Do you ever say to yourself, “I'd love to make a podcast, but I just don't have enough time?” Often, people say, “if I retired or quit my job,” or “if I didn't have kids,” as the run-up to saying things they'd really like to do. Others say, you have the same number of hours in the day as Lin-Manuel Miranda or Beyoncé. There are as many people who say, “I wish I had time to podcast,” as there are actual podcasts.
To be brutally honest, you do have time to podcast. You just don't have time for the frustration that can happen when obstacles get in the way of doing what you want to do. There are ways to eliminate obstacles that cause frustration. Let's take a look at how you can:
- free up time
- be more productive with the time you do have
- remove obstacles so you can work on your podcast.
Think About You and Time
Let's take a closer look at that (flawed) analogy we mentioned earlier. Yes, it's true, that you, Beyoncé, and Lin-Manuel Miranda all have 24 hours in the day. They also have different time-saving support people and systems at their disposal. However, it's worth thinking about what those people and systems would be. Take a moment to consider what you do in a day, and how someone like Beyoncé or Lin-Manuel Miranda has that handled.
For example, in the first fifteen minutes of my day, I wake up, put on my bathrobe, drink a glass of water, go downstairs, feed the cats, make the coffee, and take the dog for a quick walk. Queen Bey probably has someone to feed the cats, make her coffee, and walk the dog for her. The Linmeister, famously, walks his own dog, because it stimulates his creativity. But, he probably has a programmable coffee maker that he set up the night before. So, you know what? I can get myself a programmable coffee maker, and have fresh coffee, on waking, just like Queen Bey (Who am I kidding? She probably has a programmable green tea maker). The point is, I can use technology to save five minutes. So can you.
This example oversimplifies the difference between Grammy-winning recording artists, and the average independent podcaster. But, thinking like people who record for a living can help you come up with ways to use technology, strategies, and support to get time to podcast.
How Much Time Do I Need?
Before you do anything else, let's estimate the size of what we're dealing with. When we say, “time to podcast,” how much are we talking about?
Colin has written an excellent article about how much time it actually takes to run a podcast. It's a multi-faceted issue, depending on what kind of podcast you're making, and how frequently you want to release episodes.
Some podcasters estimate the amount of time they'll need, by taking their episode length, and multiplying it by four. This means a 15 minute episode would take roughly one hour to complete, a half hour episode would take roughly two hours, and so on. Others say that for multi-layered sound design, you should estimate an hour of editing for each minute of audio per episode. The most important part of these estimates to remember is that recording is not what takes the most time to work on your podcast.
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Think of the old iceberg meme. Recording is just one part of the process, and others can take longer. All together, you have to think about:
- Planning & Preparation
- Setting up
- Editing & Mixing
- Writing Shownotes
- Uploading & Publishing
If you're arranging interviews or agreeing on times with co-hosts, then scheduling is another part of the process. To make a long story short, your time estimates aren't based on episode length alone. The good news is that once you know how long it takes you to make an episode, you can plan accordingly.
Let's get the hard part out of the way.
Everybody has at least one habit, that they would rather eliminate from their day or week. Most have more than one.
Start by looking at how much time you spend watching television, or playing video games. I'm not placing a moral or value judgment on either of these activities. I've lost big chunks of 2019 to We Happy Few and The Handmaid's Tale. It's worth noting, however, that television and video games are designed to hook you, and keep you hooked. Downtime is important, it stimulates creative thinking and problem solving skill. But, if you normally spend an hour per night watching television, and you cut that to half an hour, you've gained between 2.5 and 3.5 hours a week.
While we're on the topic of screens, think about social media. This is another competitor for your attention span. Nir Eyal, author of the book Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products, wrote about how tech companies create systems to grab and hold your attention as long as possible. According to his research, roughly 85% of smartphone users never adjust their own smartphone's app settings, to keep their phone from interrupting or distracting them. Peer pressure is equally contagious. Eyal says, “From a societal perspective…our phones are like cigarettes — something to do when we’re anxious, bored or when fidgety fingers need something to fiddle with. Seeing others enjoy a puff, or sneak a peek, is too tempting to resist and soon everyone is doing it.”
Apple and Android smartphones have sections in their Settings where you can see how much screen time you've used so far that day. Apps such as Moment can help you set goals to reduce the amount of screen time you use.
Admittedly, it's just a minute here, or a minute there. Those minutes add up. Remember that tech companies want to keep you hooked. So, what could feel like a minute or two might actually be five. You might only scroll through that relentless river of ever-renewing snippets of content when you're waiting in line, for transit, or eating lunch. Instead of scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, try these on for size:
- Use a note-taking app to make bullet points, or set reminders, of things you want to research for your podcast. When you have “a minute,” or five minutes, instead of opening up social media, open up the notes app and take a look at these bullet points. Copy and paste them into a search engine and see what comes up. Take some more notes.
