LifeHack Labs: How to Listen to a Podcast so You Actually get Value from It

If you listen to podcasts, you are probably doing it wrong. Well, you are doing it wrong if you want to maximize the value you can get out of it. Now if you are listening to a podcast for entertainment feel free to stop here. If you are using a podcast to educate yourself- read on!

Consider how a podcast is presented, it is essentially a lecture. Educators have agreed that this is pretty much the worst way to transfer knowledge. If you are listening to a podcast while doing something else- its even less likely you will retain more than a vague memory of the discussion topic.

Now I enjoy just listening to podcasts. I listen to them while driving, running, waiting doing other things. But I just told you this is bad right? Not entirely. I treat this as an entertainment/review session. Ill listen to a podcast and decide if its worth a deeper dive into the content later. If Im not driving, I may even pause what Im doing an note the time and subject of an interesting subject to specifically review. And now, finally, we are starting to extract some value.

How you should you listen to a podcast?
Now lets get serious. Set some time aside to really listen. If your podcaster really likes you, they have already gone through the effort of providing you with a transcript. Then you can follow along and highlight the bits of particular value. If not, you’ll need to have a way to capture the essentials of what you are listening to. Also, don’t hesitate to stop and copy down a timestamp. Unlike a lecture, a podcast will wait for you. Pause the recording, take your notes, add some comments and add the time stamp.

Further, don’t just capture nuggets of wisdom, decide on what to do with them. A pile of notes in your FieldNotes book will never do you any good. At a minimum, schedule a time to review your notes, and action items. I try to do this the day after Ive listened to the podcast, but regardless, skim over the notes. Sometimes an essential idea in the moment loses its luster after a day. If it no longer seems important, its not; move on! More importantly, decide what you can or should take action on. With anything I read or listen to (for learning)- if I can take away and apply just one think, its been worth the effort. Aggregate little actions add up in comparison to no action!

Now if you truly wish to suck the marrow out of your note taking effort, take time to periodically skim your notes. I like to do so about once a month. At this point, some of those lackluster ideas you captured may have caught some polish from the passage of time and now have relevance to your current situation. Handily, you can jump back to the podcast with timestamp in hand and relisten to the passage of interest.

Finally, before this post ends and I forget, don’t forget to note podcast name, episode and number. It makes going back a lot easier!

So in summary take notes, capture a timestamp (and episode info), review your notes at least once, and- perhaps most importantly- do something with it- commit to at least one action based on your listen.