5 Ways to Learn From Every Podcast You Hear

Podcasting, it seems, is all the rage nowadays. In fact, some call it the “zeitgeist of 2017.”


According to a study conducted by Edison Research, 57 million Americans said they regularly listen to podcasts. That’s 23% more than last year. Product developers from Apple and Google are actively working to make products that make Podcasting more of an everyday thing.


As a producer of podcasts, we couldn’t be more encouraged to see those kinds of numbers. Even so, we wonder how people are interacting with these podcasts, and what are they gaining from this investment of time. Are they listening for pure pleasure, personal improvement, to be inspired, or something in between?


No matter the reason, we believe every podcast episode will probably contribute to your personal growth in one way or another. Yes, even Serial can probably teach us something.


But our main point here, if your intent is to learn, connect, think differently, etc., are you actually doing anything beyond listening?

Because, it’s easy to listen, enjoy, and move one. But we love to take action, not just be inspired for 5 minutes.



Here are 5 ways to take the listening experience and translate it into an opportunity for active learning and growth.


The funny thing about these tactics, they may seem obvious at first glance. We add context and the advice to put them into practice, to process what you hear and apply it to your life in a way that creates real, meaningful change.


Tactic 1: Keep a Notebook

We tend to do most of our podcast listening amidst the noise of everyday life. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard an interesting point on our ride to a partner, made a mental note to revisit it, and let it slip away by lunch.


So, to save us from ourselves, we’ve made it a point to assume we’ll forget most things. How do we compensate for this lack of mental acuity?


With a notebook.


We know, that’s not a revelation. But are you doing it?


We like to use Field Notes, a great Moleskine, and our iPhones with Evernote. When you hear an interesting point, make a note and revisit it later. You’ll be amazed at how a simple note can help you recall important points and retain them for later.


But before you can do that, you’ve got to learn how to do this…


Tactic 2: Hit the Pause Button

We’re big time infovores (per Urban Dictionary – a person that has a voracious appetite for information). There’s always more information out there to be consumed. Sometimes we even listen to podcasts at double speed and take them in as fast as a 1.5-year-old eats goldfish.


To make the most of what we’re hearing, we’ve had to learn to give ourselves a moment to stop and consider what’s been said.


It turns out they have a button for that: pause.


The other day we were listening to the new show How Do We Do This?! from the creators of Where There’s Smoke podcast. Among several interesting topics, they discussed a reference to how to compete against the big podcasts out there, with an idea of becoming a big fish in small pond, instead of competing as a small fish in a big pond. They rattled off a few ideas of doing this, that they thought could help.


That was a prime time for us to hit pause and consider how this one idea could be really big for us too.


If we didn’t hit the pause button to stop and think about the application of the idea for us, that critical idea would have simply flitted by like the 1,001 other interesting tidbits that pass in and out of our brains every day.


So, hit the pause button and give yourself a minute to hear what you just heard.


You may even want to talk back…


Tactic 3: Argue with Your Earphones

Our media consumption habits have polarized us all. Social media, in so many ways, makes it far too easy for us to crawl into our bubble and never leave. To push back on that tendency, we often listen to podcasts that share worldviews and ideas different than our own. This is perfect to expand ideas and perspectives.


And when we do, we’re often arguing with the hosts, regardless if they can hear us.



You too? If not, you should. Feel free to shout out loud. Helpful tip: Shouting out loud may be better left for times when you’re alone in the car. The treadmill at the gym may not be ideal. Unless you like crazy looks from strangers. You be the judge.


A thoughtful argument with your podcast host du jour will force you to do two things:

First, you’ll have to assimilate and understand the opposing point of view to interact with it fairly. As they say in debate club: if you can’t make the other guy’s argument for him, then you haven’t understood it.

Second, you’ll sharpen your own view in defense. Often, in the process of attempting to solidify your views, you’ll realize some of them weren’t very firm to begin with. Just like that, you’ll learn something new.


Remember to stay open. If you’re listening to a show that shares most of your opinions, but offers ideas you think wouldn’t work, argue it out (in your notebook). Maybe they could work, if you’re open to change.


Tactic 4: Treat the Podcast as an Invitation to Further Your Knowledge

We recently did a show with the cameraman-turned-magician-turned-entrepreneur, Julian Mather. His story was fascinating—full of twists, turns, and radical changes of direction. The episode was jam-packed; it would be hard keep up with all the details of Julian’s story.


That’s why we posted an episode page with show notes, a timeline, and links for further exploration. And many shows have episode pages, or at the least show notes.


Whenever you finish an interesting podcast, don’t just let it sit. Visit the episode page and run down the various threads you find there. You’ll often be surprised to find episode extras too. You may just find that the episode you heard was only the tip of a life-changing iceberg.


Tactic 5: Take Meaningful Action

Even the best ideas are worthless until you can translate them into meaningful action.


On our podcast, Henri Hebert shared her incredible struggle to find balance in life as a successful television producer. Just after the hour mark, she shared a key takeaway: we need to give ourselves permission to stop, recenter, and take care of ourselves.


That’s a great lesson, but worthless if we don’t do anything with it. If that or any other idea is actually going to work, we have to make it effectual. So, hit the pause button, reflect on the lesson shared, whip out your notebook, and write down a simple action step to take this further.


Here’s what that looked like for us:

Note: Much like Henri’s was, our lives at Accidental Information is a whirlwind right now. We must give ourselves permission to slow down, realize the progress we’ve made, and most importantly, remember self care is always a must.

Action Step: We’re going to arrange schedules so that we don’t work without meaningful breaks. In fact, we’re adding activities to force us out of work mode.


By translating an idea into a meaningful task or set of tasks, we can apply it to our lives and finally begin to see concrete results. That’s, perhaps, the best way to really make the most of a podcast.


And Now…

With these 5 tactics, you’ll be better prepared to make the most of every podcast episode you hear. In the end, it’s about listening and participating in the learning. This easily applies beyond podcasts to anything you’re consuming. If you’re ready to consider how you can make real changes in your life, then listen to a great podcast and take action.


We’d love to know how you make the most of your podcast listening. Leave us a comment.


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