4 tips for listening to more podcasts, faster

Don't let your queue of neglected podcasts defeat you.
person holding phone connected to earbuds

A good podcast is the best company for your morning walk. Melanie Pongratz / Unsplash

There seem to be so many podcasts these days, covering every conceivable topic several times over. From great science podcasts to ones documenting true crime tales, there are likely to be dozens of options that cover your own particular interests, no matter how niche they are.

While it’s fantastic to have so many shows to pick from, it can take you a serious amount of time to get through all those hour-long weekly episodes. This means you’re probably battling against a podcast backlog queue that gets longer and longer, with new content hitting your device faster than you can listen. 

These tips and tricks can get you right back up to date.

Change the pace of your podcasts

Most podcast players let you change the speed of playback quite easily. Most of the time this doesn’t alter the pitch, so it just sounds as though people are talking more quickly. This is a simple and effective way to squeeze more podcast listening into the same amount of time.

Shifting the playback speed to 1.25x means you’ll get through 50 hours of podcasts in a mere 40 hours, while at 2x speed you’ll zoom through them in just 25. This approach can save you some serious time, although it’s not for everyone or for every podcast, as you probably won’t be able to take in and ponder everything quite as deeply as you at a normal speed.

Playback speed is usually controlled on the main playback screen of your favorite podcast app. In the case of Pocket Casts (available for Android and iOS), tap the dial icon in the lower left corner of the playback screen to access the speed feature.

On the same dialog there’s also a trim silence tool. Pocket Casts and several other apps can automatically cut out periods of dead air from podcast episodes, saving you even more seconds. 

Another feature to look out for in certain apps (including Pocket Casts) is a skip intro option, which means your player can start each episode after the theme music and other introductory audio is out of the way.

Go to sleep with a podcast

Another feature you’ll find in many podcast players is a  sleep timer. It works exactly how you might expect, with playback automatically stopping after a certain amount of time or at the end of the episode you’re listening to.

You might be surprised at just how many more podcast episodes you can get through by listening to five or 10 minutes before you go to sleep. The trick is to get the timing right so that you’re not missing large chunks of audio after you’ve dozed off.

If your podcast app has a sleep timer, it should be easy to find. In the Apple Podcasts app, for example, swipe up on the now playing screen, tap Sleep Timer, and choose your duration: from five minutes to an hour, or until the end of the current episode.

You don’t necessarily have to use the sleep timer function when you’re going to sleep either. You could time a 20-minute snack break using the feature, for example, or use it to give yourself a deadline for getting out of bed in the mornings.

Declare podcast bankruptcy

There’s nothing wrong with declaring podcast bankruptcy, or writing off everything in your backlog and starting again from scratch. (The same approach can work with your emails as well, by the way.) Look inside your podcast app for an option to delete all pending shows or marked them all as played. You might also find a setting that removes episodes after they’ve been unplayed for a certain period of time.

As drastic as it may seem, the biggest advantage to this approach is that you’ll solve your podcast overload problem in seconds. You may not even want to listen to every second of every show in your queue anyway, particularly ones discussing out of date news and current affairs. 

[Related: Check out Popular Science’s original podcasts]

But , you will also have to consider the downsides, the main one being that you may miss out on some top-quality podcast content. It might be worth looking through the titles of the episodes in your backlog, picking out the ones that you absolutely have to listen to, and deleting the rest.

At the same time you could also take this opportunity to review the list of podcasts that you’re currently subscribed to. Find the ones that still spark joy and think about whether you still look forward to new episodes from the rest. Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe from podcasts that no longer entertain you.

Find a new routine

It might also be worth it to change your routine to include more podcasts throughout the day. Consider that in just about any scenario where you can listen to music, you can listen to a podcast instead: In the car, on the subway, or on your daily jog, for example.

You could even introduce a new activity to listen to podcasts and improve your health at the same time—going to the gym, taking up yoga, or going for a walk first thing every morning are all podcast-compatible choices.

[Related: How to cave to peer pressure and start listening to podcasts]

Some people can’t work with podcasts playing in the background but some people can, and this is another option to consider. Even if you’re not catching every single word, you might find this preferable to never listening to your podcast episode backlog at all.

Spotify can help you introduce more episodes to your day, because it lets you combine songs and podcasts in the same playlist. Maybe try alternating albums with shows, for instance, or starting every playlist with a podcast episode before the music kicks in. You may find your queue starts shrinking faster than you expected.