Listening to a podcast can seem like it's tricky to fit into a busy lifestyle, but rest assured it can be done! After grappling with this problem myself, I came up with a list of when to listen to podcasts. All of these allow multi-tasking, so in addition to listening to the podcast you're also accomplishing something else you need to do anyway.
First though, you'll need to make peace with the idea that if you're a busy person you'll need to listen to your podcast episodes bit by bit.
Expect to listen to your podcast in small chunks of time. You'll get there faster in the end than setting aside large blocks of time, because you don't have large blocks available.
You almost certainly won't have the time to listen to an entire episode in one sitting. Many podcast episodes are an hour long (why?!) and with the demands of work, home life, and everything else, it's simply not a realistic goal to listen for that long in one go. Or rather, if you did have an hour free, I bet you already have a list of other things you'd like to use that hour for.
The key is to listen while you're doing something else that doesn't take up your attention too much. There are fortunately many occasions in your everyday life when this happens, as you'll see below. Even just literally a few minutes at a go is enough to make progress in your podcast. Let's move on and get ideas of when to listen to podcasts.
The best times and places to listen to podcasts
When doing household tasks
- When mopping the floor
- When cleaning the countertops
- While putting away a load of groceries
- When ironing
Leisure and hobbies
- While stretching after a run or workout
- When waiting for a friend to meet up with you somewhere such as a coffee shop (with earbuds, obviously)
- While waiting in your car e.g. in long drive-thru line or school pickup line
- When eating lunch or dinner at home by yourself
- While at the gym on the ellipticals or exercise bikes if you can do so without risk of earbuds falling out
- When at a routine step in a hobby or activity, for example while sanding a completed piece of woodwork, or when cutting out fabric pattern pieces for sewing
- While playing a phone game or computer game that doesn't take up too much attention
When getting ready or personal grooming
- When putting your contact lenses in or out. If you're washing your hands properly and being careful, this task will take you 3 to 5 minutes
- Men: while shaving
- Women: while doing at-home waxing or epilating (bonus: the podcast takes your mind off any discomfort!) Also while putting on makeup and when plucking eyebrows.
When NOT to listen to podcasts
There are some situations that seem at first glance like they'd be good for listening to podcasts, for example while out walking, but in actual fact are not so good. These occasions typically raise safety issues. Here's when not to listen to podcasts.
- Avoid listening while walking or running. To a thief or mugger, you'll appear less aware of your surroundings and therefore more of a target. Yes, it would be best if bad actors simply didn't attack people to begin with - the fault is at their end, not at yours, even if you were listening to a podcast. Nonetheless, be a good friend to yourself and keep yourself safe. Another problem with listening while walking or running is that you can be less aware of traffic noise and potential problems with traffic.
- If you must listen on public transit (with earbuds), stop listening before you get to your stop. Otherwise you'll wind up appearing as a target to an attacker, as mentioned above.
- Do not listen to podcasts while driving as it can interfere with your concentration. Your primary focus should be on the driving. If you're parked or in a long line (e.g. to pick up takeouts) that's fine if you can listen safely, but otherwise don't listen while you are driving. Also, be sure not to use earbuds or headphones in the car if you're the driver - that's illegal in many US states.
- While there's nothing wrong with listening while other noise is going on, it'll be harder for you and you'll probably miss bits of the podcast. This is why I do not recommend listening while in the shower or while vacuuming.
Other tips for fitting podcasts into a busy schedule
Your choice of podcast app
Your choice of podcast app and its features can help a lot when trying to find time to listen to podcasts. It notifies you when a new episode of your favorite podcasts is available. It'll keep track of how much you've listened to, allowing you to start and stop whenever you want without losing your place. Additional features that will help you if you're busy are things like the ability to download instead of stream episodes. This is ideal if you plan to listen in an area with poor signal. All of these things make it easier and simpler to listen to podcasts, saving you time in the long run.
Be aware of your data plan and battery life
If you're a busy person, you're probably listening to podcasts while out and about, so if your data plan is limited and if you're not on Wi-Fi you'll chew through your data quickly when listening to a podcast the regular way. Even on an unlimited data plan, some providers slow down your rate of data once you've gone over a certain amount for the month. To get around all this, see if your podcast app allows you to download episodes beforehand onto your device over WiFi and play them back later, as mentioned above.
See if the podcast provides a transcript
One of the podcasts I listen to has a transcript of each episode which is provided in the podcast links. Using this, I was able to read the transcript in 6 minutes instead of listening to it for over 30 minutes. That's a highly significant saving of time. Podcasts are a relatively slow way to absorb information compared with reading, so if you can read a transcript then you can save a lot of time. Of course, it's not the same as listening to someone's voice, but it may be well worth it if you prefer reading anyway. So check in the podcast links or on the podcast's main website to see if a transcript is available.
The bottom line for when to listen to podcasts
The idea here is to fit in your podcasts in occasions in your day when you're doing something else that doesn't require your ears or your full attention. This way you can multi-task and get more done at one time. Listed above are plenty of practical suggestions for when to listen to podcasts - no matter how busy you are.