I used to never be able to have podcasts playing while doing thought-intensive work.
If I’m doing monotonous monkey-work, then yeah, I can listen to podcasts. But the moment when I need to think through things, the podcasts just get in the way. To get my mind to focus, I pause the audio. Most times I don’t end up unpausing it.
Working at home has helped to change this behavior. Instead of wearing headphones while listening to podcasts, now I play it on external speakers. Working at home has allowed me to work in an environment where podcasts play in the background while I work.
But what about the times when I need to think and focus? Don’t the podcasts still distract me? Nope! They don’t distract me most times. Here’s how:
Four tricks for listening to podcasts while doing thinking work.
1. Play the podcasts at a lower volume.
When I’m doing monkey work and listen to podcasts, there’s a certain volume that I play the episodes. A volume that makes it really easy to listen.
When I’m doing thinking-work, and I can’t really pay attention to the podcast, I simply lower the volume down where the audio is in the background. Then I can simply zone out the audio and focus on what I’m doing.
There are times where I still need to turn off the audio. But lately just turning the volume down really does help.
2. Reject FOMO
In general in life, when i do something, I do it, and I do a good job. I don’t like doing halfway jobs. Same is true when I watch tv or listen to podcasts. I like to focus on watching tv. I focus on listening to podcasts. I want to hear the entire episode. I don’t want to miss anything. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) rules over me.
My version of FOMO isn’t missing out what’s happening culturally. My FOMO is a fear of missing a few minutes of my favorite podcasts.
But now that I subscribe to over 100 podcasts, there is so much listening to do. Seeing this large constant library of podcasts makes me realize, that I will miss some parts of my favorite podcasts. I accept that I can’t listen to the entire episode.
3. Approach podcasts as radio
Instead of constantly pausing and unpausing audio, I’d rather have podcasts playing non-stop around the house. Sometimes my brain might catch certain parts of the episodes. Most times, I won’t listen to what’s being played.
It’s a little bit like the radio. The radio just keeps playing and playing. When you have the radio on, you never worry, “OH NO, I’M GOING TO MISS THESE 10 MINUTES OF THIS SHOW BECAUSE I HAVE TO DO THIS CERTAIN TASK.” Nope, you simply let the radio play, and you don’t hear everything on the radio.
I shouldn’t be worried about missing ten minutes of “40 minutes in the Old Testament”. Because when I worry about missing ten minutes, I wait to play it until I can focus. Then it never ends up getting played. I end up missing all 40 minutes. So Yeah, I’ll take the 30 of the 40 minutes.
Now I’m approaching podcasts like radio. My podcast application is always playing in the background. My 100+ podcast subscriptions currently have 205 episodes totaling 108 hours!!! That’s 4.5 days of 24-hour playing! So yeah, this can totally be a radio.
4. Set up connected speakers
Use a speaker system like Amazon’s Alexa. Or Google’s Nest speakers (like mine). With either system, you can have the same audio play on all the speakers at once. When you go to the kitchen, your podcasts continue to play. I personally use bluetooth speakers to spread the audio around the house.
Of course, you can also use headphones connected to your phone. I personally don’t like wearing headphones for hours on end. (I fear it would hurt my hearing), but if you are able to use headphones all the day long, that would work for you. The idea is to have the same audio playing in places in addition to your computer.