Listen Faster: How I found 30 extra hours in my week

Jun 21, 2016

Using Overcast, Pocket and Dream Reader to listen
faster Using Overcast, Pocket and Dream Reader to listen faster

Podcasts, long-form news articles, blog posts and books are all great ways to learn but it can be hard to carve out time in your day for all the information that interests you.

Podcasts, being an audio medium, have an advantage here. You can listen while doing other things such as: commuting, doing dishes, folding laundry, working out, or walking the dog. My commute is about an hour each way, I do dishes for 15 minutes every day, and laundry for an hour once a week. That means I get over 12 hours of free learning time each week.

That’s already great, but we can do better. Most podcast apps have the ability to adjust the playback speed. Set the speed to 1.25x, and you’ll barely notice a difference. Wait a week, and then increase it a bit more. Your brain will easily adjust and before you know it, you’ll be maxing out your app’s speed setting. In fact, after a few weeks of this, returning to 1x will sound as if the hosts are talking in slow motion. Overcast, the app I use, goes up to 2.5x which is quite doable. That allows me to consume over 30 hours of audio each week.

Unfortunately, there aren't 30 hours of podcasts that I want to listen to each week. Enter Pocket, the read-it-later app. Pocket has a “Listen” feature which uses your phone’s text-to-speech functionality to read news articles and blog posts to you. Similar to Overcast, you can adjust the speed at which it reads. With a little practice, I was able to ratchet the speed up to the maximum that the app allows.

But again, I was the victim of my own success. I was listening so fast that I was running out of posts and articles to read. This brings us to my third app recommendation, Voice Dream, which lets you listen to ebooks using text-to-speech. Again, you can adjust the speed, so with a little practice you can easily consume whole books at 400 words per minute, which is twice the speed of the average visual reader.

Using these three apps, I’ve been able to easily add the equivalent of 30 hours to my week, all dedicated to reading and listening.

Thanks to Akshay Shah who introduced me to Overcast’s speed feature and Brandon Keith Biggs who showed me the power of reading with your ears.