The Ultimate System to Absorb your Podcast’s Content

Since December 2019, I have listened to 29 days and 2 hours worth of podcasts. According to Pocket Cast stats, I saved 13 days and 13 hours using the different functionalities of the app.

Pocket Casts stat’s page

All that time, and of course, I’m not even close to coping with my always-expanding list of to-listen episodes.

Podcast content creation is exploding. According to Podcast Insights, there are more than 2 million podcasts, and by April 2021, there were more than 48 million episodes. That’s a lot to keep up with.

Not only that, but you also want to remember and process all the information you listen to.

Too many times I have listened to an episode while running or working out, think the host was sharing an exciting idea, and then forgot about it.

Of course, I could star/fav de episode and come back later, but I imagine very few people manage to do that.

Using a simple process, you can radically increase the value you get from all the podcasts you listen to.

Be a ruthless curator

The first step to extract the most value from every podcast you listen to is to carefully select the episode you want to hear and have a goal.

With that goal in mind, you can preview the episode to understand if you can fulfill your purpose.

The previewing process should be short:

If you subscribe to a podcast, you already know the host, so if there is a guest, you can do a little reading on who he/ she is and what his/her background. No more than 1 minute. 

Then you can read the description of the episode to understand which topics will be covered. 2 minutes.

With all this information, you will be in a better position to decide if you want to add this episode to your to-listen list or not.

Hunt for ideas

The next step in the process, of course, is to begin listening. Be an active listener, hunt for ideas, and keep your goal for listening present in your mind.

You can use any podcast app tools like listening at 1.5x speed, going forward 30 seconds, back 15, etc.

You value your time, and if they are talking about something that is not interesting to you, you can skip it.

There are several podcast app in the marketplaces, but for this process, we are going to use Airr.

Airr allows capturing “air quotes” on the fly. This way, if you listen to something interesting, you don’t have to save the whole episode.

You can air quote the fragment that caught your attention to process later.

Suppose you are using the app; with one tap on the screen, you save the last 45 seconds of the episode.

Another functionality, if you are running, for example, you can do three taps on your headphone’s main button, and the app will save the last 45 seconds of audio.

Suppose that you are listening to Jim O’shaugnessy’s Infinite Loops podcast. You hear something interesting, three taps, and the app saves it.

You keep listening, and at the end of the episode, you have five air quotes of audio saved for processing later on.

Airr app quote library

You can later edit or comment on the pieces of audio that you save and also adjust the cropping interval:

Airr app quote edit screen

With this step finished, we can move forward to the next step in the process.

The next step of the process, sync with Readwise

Readwise is an app that imports and consolidates the highlights from different media sources like Kindle, Pocket, Twitter, or Instapaper.

Readwise’s home page

What’s excellent about Readwise is that it also can import all the quotes from Airr for you to review.

Readwise’s highlight library

So the next step in the process is to import Airr notes into your Readwise account.

Having the quotes in a centralized repository is excellent, but if you want to absorb the information, you have to process it and relate it to something else.

Here is where Roam Research enters the equation.

Export to Roam and make connections with other notes

Roam is a note-taking app that allows you to write and connect your ideas using bi-directional linking technology.

This way, you can create a network of related ideas, pretty much with the same associations your brain would do.

There has been much fuss lately about the system to create this network of thoughts. If you want to learn more about it, I’d recommend you check Eva Keiffenheim’s article about the Zettelkasten system.

When you export your Airr quotes to Roam, Readwise will create a page in Roam with all the text.

Roam Research page

From now on, you are free to relate what you have in Roam to other ideas and notes you have in your network.

You can import to Roam using Shortcuts in iOS as well. I prefer the Readwise import as it gives more structure to the process.

A little trick to listen and comprehend faster

Some podcasts have lengthy introductions and sponsor announcements. Take Tim Ferris’s podcast; he has a long intro and reads all his sponsor’s ads initially.

Suppose you don’t care about this part of the podcast. In that case, one thing you can do (besides directly skip the whole thing) is listening to it at 1.7 or 1.8x the normal speed, where you can hardly understand what they are saying.

When the podcast starts, you can reduce the speed to 1.4x, it will seem regular speed for you (because you’ve been hearing at a much faster rate than that) but, at the same time, you will be listening and comprehending faster.

Just experiment with priming your brain at high speeds and then reducing it to see how fast you can listen and comprehend the material.

Final thoughts

Absorbing the increasing amount of information is hard and takes time.

I’d argue that it is better to spend a little more time processing what you listen to and then have it available in your network of thoughts than just listening without any purpose and forgetting all about it.

With this process, you will comprehend better and be ablte to reference what you learn in future situations.