TL/DR: I am now soaking my brain in knowledge at 2.5x+ speed!
I listen to a ton of podcasts (and have for several years). Over the years I’ve listened to over 1,700 podcasts (1,580 hours / 66 days). Yes, I keep track…like any good nerd should!
Whatever topic I’m interested in learning about I choose a podcast to listen to people smarter than me talk about it. Science, investing, macroeconomics, lifting weights, regenerative farming, nutrition, health, and Bitcoin (lots and lots of that)! Over almost a decade it looks something like this.
I also read books but generally less so. I have to be extremely interested in a topic to invest the time to read a whole book devoted to it. I often will seek out authors who write books I’m interested in on podcasts and listen to them literally “talk their book”. They will usually hit the high points of their life’s work in a few hours of discussion.
In February I listened to a podcast that I regularly listen to. The host had a guest covering a topic that wasn’t typical for this podcast. It was on speed reading. I’m a pretty slow reader and had tried to learn speed reading in the past. The concepts presented never really stuck and were not intuitive to me at all. Regardless, I listened to this episode. I’m glad I did!
The guest discussed ‘immersive reading’ where you listen to the text being read to you while also following along in the written text at the same time. He claimed this helps with retention as well as with keeping focused (because you have to keep up with the reader and can’t “wander off” in your thoughts). This makes sense.
The other concept that he presented was to slowly increase the speed over time. Instead of having the text read to you at normal speed, you bump the speed up. He suggests going from 1 to 1.25x to 1.5x to 1.75x to 2x and keep going until you are closing in on 3x. You bump the speed up and then let your brain adjust to the new speed and then do it again. He equates it to weight training where you get strong by adding weight, letting your body adapt, then keeps repeating it. This makes sense too.
Using technology to help increase the speed of my learning made sense to me. Since everything made sense, I developed a plan to get my speed up. This involved setting goals on how quickly I’d up the speed over a few weeks. I also spent a good deal of time researching the best tools to up my speed on the various platforms I use. Finally, I’d develop some goals on how to allocate my energy and how to keep track of my progress.
- Podcasts – In terms of time spent the majority of my learning time comes from podcasts. I use Spotify for my podcast listening. Spotify will allow up to 3.5x speed. I am now listening to podcasts between 2x and 3.5x. I can do 3.5x for several without any issues (think Lex Friedman types with slow pausing pondering). Depending on how fast some guests talk I might need to slow down to 2x (think British fast talkers). Most of the podcasts I listen to at 2.5x with no issues at all. I listened to 103 podcasts during March (129 hours…although it didn’t take me that long). This is by far the most material I’ve covered in a month ever.
- Videos – Most of the videos I watch on YouTube are to learn something. Whatever new topic I’m learning about I’m usually watching videos about that topic. YouTube allows you to speed up videos to 2x within their player. I need to do additional research as there are tools that allow you to speed up video content faster than this. 2x feels slow now. Lol.
- Articles/PDFs – I often read long-form articles on topics I regularly follow. Sometimes these are webpages and often also in PDF format. I researched and found some AI-powered readers that you can load the document into and it will read it to you (and then you can crank up the speed). It is surprisingly accurate and effective (although not perfect). I wound up selecting Natural Reader and have been very satisfied with it so far.
- Books – Now that I’ve found a way to get my speed up I figured I’d turn my attention back toward books. I have a bookshelf full of books that I seem to never get to. I’m actually a bit embarrassed at how few books I’ve read over the years. I’m not some lazy dummy, I just don’t do my learning with books. I learn what I need to learn from other sources. I DEFINITELY haven’t spent much time in the land of fiction. I REALLY felt like I was wasting my time with that. If I ever want to consume fiction I’d watch a movie for a few hours and not read some book for 10+ hours. I researched several options but decided that Audible seemed to have the best solution for me. I’ve listened to audiobooks in the past. I used to listen to audiobooks when I was on bike rides. I was killing two birds with one stone (which allowed me to eliminate any guilt I had about wasting time). I cranked up a few Audible audiobooks and so far I’ve got my listening speed up to 2.5x. It is comfortable for me at that speed. I finished 3 John Grisham books (1,300 pages) during the month of March. I’ve had these books since they came out…just never read them. My goal is to listen to a book a week. To go from a few books a year to anywhere near a book a week is frankly weird. Regardless, I have a long list of books I want to read and finally feel like I have a legitimate method to burn through them. This is probably the most exciting aspect of this new methodology for me.
So, by the end of a much-accelerated March, I have now consumed almost as many hours of podcasts and pages of books as my best year ever…IN THREE MONTHS! By the end of this year, I expect these charts will look ridiculous if I remain on a similar path.
I’m excited to ramp up my learning. I’ve increased the number of podcasts I follow and will “take a chance” on an episode that I normally might not listen to due to limited time. I’ve started to try to seek out alternative topics and views (and even things I might disagree with). I think this will help me become more well-rounded over time. This is never a bad idea, I guess.
So, until I have an AI chip embedded in my head and can access all the knowledge of the known world in an instant this will have to do.
Wisdom. Get. In. My. Head.