Monday, June 09, 2008

Not Enough Hours in a Day

My life basically revolves around podcasts. So much so, I almost never listen to the radio, rarely just sit and watch TV, and it's been a while since I read a book. I have a commute of about 45 minutes, so I have an hour and half built in to each day of free listening to whatever I want. I'm typically able to insert a couple additional hours over the course of the day.

The problem I'm finding is that I'm gradually increasing my subscriptions to interesting podcasts, and correspondingly observing that I'm not able to keep up. And this is just audio podcasts. Video podcasts are taking off, and I'm sure if I looked around I'd find several to follow. I can do (some) other things while listening to audio; I can't do anything else while watching video.

I've learned over time that I can do CAD while listening to podcasts. And since this is most of what my day requires, it's not too hard to find additional time to listen. I've also learned that if I'm reading or writing while listening, my mind mostly blocks out the audio, so I'll miss it. This means that I generally can't listen to anything serious while web browsing, or lately, while writing blog posts.

One thing I've started doing is carrying around the little earbuds that came with the iPhone. This is noteworthy because I hate earbuds. I wear the big, stupid-looking, over-the-ear cans while at work. But now I'm keeping the earbuds in my pocket. If I find a situation where I have a few minutes to myself, I'll pull them out and start listening (and probably Twittering).

I've identified a psychological reaction that I'm terming "podcast guilt". Podcast guilt is when you listen to a podcast because you feel that you should, and not necessarily because you enjoy it. Indeed, you may not even like it that much. In the absence of podcast guilt, you'd simply unsubscribe. But you don't, so keep going on and on devoting potentially substantial amounts of your available listening time to something you don't really like. I've got so many podcasts subscriptions now, I've had to force myself to beat podcast guilt. I'm not always successful.

So what am I listening to? Well for me, The Bob & Tom Show is a given. This is a radio show that I've listened to, when possible, for as long as I can remember. If I had a radio sitting here, the show would be 4 hours long and I'd have to sit through commercials. For the podcast, they are kind enough to chop out the commercials, which reduces the show to 3 hours of content. You have to pay for the privilege, but I consider it to be worth it. 3 hours a day, 5 days a week = 15 hours/week of content. I can knock out half that with the commute alone, but that's still a lot of content.

Running total:
3 hours/weekday
15 hours/week

Next up is Mac OS Ken. I don't remember how I stumbled upon Ken, but I've been listening to him for a while. His daily show (~15 minutes) is free, and he's got a paid show on the weekend (~45 minutes) that I also subscribe to. It's quick, he's funny, and I enjoy it.

17 hours/week

For sheer Mac entertainment value, it's hard to beat MacBreak Weekly. I've got a formula in my head (I'll blog about it later) regarding what makes for a successful podcast, and the MBW cast pretty much has it nailed. They can prattle on for hours, and yet I'm always disappointed when the show ends. I'm also disappointed (sort of) that it is merely a weekly show. This has typically been an hour show, though lately they've been flirting with close to two hours.

19 hours/week

Next up is Apple Phone Show. I would say it is in the useful category, moreso than entertainment. It is roughly an hour each week.

20 hours/week

These represent what I'll call my "core" podcasts. Actually, I have a Smart Playlist that is specific for these "high priority" podcasts, and theoretically they are what I listen to before anything else.

But it doesn't stop there. Based on how much I like MBW, I've started to explore the endeavors of the various personalities on that show. First up is Leo Laporte, and his The Tech Guy podcast. This is taken from his radio show, and is a solid 2 hour podcast put out every day or two. It's not bad, but he's answering phone calls from people talking about things I don't care about. So I may not stick with that one. Then we follow Scott Bourne, who has produced Girls Gone Geek. That's about an hour a week, and I'm guessing I'm a little outside the target demographic. Although it took me a long time to warm up to Merlin Mann, based on the raving on MBW I'm going to give You Look Nice Today a try. That's about an hour a week, although based on what I've heard so far, I don't really "get it". So if I listen to all of these, I've added another 8 - 12 hours per week of content.

Running total:
30+ hours/week

And then we get to past interests. I used to listen to Tom Leykis on the radio when I had the chance. It's been years since I heard him. Stumbled upon his podcast that is a rebroadcast of his show without commercials. That's another 3 hours of content per day.

Running total:
45+ hours/week

Current interests. I'm usually up for Mac stuff. We first turn to the MacCast, which is a useful podcast although his voice just drives me up the wall. That's an hour a week. Then there is John Gruber's "You're going to listen to this piece of crap just because I'm John Gruber - The Talk Show" at an hour whenever they feel like it. It got off to a weekly start, but then quickly tapered off. There is the Mac Roundtable, an hour each week. It's not bad overall, although one of the women grates on me like nails on a chalkboard. iPhone Alley, an hour each week, and painfully boring. MacBreak Tech is an interesting one, though a little on the boring side to listen to, and is about an hour every two weeks.

I try to listen to podcasts about Mac programming. There is several more hours each week. I'm trying to listen to podcasts about SolidWorks. Another half hour each week. I'm trying to find podcasts about financial advice; another hour each week.

The end result is that I've got well over 50 hours of content each week. That's not a hobby, that's a job! So even if I would use every possible minute of my work day, including the commute, I would only barely get through this stuff. And I don't, so I really can't. Now what if I spend a day in training, or heck take a vacation day where I have other things to do besides listening to podcasts. The setback to my listening schedule is tremendous.

That's over 50 hours/week without hearing new music. Without watching TV. And as I said before, without reading or writing. And to a degree, without doing anything exceedingly productive. I'm trying to turn myself into a programmer, and that counts as writing, so no listening (or TV) there. I've been trying to diligently post to this blog, no listening (or TV) there. It's no wonder we're really not using Netflix anymore. Maybe I should go get a job as a truck driver.

There once was a time when I would finish my podcasts (primarily just Bob & Tom), and then listen to music for the rest of the day. No more. If I chose to listen to music these days, it forces me behind on my podcasts.

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