To say that life has been a little wonky of late would be an understatement.
Any kind of normal routines said goodbye weeks ago. Or has it been years?
Yet in the midst of our new, and hopefully temporary, normal, I’ve discovered that I’ve been in denial about a change that took place a long before Rona barged in and started trashing the world.
I didn’t want to believe it, or say it out loud, or even write it in words.
And in light of the current events of the world, it’s a small thing. A really small thing.
But it’s meaningful to me anyway.
What I just recently realized is that podcast listening days have died. It didn’t happen yesterday. It didn’t happen the day we went into quarantine.
It happened a long time ago, and I just never really took the time to notice.
Listening to Podcasts
I don’t consider myself an early adopter in any area of my life, but for some reason, I was fairly early to the podcasting scene.
I can still remember listening to my very first podcast during my lunch break at work. It was the insightful 99% Invisible with Roman Mars, long before both Roman and Radiotopia became staples of the podcasting community.
It was March of 2013, and while certainly not the genesis of the podcasting movement, it was still early enough that most people didn’t have a favorite podcast or even realize their iPhone had a built-in podcast player.
Over the next 5 years, I came to love and consistently listen to a wide variety of podcasts. This usually occurred during my morning workouts, on my daily commutes to and from work, during my lunch hour, and any other time I found myself in the car, or at the store, or working in the yard.
By 2019, I had a slate of 13 podcasts that I would listen to consistently. I consumed every episode.
Those podcasts, in no particular order, are:
- 99% Invisible – Roman Mars diving into the everyday design of the world all around us.
- The Bill Simmons Podcast – Bill Simmons has been one of my favorite sports writers and ESPN personalities for years. His lastest podcasting efforts, after being unceremoniously ousted from ESPN, have been a fantastic blend of sports, tv, movies, music, technology, and all things pop culture.
- Choose FI – Brad and Jonathan bringing the best of the financial independence community together to help us all grow and make smarter money decisions.
- Exponent – Co-hosts Ben Thompson (Stratechery.com) and James Allworth (Cloudfare, Inc.) provide lively and poignant discussions of today’s technology companies, solutions, business models, and strategies and how they affect us and the larger world around us.
- How I Built This with Guy Raz – Founders of some of the best-known companies sharing how it all started.
- Invisibilia – Powerful stories of the unseen forces that shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions.
- Hardcore History – Dan Carlin doesn’t do anything halfway. If you’re looking for 4-hour episodes about Julius Ceasar, the Mongolian Empire, or the Battle of Midway, you’re looking for Hardcore History.
- Freakanomics – Stephen Dubner interviews…well, everyone…on a quest to truly understand the economics behind everything.
- Planet Money – NPR’s award-winning podcast that takes a micro look at the world to understand the macro world of money.
- Mosaic – Pastor Erwin McManus sharing the love of God from the heart of Hollywood, California.
- Reply All – A podcast “about the internet” that dives deep into the strange intersections between the real world and the online world.
- Accidental Tech Podcast – Three tech nerds started a car podcast. Twelve episodes in, they were discussing technology more than cars and the Accidental Tech Podcast was born.
- The Talk Show with John Gruber – The ambiguously named show where John Gruber (daringfireball.net) and his guests discuss Apple, technology, and a light sprinkling of whatever rabbit hole they go down.
I should probably mention that I’ve been listening to podcasts at 2x speed for 5 years now, so that has always allowed me to make the most of my available listening time. I also use the powerful Smart Speed feature available in my Overcast podcast player to automatically remove empty gaps of silence, speeding up most podcasts by an additional 5 to 10 percent.
It should also be noted that listening to podcasts at double speed also makes it very difficult to listen to a podcast at normal speed with my wife. (Sooo slooooow!)
The Day the Podcasts Died
My days of consuming so many podcasts died a near-instant death, but it took me several months to realize that it happened.
Looking back, the day my podcasts died was on July 1, 2019, my last day of work.
It probably shouldn’t have been surprising, seeing as so much of my podcast consumption was associated with my work schedule – my commute, my lunch break, running random errands during the day, etc.
But the reality was that just a few days after my last day of work, we left for our 3-week adventure through Costa Rica. During that 3 week stretch, I obviously didn’t listen to any podcasts.
The sudden lack of podcasts didn’t feel abnormal because our whole lives felt abnormal. We were in a foreign country experiencing new places and new people every single day.
It wasn’t until we returned from our trip that I opened up my podcast queue to find a mountainous backlog of episodes.
But I thought I could eventually catch up.
I’ll Never Catch Up
After returning from Costa Rica and starting a fresh school year, my new routine included getting up at 6:30 am to get the big kids dressed and fed and then driving them less than a mile to school. I could start a podcast on the short drive home, then head out for my roughly 1-hour workout.
And that was it. That was all the time afforded in my new routine for podcasts.
It was an instant 50% daily drop in podcast time.
And I’m not one of those who can listen to a podcast while working, or doing anything that requires attentive thought. I would never be able to listen to a podcast while also typing this right now. Music, yes. Podcast, no.
And the truth is, now that I’m retired, I’m home with my kids a lot more. I’m outside with my kids a lot more. I’m doing things with my wife a lot more. Listening to a podcast is a very solitary endeavor and my truly solitary moments are few and far between these days.
And that was before the coronavirus had us wearing bandanas on our faces and peeking out our blinds like we’re in the final showdown in a wild west movie.
Time to Cut ‘Em Loose
So now I’m looking at my queue of 277 unplayed podcast episodes from 13 different shows and realizing I’ve got to kick some shows to the curb, possibly forever.
It’s going to be a brutal cut because I’m actually very picky about the shows that I subscribe to, so every show on my list is a show that I truly enjoy and get some value from.
But it’s got to be done. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m never going to catch up, so keeping old episodes lying around that I’ll never listen to is just pointless, and even somewhat painful every time I see them.
So I’ve decided I’m cutting the list down to just 5 shows. JUST 5!
That means I’ve got to eliminate 8 shows from my list. Eight shows that I really enjoy are likely going away forever.
And now, as everything around us seems to be changing, it seems like the most appropriate time to make this change.
Like you, I’m longing for the days when we can return to some sense of the old normal, but I also realize there some parts of that old routine may not ever return.
So I’m choosing to take control how at least one area of my life is going to be different going forward. It’s going to be simpler.
It will likely be painful at first, but change usually is.
But then we adjust. We acclimate. We grow.
Wish me luck.
The chopping starts now.
Which podcasts do you think I should keep or eliminate? What framework would you use to decide which shows to ax? Let me know in the comments.