I used to live with a lot of consumption guilt.
I should be listening to more audiobooks. I should be reading the latest books from that author. I should be listening to that in-depth podcast discussion.
But it can take hours to get through those audiobooks. Those nonfiction books are often a slog to get through (and they repeat themselves over and over again! We get it – deep work is more effective! Just tell me how to do it!). And those in-depth podcast discussions? Sometimes I don’t have 2 hours a day to get through them – and I lose the main points by the time I’m done.
Whenever I see articles and videos about “how to read more” or whatever, they usually land on the same tips:
- Get an Audible subscription.
- Listen on a faster speed.
- Play those books during all your downtime.
- You’re reading 100 books a year!
The same is true of podcasts. “Listen to them at 2x speed and your life is changed forever!”
All of these articles and videos are written and produced, generally speaking, by people whose lives look nothing like mine. They’re usually single with no children and have some kind of commute to work.
I don’t have the same levels of downtime that they do…
- I have zero commute. I go days without getting into my car.
- I am often doing the dishes while talking with my wife after the kids go to bed.
- My job requires lots of writing, and I can’t write and listen to words at the same time.
- Sometimes I want to listen to silence.
- Sometimes I want to jam out to some music.
- If I’m making dinner, my kids are filtering in and out of the kitchen to talk to me, so there’s no point in trying to listen to a podcast or audiobook then.
- I also want to read for fun, not just for self improvement.
At best, if I’m being super vigilant with my workout schedule, I can probably listen to 20ish minutes of content per day. That means it’ll take me 2-3 days just to get through an hourlong podcast.
Sometimes I have to mow the lawn or snowplow the driveway. Those are great opportunities for podcast listening.
But most of my driving is done with at least 2 children in the car, if not 3, and my wife. None of them want to listen to my podcasts.
And with new podcasts being published every day… new stuff is out before I’m done with the old stuff.
I needed a new system
I longed for a way to let me consume as much as possible, cutting the fluff and minimizing the time commitment.
In my single days, sure, I could have listened to a lot of podcast interviews all day long. Maybe I could have switched to audiobooks, even.
But those days are gone.
At this point, I need ruthless efficiency. And thanks to a variety of new tools being developed, I am building my knowledge base more than ever… and I’m able to recall more of that information as well.
Here’s what I use to pore through hundreds of hours of podcasts, blog posts, and books on a weekly basis.
Let’s start off with, in my opinion, the most valuable tool on this list.
I’ve tried every which way to organize my book highlights and notes, but I can’t really organize them in a way that allows me to easily resurface my notes and engage with them occasionally.
I have an unwieldy Google Drive folder, but I’m still not quite where I want to be with it.
ReadWise is that answer.
ReadWise connects to sources of highlighting and imports them into a central database where you can browse your highlights individually. You can customize a Daily Review of highlights, bringing up old notes to your attention so that you can instill that knowledge into your brain over and over again instead of losing them to the ether.
ReadWise supports Kindle highlights as well as many others (including some others on this list). You can even manually add highlights by snapping photos of paper books or copy-and-pasting new text and assigning those words to a particular book.
One of my favorite features of ReadWise is its share ability. The app creates beautiful pull-quotes for social sharing, which allows me to spread some of those knowledge bombs in a classy, stylish way that catches the eye.
Whether it’s a book highlight or a blog post highlight, I know that they are all safe in ReadWise, where I can have them brought to my attention daily.
Exportability is a huge concern of mine, and ReadWise does allow you to export your highlights to a CSV file. I have them automatically synced to Notion for now, so I have a browsable database of highlights that is not reliant on ReadWise.
2. Podcast Notes
Brilliant conversations are happening all the time. But I don’t have the time to ingest them all.
Podcast Notes to the rescue.
It’s such a simple concept, really: somebody is out there listening to all the big podcast episodes, grabbing ones that are particularly useful, and then taking high-level notes and summaries of them, including many direct quotes from the interviews.
The notes are packaged up into an easy-to-read format and posted on Podcast Notes.
Once I started using Podcast Notes, I quickly signed up as a Premium Member to grab their special compilations of topic-based notes from a wide range of podcast interviews.
It’s not comprehensive – there are plenty of podcasts out there that don’t show up in Podcast Notes. But there are enough that make me comfortable knowing I’m at least catching the heavy hitters.