- Make a note, titled with the topic for your next podcast episode. Fill it with short statements of ideas you want to include.
- Use a bookmarking app like Instapaper to save and read your research, or Feedly to keep up with news about your topic.
- Read through the knowledge base of your favorite media host, so you'll know how all of its features work.
- Subscribe to some podcasting newsletters to learn what's going on in the podcast sphere.
“But wait!” you might say. “Beyonce's Instagram is a critical component of her marketing platform! Lin-Manuel Miranda's Twitter posts got him a book deal!” Yes. You probably want to be good at using social media, as a component of promoting your podcast in the future. But, most people who have huge social media followings limit their actual use of social media to a set amount of time per day, and that amount isn't very much.
Think about it this way: is looking at social media (or any other habit, really) helping you get your show planned, scripted, edited, uploaded, and so on?
If not, then cut down.
Nearly every productivity guru, thought leader, coach and so on recommends waking up earlier than usual. It's good common sense, particularly for podcasters. You're less likely to have to deal with other people's leaf blowers. Other people haven't even gotten into your head yet. It's an excellent time for editing or sound mixing. If you set your alarm half an hour earlier than usual, five days a week, you've given yourself an extra 2.5 hours a week of time to work on your podcast.
The limited amount of time (20-25 minutes, by the time you've gotten some coffee and splashed some water on your face) makes setting goals and targets simpler. Don't expect to do a whole episode's worth of editing in one session. Set a goal, get some work done, and save it to work on later.
An added benefit is that you have a small win to sustain you for the rest of the day. Plus, you've got something in place to look forward to, when you work on your podcast later.
I'm not suggesting that you should lose sleep. The most effective way to make this work is to make sure you turn out your light and close your eyes earlier. Even if you don't fall asleep until your usual time, you'll show your body who's boss soon enough.
Waking up early is hard when you struggle to fall asleep at night. For more help with this, check out Sleep Smarter, by Shawn Stevenson.
When you make a dozen cookies, if you baked each one at a time, you'd drive yourself crazy. That's why you mix up a batch of cookies, at the same time, and bake them all at once.
Batch processing is when you set out a block of time to perform the same step on multiple podcast episodes at once. We talked about this a little bit when we discussed episode frequency. An example is the weekday podcast, A Thousand Things To Talk About. Andrea Parrish writes 5 episodes at a time, and records them in blocks of 10-15. The producer and editor sends her completed episodes in blocks of 5. She uploads them to her podcast host five at a time, but sets them up to be released on certain dates. This way, she's not constantly tied to her desk. John Lee Dumas, host of Entrepreneur on Fire, records and produces everything one day a week, but the episodes are released daily. His time to podcast is focused into one day, though the release times are staggered.
A lot of habits are like this. Some people do a little bit of laundry three or four times a week. Some people wash their clothes once a week. Others wait as long as possible, and then have a marathon of washing and folding. Finding what works for you is what's best.
For more on this, see Should I Batch My Podcast Episodes?
There may be some parts of making a podcast that you don't enjoy. There also may be people who really enjoy doing those things. You may want to bring in a friend to help.
Let's say, for example, you want to use Instagram or YouTube to promote your podcast, but know nothing about how to do it. Do you know someone who's really good with those platforms? They may be willing to help. What about show notes, or editing? You might know someone who can lend a hand.
If you truly feel overwhelmed, can you bring in a co-host? Collaboration can spark inspiration while lightening your burden a bit. Just be sure to clarify the ownership of the project. Make sure everyone's roles and expectations are clearly defined. There's nothing wrong with sitting down with a cup of coffee and writing out what each of you hopes to put in, and get out, of the podcast.
Sometimes, online communities or blogs related to your show's topic can help. Not only might they have someone who would enjoy taking on a task for your podcast, but also they can spread the word. Again, make sure that you've clearly explained what you need them to do, and that you understand what they hope to get in exchange.
Proactive vs Reactive
A lot of time is wasted when you go through life reacting to things, instead of sticking with your original plan.
Tim Ferris's book The Four Hour Work Week, goes over this in detail. To sum up one of his key points here:
E-mail and other smartphone-based communications can suck up your time and distract you from the things you've set out to achieve on a daily basis. Get rid of (or customise) apps that ping you every time someone gets in touch. Instead, set two specific times of the day to check and respond to everything in that session.
Think a minute about how Nir Eyal said that tech companies want you to be constantly distracted by your phone. Consider how most people don't bother to modify their phone's app notification settings.
