This summer, I tried my hand at Speed Listening intending to increase productivity. I am a fan of audiobooks and podcasts. Listening to them gives me a wealth of knowledge with little effort. I read this blog about Podfasters and that motivated me to try listening at 2–3x speed.
Speed listening like speed reading is great to save time and learn more. As per Human Factors Interaction, people can comfortably listen at a speed up to 210 words per minute without sacrificing any comprehension, while people tend to dictate at 105 words per minute. We can consume and understand more. Unlike reading where we have to train our minds to read faster, in case of speed listening, the work is done by the app. All we have to do is to understand. And there is always a way to playback in case you missed anything.
With the tap of a single button, suddenly voices become high pitched, background music becomes faster and intermittent ads sound way less painful. Training your brain to this may not sound exciting at first but in return, you get the valuable time back to do something more. An article from The Atlantic titled the “Rise of Speed Listening” talk about some apps like Overcast: A podcast playback app; with its Smart Speed feature tries to remove, algorithmically, dead air, pauses between sentences, intros, and outros, that increase the length of podcasts.
Benefits of Speed Listening
1. Consume more content
Our attention span is reducing every day. We are processing more information daily. Today old movies are boring because they are extremely slow. It’s for the same reason that test matches in cricket are getting fewer viewers because it takes 4 long days to find the result. Listening to audio at 2X speed is just another way of consuming content fast and saving more time to learn more.
As a ritual, I try listening to two 30min podcasts every day. As I am trying to write more medium blogs, listening to podcasts and ebooks are a great source of inspiration for me. They help in stimulating ideas and also learn from others.
With 2X speed, I am now listening to four of them, and it’s been amazing in terms of the amount of content I have been consuming. At first, it may sound odd, the pitch of the audio may bother you, or you are not able to understand, but as you gradually train your mind to start listening fast, it’s very difficult to go back. Normal audio speeds now sound very slow and monotonous.
What I love most is consuming more content gives me more ammunition to write better and faster and ultimately be more productive.
2. Active Listening
When I started listening at a faster speed, I observed that my brain had to catch up. I had to pause and rewind if I was multi-tasking only to realize the speed listening is no longer helping. For fiction or fun listening, it’s fine to do multi-tasking, but when I was consuming educational content, multitasking wasn’t possible.
To understand the content, I had to pay attention to it. Though I was finishing a 1-week course in 2–3 days, I had to concentrate and give 100% attention. As the course picked up, I parallelly started noting the important points in my Notion app. Consuming the content and making notes all done in 2 -3 days. Gradually in a month’s time, I had a good outline of all the content that I consumed, which I could refer back and even recall easily when I wanted to.
Active listening or effective listening is a habit which got developed as a by-product of Speed listening. It has helped me get a better value of time and a sense of fulfillment, having productively used the time that I had allocated.
3. More time to experiment
When there is limited time, we want to make our choices carefully. We will pick up only those things that we are sure will be good, for eg: anything written by Jack Welch or painted by Van Gough. We don’t have the time to experiment and as a result, miss out on other wonderful niche authors or unique artists.
The extra time that I gained through speed listening, helped me explore other forms of content, new writers, bloggers, and podcasters. They may not have a perfect book, article, or show, but there is always some quote, some snippet or some style to takeaway and worth coming back again.
After I started speed listening, I stumbled upon this podcast “Blood Ties”, its a drama podcast, beautifully narrated with a good storyline that got me hooked on it. Earlier, I would have never picked up this. So experimentation is good, as you accidentally come to like certain unusual things outside of your zone.
4. Sense of achievement
After practicing speed listening, I felt a sense of achievement mainly for 2 reasons -
- Complete things faster
- Developed a skill to listen and comprehend faster
As per Maslow’s Hierarchy, speed listening satisfied my self-esteem needs. Checking-off things in my to-do list and get the opportunity to do more made me feel productive and better utilization of the available time.
This sense of achievement made me sleep better and lookout for the next productive day.
There is never enough time to do anything but speed listening has taught me that, it’s all about the best utilization of time.