the voice in your head with a podcast. The beauty of podcasting is the number of unique voices — and you get to choose. Think about making your choices to suit what you want to think about, what you want to feel.
Ask yourself how does a particular voice or interviewing style make you feel? Is there energy in the voice you can capture? Does the tone in the voice get you focused on the topic at hand? If you want to change the dialogue you’re running, listening to a different voice via a podcast can often get you started.
#4 Use Podcasts to Increase Your Vocabulary.
Over the years, I’ve tuned into several podcasts that I felt were over my head. The hosts often used words that were big and imposing. Words I’d rarely heard. My impulse was to stop listening. Recently, I decided that response was limiting — and it might behove me to stick with the listening and use it as an opportunity to increase my vocabulary. It’s been an interesting experiment. It can be a challenge to manage my response — we’ve become so used to instant hits and instant gratification that it requires some stick-to-it-ness. But I will tell you that beside picking up some new pieces of information, I have definitely increased my vocabulary and I’ve become more sensitive to the importance of precise word choice — especially in my own communication. Two podcasts that stretch my vocabulary are Sam Harris’s Waking Up and Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Star Talk.
ADDITIONAL TIPS TO LEVERAGE YOUR PODCAST LISTENING
Save podcasts that taught you something and re-listen. I have a handful of podcasts I keep in my podcast library because I know when I re-listen I’ll hear a new nugget of wisdom or I’ll ‘see’ the information/idea more clearly. Unlike ‘real’ conversation that you can’t rewind — podcast conversations have the great advantage of replay. How awesome to be able to reply a wonderful, rare conversation!
Take notes. I’m amazed at the number of times I’m listening to a podcast when ideas, connections, thoughts start flooding my mind. I use the Notes function on my I-phone. I hit pause and make a quick note. A Quick Tip: Add a notation on your note with the episode name & date so if you need to recheck something you’ll know where to go. Think of it like a footnote!
There are an endless number of great podcasts being produced. It’s hard to name ‘the best’ so the last few years I found myself rotating my listening. I’ll download a few podcasts and listen for a few weeks or months then switch it up and pick a new group for listening. It’s a great way to keep myself primed for new ideas and help me connect different dots.
My current favorite podcasters (many of whom are also book authors or writers) is below. Each of these podcasts has its own style and covers different terrain but I invite you to have a listen.
The Moment with Brian Koppelman — great interviews with interesting creatives in various arenas; Koppelman mostly writes in partnership with David Levien
Tara Brach with Tara Brach — free meditations and longer monologue talks on various mindfulness topics.
GoodLife Project Podcast with Jonathan Fields — short snippets from Jonathan and longer interview segments on various life subjects.
The Accidental Creative with Todd Henry — short snippets and interview format on management & leadership in the creative workspace.
Let me know your favorite podcasts and listening tips — Heidi@TheLiterarySalon.com.