If you've set your alarm to get up thirty minutes earlier than usual, but are slow to wake up, use that early-morning quiet time to write about your podcast in a notebook. Write about what you expect to do that day, and how you can fit some time to podcast into your schedule. Then, stick to that plan, and don't let anyone else alter it. Just say, “Sorry, I have a thing.” Set a time of day when you're available to communicate, and set times of day when you're only available to work on your podcast.
There are plenty of tools that can save time for you.
The first is Trello, which is a project management website and app. Trello lets you create project boards with calendars to show what tasks are due when, who's working on them, and what needs to be done. Even if you're not working with a team, Trello provides an excellent visual representation of your project and all of its parts.
Doodle is a great tool for scheduling meetings. If you need to record an interview, or chat with people about working together, Doodle uses calendar-based polls to set up meeting times. Doodle adjusts itself for time zones, so there's no confusion about when exactly to meet. If you're not playing email catch-up with people, or waiting for them to respond, you suddenly find time that you didn't know you had.
Out of all the tasks you do in a given day, how many of them really matter? How many of them bring you closer to what you really want to do with your life?
For an in-depth look at this perspective, check out The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan.
Think about how you can cut all the unnecessary clutter from your schedule – and work smarter, rather than harder, in every essential task that you do.
Here's an example: I love knitting. I used to carry a small knitting project in my purse to knit while in transit. I kept at least one large project at home to work on while listening to podcasts or relaxing. Unfortunately, my fingers were busy with yarn and needles instead of writing, and with two or three knitting projects in rotation, they were never finished. Do I want to be a professional knitter? Not really. I cut back on knitting, and now I write more.
Multi-tasking is a thorny subject. It leads to a thought process that Linda Stone calls continuous partial attention syndrome. If you're trying to do two things at once, you're not giving either task your full attention. When your attention is split, our desire to be involved with many things at once, all the time, results in a high-alert emotional state. This is exhausting and induces anxiety. The adrenaline rush might make you feel excited for a bit. After a while, you'll notice that not only the work you multi-tasked is sloppy, but also, you're twice as tired.
Learn To Say No
I used to work at a job where I had a really nice cubicle. It was in a corner of the office, near the printer and copier. It had a view of a window (rare for that building). People would come by to retrieve printouts or make copies. Inevitably, everyone would stop by my desk, to look out the window, remark on its presence, and then tell me all about how their day was going. I would smile and nod. Internally, I'd be scrambling to find a polite way to get them to leave. It became pretty clear that I was the office therapist, yet nobody was paying me for this additional service. None of these people were deliberately trying to sabotage me. By the time six people had “just stopped by,” I'd lost 30 minutes of work.
I started wearing the most visually arresting pair of headphones that I could find. Even if I wasn't listening to anything, it sent a “do not disturb” message as clearly as if I'd put up a sign. I completed more work in less time.
If you don't draw clear and specific boundaries around your time, no one else will. They will keep finding ways for you to work for them.
A lot of people put a lot of effort into complaining about how busy they are, as a way of drawing that boundary. This is more work than actually doing the work. if you schedule the time, use the tools, define your workspace, and commit for a certain amount of time per day, you'll find that you've got time to podcast.
It can be hard, especially for women, to say “No.” Women are expected to do a lot of emotional labor: sympathizing, cheerleading, caring. This is still time and energy you're spending. A simple, “This isn't about you, I really can't talk right now, I'm in the middle of something,” works wonders.
If you don't look after and respect your own time, nobody else will. You'll quickly find your days being eaten up by other people's goals and agendas, rather than working towards your own. If you want time to podcast, shut doors, turn off phones, defend your time.
Fifteen minutes a day
If work, commuting, family, everything, are simply not budging, try setting a timer and work on a simple task related to your podcast for fifteen minutes a day. Next thing you know, you can extend that to sixteen minutes. Then, you'll be able to work on it for twenty minutes a day. Next thing you know, carving out that time to podcast is a habit, others respect it, and you're well on your way. Treat that fifteen minutes like a Broadway producer or a record company owner is waiting for you to make the latest and greatest listening experience. Your audience is waiting, and they're just as important.
Need More Help?
Hopefully, we've given you some ideas for how you can create, or make better use of time, to work on your podcast.
Obviously everyone is different, and we all have our own unique circumstances. Some of the suggestions above may not be entirely relevant or possible to you. But, they could spark some ideas that will work.
If you're looking to really knuckle down and get things done then check out Colin's productivity course, Boss Yourself. There, you'll learn about the systems, processes, and tools that can be used to make real progress with your podcast.
And as always, we'd love to work with you inside The Podcast Host Academy. That's where you'll have access to all our courses, resources, downloadable checklists, and regular live Q&A sessions. Having everything you need to build a successful podcast all in one place is one of the biggest time-savers of all!