Anyone who has battled monsoon and traffic in Mumbai knows they can both be two deadly forces. When combined it is a particularly potent cocktail. Till a few months back, I used to travel the distance of 12 km or about 8 miles in a black and yellow cab from work to home. Most days it took me a mere 50-60 minutes (Trust me, in most big Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, that travel time indeed falls in the category of “mere”). However, that one fateful evening almost two years back, I was stuck in horrible rainy evening traffic snarls taking my total travel time to almost 2 hours. That evening my frustration at not knowing what to do during my commute bubbled over and found expression in a rant to my husband.
As I told him, I do not want to end up using my commute time staring at more screens. I can’t read books since I rarely ever get out before sundown. Mobile network can be patchy and catching up with friends was not always a smooth experience. Indian radio was filled with bland repetitive music and inane conversations. After letting me vent it out, my husband uttered the magic word “Podcast”. While I had earlier heard an ex-boss mentioning how he listened to them while being on his morning run, I had never bothered to understand the logistics or give it a try. But it seemed like a good idea to occupy me during frustrating commutes and it has been a life changer. Being a generous blogger who believes in sharing good things, practices or habits that I subscribe to, I knew I had to write all about why you must give podcasts a try and some of my favourite ones which you could start your podcast journey with.
5 Reasons why you must listen to podcasts
I have now been a fairly regular podcast listener for almost two years and am now a staunch advocate for the medium. While I have often thought of starting a podcast of my own, just talking about why it’s so good will have to do for now.
Screen free entertainment
As part of my job, I spend quite a bit of time staring into a laptop screen. Apart from my laptop, my phone screen also gets a lot of audience with my eyes. By the end of a work day, I can literally feel the weariness in my eyes. For quite some time, cooking was my only screen free time. But as I started to batch cook for the week, that was off the table. Podcasts have filled in the vacuum of screen free occupation of time during my commute perfectly.
Even if I thought of being less easy on my eyes and wanting to get in sync with all most other Indians binge watching on Amazon Prime or Netflix, I would ideally want a bigger screen. Also, with video, the storage requirements are far more. With a podcast all you need is one app where you can subscribe to your favourites and download a few episodes to listen to on-the-go. Listening to a podcast while walking is one of my favourite things which is again something you can really not do with an audio visual form of entertainment or even with a book.
Do you have any interest in a niche or something you have wanted to learn about? Podcasts are a fountain of entertaining knowledge. There are podcasts about entrepreneurship, comedy, productivity, politics, fiction, writing, blogging, parenting, economics or almost anything under the sun. You name it, chances are you will find a podcast about it. My most fun find yet? A Bollywood podcast hosted a by a couple of Canadians (no Indian connection that I could fathom).
One of the other avenues that comes close to podcasts in form factor are audio books. There was a time when my husband was hooked to listening to the Harry Potter books read out by Stephen Fry. While audio books have their place, what makes podcasts more fun is that most of them are conversational or structured in a way that makes it easier to listen to them as compared to an often monotonic droning of an audiobook.
While there are a lot of videos and TED talks that one can watch, getting to know and hear some of your favourite people talk is an experience limited to podcasts. For instance, there are the voices of some of the hosts that I am quite fond of now. If I have read a book that I loved, like Deep Work or Stick With It, listening to the author talk about it binds it even better in my head. Podcasts contain conversations that would not be available on other mediums.
Getting started with Podcasts
Now that I hopefully have you on the side of Podcasts too, here’s a quick guide to help you start with podcasts.
Choose an app
Most podcasts are available on the popular podcast apps. At one point, iTunes was the best known app for podcasts. Today, there are other apps out there which have a better interface and user experience. I have personally used Podbean for Android and currently love Castbox for Android. Both of these are free and have been a great audio companion for me.
Subscribe to promising podcasts
You can browse through the podcast options and see what catches your fancy. You could start with a genre that you are interested in or you could check out some of my favourite podcasts mentioned below. Subscribe to these podcasts so that you have them as part of your account to check out whenever you feel like.
Download some episodes
I don’t trust the mobile network in Mumbai or my capabilities of keeping my phone charged well enough. For those reasons, I ensure that I have enough episodes downloaded in my podcast library. Go to your subscribed podcasts and browse their episode list. Choose the ones which pique your interest and hit the download button. You are all set to plug in your earphones and dive into the refreshing world of podcasts.
My favourite 5 podcasts
As promised, below are listed some of my favourite generic podcasts. This does not include any blogging or financial advisor podcasts that I have been listening to, but only the generic ones that anyone can enjoy:
Whether you aspire towards entrepreneurship or not, this is one hell of an inspring podcast. An NPR (America’s National Public Radio) production and hosted by Guy Raz, this podcast does a fantastic job of inviting founders of companies like South West Airlines, Starbucks, Bobbi Brown to recount their story in building their brands. The host is fun and the conversation light yet packed with enough details to give a good picture of the challenge they must have overcome to reach where they did.
Hosted by journalist Stephen Dubner, this is a very engaging and refreshing podcast. Unlike most others it’s not a plain vanilla conversational podcast. This podcast is devoted to discovering the hidden side of everything. So there are snippets of the host talking, funky music and snippets from experts all well stitched up together. The only problem with this podcast is that episodes often get repeated.
Considering my recent obsession with self-development, this podcast defined as the “#1 Evidence-based growth podcast on the Internet” pretty much hits bull’s eye. A simple conversation podcast, the host Matt Bodnar asks pertinent questions to his guests and all topics are directed towards one objective – success.
Productivity is undoubtedly a buzz word today. One of my favourite productivity podcasts, it is hosted by Erik Fisher. Erik bring about some of the latest thinking and philosophies when it comes to productivity and often features thinkers and writers who have just come out and released new work. While some speakers might be common with a few other podcasts, with a change of host, the content often differs making each podcast unique.
This is a new discovery for me and I am totally hooked. As per the podcast description, it explores “evidence-based research and raw personal stories to help you wake up to your power and lead an intentional life”. While the crux of the podcast is mindfulness, it does so by talking about a myriad topics including relationships, grit, spirituality, creativity and even sleep! Hosted by Melissa Monte, each episode features a different expert from a different sphere.
This list honestly just skims the surface of the amazing auditory world of podcasts. Trust me and take a plunge. You will end up making it an intrinsic part of your life the way I feel about it today.
Do you listen to podcasts? Which one are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.