Podcasts and audiobooks: to reduce the pain and suffering

April 4, 2008 by Jared Goralnick

If you fill your iPod with a diversity of audiobooks and podcasts then you’ll be a far less stressed individual…when you find yourself waiting or stuck.  This isn’t a revolutionary shazam productivity tip–it’s plain psychology: when you feel you’re wasting time, doing something seemingly productive (like reading/learning) will not only pass the time but quell the desire to accomplish.

I’ll admit it, I like productivity for the sake of productivity–I’ll put off folding the laundry until I’m on the phone with a friend.  But there’s more to it: when I’m stuck in traffic or waiting for a train, especially during the business day, I get frustrated that I could be doing something more useful.  That’s where audiobooks and podcasts enter the picture: they make me feel I’m using my time more wisely.  I love music, and sometimes prefer it, but I’d recommend having some good podcasts or audiobooks handy.  Many tips and download recommendations follow…

  • You can easily subscribe to a dozen shows, ranging from news to education to comedy (new to podcasts, just click here [free Podcasts downloads in iTunes] if you have an iPod)
  • If there’s a book you’re interested in, you can likely grab it from Audible.com inexpensively (with this link you can download your first read free)
  • If there are conferences you missed, see if the speeches have been made available (talk about a great use of your time + a big cost savings!)
  • Short of carrying an expensive Kindle, it’s difficult to carry more than one printed book…but one MP3 player will handle many books and podcasts

Consider for a moment whether you have a variety of shows and books at your disposal on your iPod.  Be diligent–have shows for different moods and synchronize every day.  The key isn’t just to have some shows, it’s to have stuff that you want to listen to when you need it.

When I was stuck in traffic tonight, it helped to have This American Life playing.  Some of my favorite things to listen to (I don’t do mobile video …but feel free to leave a comment with video recommendations):

  • NPR: This American Life (awesome stories), Future Tense (2 minutes of technology, daily), Car Talk (comedy and cars)
  • SXSW (my highlights) and TED (audio podcast) conferences – these are two incredible events.  If you’re not into tech, you’ll still find some of the most fascinating and important speeches at TED.  Check it out!
  • TWiT (This Week in Tech): TWiT, Windows Weekly (sadly, it’s more talk than news/analysis these days)
  • 60 Minutes – they broadcast the whole thing
  • Audible – lately I’ve been reading Natalie Angier’s The Canon (everything you never knew about how science is cool), Ayn Rand’s unabridged Atlas Shrugged (needless to say, those 52 hours will take a while), and some old interviews (like this Mike Wallace interview of Frank Lloyd Wright)

I hope this inspires you to get some audio ready for you whenever you have a commute or a big trip ahead.  It makes for a good use of a time.  What do you do when you’re stuck waiting?  Any recommendations for great podcasts or audiobooks?

Photo credit: Hamed Saber

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10 Responses to “Podcasts and audiobooks: to reduce the pain and suffering”

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  1. Rebecca

    Check out your local libary. With a library card mine will allow you to download audio books as windows media files. These can easily be converted to MP3s or Ipod formats, or burned to CD and listened to in your car. And they are free!

  2. Luc

    Hi Jared,

    I tend to do the same thing and listen to podcasts when I’m driving. A couple of good ones:

    -http://webbalert.com/ – this is a video but the visual part doesn’t really matter so you can listen to it as audio-only.

    -Coffee Break Spanish. Easy way to pick up some spanish while I’m driving.

  3. Nathan Ketsdever

    With 4-8 hours in front of a computer everyday and about an hour in commute–audiobooks rock!

    Finding information rich and interesting podcasts is sometimes difficult.

  4. Nathan Ketsdever

    Jared and other readers,

    Problem solved by Pimp My News. Your favorite blogs in audio. Seems like it would be perfect for your commute and clients:


  5. Dan Markovitz


    You’re going to listen to the 117 page speech by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged? God help you.

    Please don’t do this while driving, because you might fall asleep at the wheel and do some damage.

  6. David

    Project Gutenberg has a section of free audio books: http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:The_Audio_Books_Project

  7. Jared Goralnick

    Rebecca, this is a really great tip–I’ll have to remember it. Audio books can be quite expensive!

    Luc, thank you for the tips!

    Nathan, I’m going to have to check that out

    David, Project Gutenberg is a great resource I keep hearing about but haven’t yet explored. Thanks for the link!

  8. Jared Goralnick

    Dan, you’re probably right. I have the abridged version of Atlas Shrugged on audiobook on CD. The Galt speech is cut into ONE CD. In one CD it’s long but at least bearable. I wonder what I’m going to think of it when I get there…

    As a side to any readers: if you want to try Ayn Rand out but don’t want to invest forever and a day in reading, try the ABRIDGED version of the audiobook–it’s like 11 hours and pretty good.

  9. Graham

    I find the selection of lectures available from The Teaching Company most enlightening. There are subjects to suit all tastes. A little expensive though if you become a serious collector.

    see http://www.teach12.com

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