Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Stuff You Didn't Get Around To Read


Don't you think it's hard to keep up with everything going on out there?

You probably think there's not enough time in the day to dig into the latest things going on in IT, science, games, sports, politics, finance, or whatever your interests are.

Not to mention all those great books you got off Amazon, which are just stacking up. Maybe you got a Kindle or a tablet to help you get more reading done.

And then there are those 200 videos from that awesome conference on Vimeo for free! Will have to dig through them soon.

In a vain attempt to trick yourself into believing you'll get around to consuming all the material, you star it on Twitter. You tag it for later. You add it to Instapaper. Read Later. Watch Later. An ever increasing backlog of information you want to absorb, but the truth is that you'll never catch up.

What if I were to say: You do have the time. You're just not using it right. You're trying to consume good information, but you're using the wrong channel: the visual channel.

Now don't get me wrong, your eyes are great for absorbing information. The problem is that your eyes are already busy most of the day. Busy driving. Walking. Shopping. Doing the dishes. Cooking.

Your ears, however. Now that's a different story.


Your ears are free most of the day, as long as you're not in conversation, or concentrating. Think about the commute to work. That's 1-2 hours of time where your eyes are mostly busy.

This is time you should use to get through your information backlog. Hence, the alternative title of this blog-post is..

Why You Should Listen to Podcasts

Maybe you take the train/bus to work, and you think you're already getting plenty visual time to read when you're on the go. But do you really? How much time of that trip are you actually sitting down, have both hands free, and the concentration to read something? For me that's maybe 10-20 minutes of the 40 it takes me to get to work. The rest of the time I'm walking between transit or standing in a cramped train.

Listening to a podcast instead, I get 40 minutes of listening out of that trip. And again on the return trip.

I take my daughter for an hour's walk in the pram in the evening. She's mostly busy sleeping, or looking at stuff, so that's another hour of listening.

And later on when I'm cleaning up the kitchen and around, I usually get another 30 mins or more.

All together, that's nearly three hours of listening in a day. Three hours of learning. Three hours of entertainment. Time which would have been kind of wasted otherwise.

But how do I listen to podcasts?

You probably already have a smartphone. More or less any Android or iPhone will do.

If you drive to work, you'll need Bluetooth, or some way of hooking it into your car stereo (I spent about 150 euros into getting a Bluetooth stereo into my car, service included). A lot of car stereos also have aux-in (cable).

Now get either Downcast for iPhone, or BeyondPod for Android. Subscribe to a podcast of your liking, and start listening.

I recently started my own podcast as a supplement to this blog, and in the last episode we talk about our very first steps as podcast-listeners (there are some great podcast recommendations for you in the show-notes), and some tips and tricks for bootstrapping the experience.

But I don't get anything out of listening to people talk

Maybe. We're all different. Or maybe you should try doing it for a few weeks and see if you start to like it. I disregarded podcasts as being kind of useless up until summer last year. Now I'm a total podcast junkie.

But the information I want to consume is not available in podcast form

Hey, you just discovered a niche where you should start your own podcast! Well, maybe not, but this is something I'll come back to in a future blog-post, because once you really start consuming, you might exhaust the good podcasts' production rate.

For instance, the programming-related podcasts I listen to don't produce enough for me to listen to constantly, so I've widened out and started listening in other areas like science, etc. Expand your horizons a bit. Besides, in years to come I'm pretty sure we will get more and more content producers in every area.

And if you still run out of podcasts, there are still plenty of audiobooks.

But I still didn't get around to reading all those things I wanted to read

Neither did I. But I don't feel so bad about it anymore, because I'm investing a lot of new time into learning stuff. Besides, when listening to podcasts, I get a lot more information into my brain compared to when I skim through articles or blog-posts. A podcast is a bit like a real conversation with someone who's trying to explain something to me deeply. In the end, I feel smarter, and better informed.