Strategy consultants love a life-hack.
As such, some of you may have read my recent blog, where I detailed my favourite reads off the back of my somewhat lofty aspirations to get through a book a week for the rest of the year. Progress update: 21 weeks in, 18 books down (not a Marian Keyes in sight!), and my interest in human behaviour, psychology and business success is at an all-time high.
But this blog is not about reading. This blog harnesses information (which I learned in - you guessed it - a podcast!) about maximising efficiency and getting the most out of my waking hours. I refer to Tim Ferris’ now infamous concept of the 4-hour work week, which can be applied to intellectual activities such as reading.
Because, as much as I would love to wander the city with a novel in hand, I’m already enough of a liability to passing traffic without adding a physical barrier and a dangerous amount of distraction to the mix.
Enter the podcast!
I haven’t yet delved into any audiobooks (although I am certainly open to the idea), but have discovered several informative, entertaining, and downright enlightening podcast series available for free on the WWW.
So if you, like me, have lofty upskilling targets to meet but rarely find yourself sitting still enough to support a book, jump on this particular bandwagon. Invest in some good quality noise-cancelling headphones and turn travel time, gym time and queueing time into learning time:
I’d be very surprised to come across someone who hasn’t heard of the Freakonomics empire by this stage. Originally published as a book by economists/psychologists/supernerds Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt, Freakonomics explores “the hidden side of everything”. From the economics of fast food and sports ground snacks, to quantifying the impact of racial profiling and palliative care decisions, there is no aspect of modern life that Freakonomics doesn’t attempt to explain.
Much to colleagues/friends/family members annoyance, you will become a self-appointed ‘expert’ across a broad range of topics, and come to see the economical mechanics behind many everyday processes you’d never before considered.
Top episode picks: How Big is My Penis? (And Other Things We Ask Google), How Safe is Your Job?, How to Become Great at Just About Anything, What Can Vampires Teach Us About Economics?
2. How Stuff Works
A series of podcasts which explores (and here the clue is very much in the name) how various parts of world work. For those looking to increase knowledge of eras gone by, Stuff You Missed In History Class is an excellent resource. For the culinary inclined, try FoodStuff. If it’s useless(ish) trivia designed to impress workmates, BrainStuff or Part-Time Genius will deliver the goods.
While approached in a down-to-earth, unassuming manner, the Stuff series delivers a huge hit of general knowledge without the somewhat pretentious air of its stuffier counterparts. Every strategy consultant is taught techniques to become an expert in anything, which Ericsson and Gladwell will attribute to (around 10,000) hours of practice - so put in some solid hours of listening to the intricate detail of our world, and you’re sure to upskill.
Top episode picks: Do Juice Cleanses Work?, Will We Ever Live Without Sleep?, Could Honey Save Us All?, How Crowds Can Kill You
Produced by the Centre for Investigative Reporting, Reveal aims to “engage and empower the public through investigative journalism”, encompassing a multi-platform experience to educate the masses about a range of important topics.
From government fraud and wasted taxpayer funds to human rights violations and environmental degradation, Reveal exposes the sometimes seedy underbelly of our society. At times disturbing, but always informative, Reveal will bring out your sceptical side and appeal to your innermost conspiracy theorist!
Top episode picks: Misconceptions, Running From Cops, The Kids Aren’t All Right
4. Tiny Leaps, Big Changes
If you’ve read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, painstakingly followed the skyrocketing careers of Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris, and would most likely be found in the “self-help” section of your local library, TLBC might just be for you.
Yes, it’s cheesy. And yes, it’s produced by Gregg Clunis, a 24 year old freelance media producer with less life experience than your average graduate student… but Gregg brings a fresh and thought-provoking approach to the pursuit of self-development. More about the process of learning than the education itself, TLBC might just give you a fresh view on the progression of those New Year’s Resolutions.
Top episode picks: 5 Reasons to do Squats, You May Not Deserve To Be Confident, Why You Should Read Fiction Books, The Argument for Introverted Entrepreneurs
5. Answer Me This!
Ever been afraid to raise your hand in a crowded lecture? Or stop your boss mid-way through a presentation to request clarification? You are far from alone! Human nature means we shy away from looking like we don’t know what’s going on, saving face in the short term but contributing to continuing ignorance… Look no further!
Answer Me This tackles the big questions, the small questions, and the downright embarrassing questions. Part useless trivia, part social commentary, pure comedy genius - a bit fluffier than some of the other podcasts above, but very much worth the “ear” time.
Top episode picks: Vampire Bats, Mugshots and Shaven Eyebrows, This is Your Brain on Language, Small Talk, Pathological Liars, the Oscars Curse, and Supergroups,