The bonus with this is combining Podcast Notes with the ReadWise web clipper. I can easily highlight main points or quotes that I want to save and send them to ReadWise for safekeeping.
Honorable Mention: Airr.io. I want this app. With Airr.io, you can snap “highlights” of podcast episodes you listen to, and transcripts can be send to ReadWise. It’s a great marriage of audio and text, but it is iOS-only, and I am still using Android on my phone. Maybe some day.
3. HuffDuffer and 4. YouTube
This is a nerdy solution. But once it’s up and running, it’s fantastic.
There are certain podcasts that I want to listen to, but full episodes can just run too long for my available time.
Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan both have fascinating conversations with big thinkers. But geez, I just can’t squeeze in an hour or two.
Huffduffer is a silly-named little service that lets you send audio clips from around the Web to your personal podcast RSS feed. Just sign up for HuffDuffer, copy your RSS feed link, and paste it into your podcast app.
Now, here’s where it gets fun.
Most of the long-form podcasters out there publish clips of their interviews on YouTube. This is great, because it allows me to just check out the interesting stuff (and if need be, note to check out the full interview if it seems like it would be worth fitting into my schedule). I get the meaty bits of the interview.
But I don’t have YouTube Premium and I want my audio to all be in one place (Pocket Casts).
Some wonderful human being created a little bookmarklet that you can click in your Bookmarks Bar to grab an audio copy of a YouTube video and send it to your Huffduffer feed.
I subscribe to the YouTube Channels that post clips of the interviews, and I add any interesting ones to my Watch Later. Then once a day or two, I go into my Watch Later playlist and send each of them through the bookmarklet. In a bit, they are processed and show up in my Pocket Casts feed.
What about those nonfiction books?
As I already covered, I didn’t want to be an audiobook guy. Didn’t work for me.
So how do I spend time reading nonfiction and pulling out all the useful bits?
I first looked at Blinkist, and while I liked it, I felt like exploring other options. StoryShots was one of the first to pop up for me.
In short, these are services that condense the information from books into summaries. Cliff’s Notes or SparkNotes, if you will. They include quick rundowns of examples used in the books, important quotes and statistics, and cut out all the other fluff.
StoryShots is very affordable, and I grabbed a lifetime subscription. But frankly, I just preferred the interface over Blinkist’s, that’s all.
With the manual copy-and-paste feature of ReadWise, I can read a StoryShots summary on my iPad and quickly pop whatever notes I want into my ReadWise, where it will then be added to my Daily Reviews and synced to my Notion database.
Yeah, it’s an obvious one, but that’s why I saved it for this far down (and the other two).
Look, Kindle is an amazing platform. I can send documents to it which will sync across my devices. I can highlight books that I am actually reading and they will automatically show up in my ReadWise database. And I can read books anywhere with my phone, iPad, or my actual Kindle.
It’s convenient, which makes reading information seamless.
7. Feedly and 8. Pocket
Let’s put these two together to round out the list.
I subscribe to a lot of blogs. Feedly allows me to keep all those subscriptions in one place. Plus, Feedly lets you subscribe to Twitter Feeds, so I can follow a small handful of people on Twitter that I find interesting, and it’s one less social media platform I have to log into.
I usually look at Feedly as a list of headlines, and with a long-press, I send them to Pocket for reading later on my phone or iPad.
Pocket is a fantastic read-it-later app that more often than not pulls the entire text of an article, cleans it up, and delivers it in a clean, standardized format for me to read. It’s so much nicer than navigating the popup-ad-riddled world of today’s internet.
Plus, I can star articles for later reference if I know I want to do something with them, and I can highlight interesting passages.
You know where those highlights automatically go? That’s right: into ReadWise, which is then synced to Notion.
This is all seamless in practice
Whenever I want to consume some content, all I have to do is open up one of my reading sources (Kindle, Feedly, Pocket) or my audio source (Pocket Casts) and get moving.
I have a Daily Review with ReadWise.
I get a weekly highlights email from Podcast Notes.
And I pop into StoryShots when there’s a particular book I want to look at.
Once a day or a few times a week, I process my YouTube clips and send them into my podcast feed.
And as a result, I can not just consume a lot of content, but I am able to save the important stuff, parse out the valuable lessons, cut the fluff, and save myself a boatload of time.
Plus, I am still able to be a present husband and father to my family.