5 Podcast Time Saving Tips
Time. It’s the one resource you can’t get back. There’s no getting around it - running your very own podcast takes time. That might be a lot of time, or it might be a little. Where you fall on that scale will depend on a number of unique factors.
One thing’s for sure, though - no sensible person wants to spend every waking hour on a single project, and have little or no time for anything else in their lives.
With that in mind, I want to offer some podcast time-saving tips to help you make better use of your resources. Spending less time on your podcast doesn’t necessarily mean your podcast won’t be as good. In fact, often, the opposite can be true.
Efficiency and focus beat simple “hours spent” on any creative project. So what are some things to think about when approaching your podcast with a productivity mindset?
“Just start” is advice I’ve often given over the years. But, that should come with a few caveats.
Creative people often have a long list of stuff they’d like to do. This might be running a podcast, on top of learning a musical instrument, whilst also writing a novel. The point is, you can’t do everything (at least not all at once, or not very well). In the words of Joe Abercrombie’s Bloody Nine, “you have to be realistic about these things”.
Look at the time you have available, once you’ve deducted sleep, work, and important time with your friends and family. If you have a couple of hours remaining that you can dedicate to podcasting, then great. But if it looks like you’ll be “just squeezing in a bit of time wherever possible,” then this is an early warning sign that it’s not going to work.
Many aspiring podcasters arrive in the medium with a lot of assumptions about what they “must” do. For example, releasing a new episode every single week can be powerful, but it isn’t your only option. An alternative approach would be podcasting in seasons. This is where you’d create a self-contained body of episodes (say 6-12), then take a long break before tackling the next one.
Seasons-based podcasting can be great for creating themes around your topics. This makes them easy for new listeners to navigate, and easier for you to create products out of them, too. Seasons are also a good fit for highly-produced narrative podcasts.
This approach is a great way for someone with a seasonal job (a teacher, for example) to run a successful podcast, without tying themselves to the weekly record-produce-release treadmill.
There are other assumptions, too. Some of the most popular podcasts in the world regularly release episodes of over 2 hours. What’s stopping yours from being less than 10 minutes? Joe Rogan might do interviews, but why can’t you go solo? Formats and lengths alone are never the reasons behind the successes of popular podcasts. Don’t lock yourself into trying to mimic them.
If you have a couple of hours a week you can dedicate to running a podcast, what next? You need to have a think about the tasks involved in planning and launching the show. Then, think about the ongoing tasks needed to put episodes out on a regular basis.
You’ll find approximate guides on how much time it takes to run a podcast, but there are still so many variables and unique factors. How much time will it take to plan your own episodes? To record? To edit and produce? To write show notes? To upload and promote? This is where you’ll use your available time to get the lay of the land with all of these tasks. Some will take longer than you thought. Others can be streamlined without any impact on the quality of your show.
Shorter episodes can mean less recording and production time, but do they need a bit more planning? Remember Mark Twain apologizing for a particularly long letter, reasoning that he “didn’t have time to write a short one”?
With this period, it can be a learning curve to find your feet. But facing your to-do list (and the approximate time of each task) is always much better than the “I’ll just squeeze in some time whenever I can” approach.
Podcasting pulls together a lot of elements, from planning the structure of content and delivering it in a coherent and engaging manner, to the nuances of audio recording and production.
In the past, equal value was placed on podcasters mastering techniques like compression, equalization, and knowing their way around multitracking software, as it was on delivering impactful content that resonated with their audience.
These days, it’s much more accepted that you don’t need to become an audio engineer to run a great podcast. In fact, a lot of successful podcasters have never opened a Digital Audio Workstation in their life.
Even things you can do well - are they the best use of the time you have available? You can also outsource things like show notes writing and podcast promotion, even if you enjoy them. Use the limited time you have to do the things that really move the needle with your podcast.
Just like buying a gym membership won’t automatically make you fitter, using a productivity tool won’t automatically make you better at doing work. If you organize your podcast workflow well on a 50p notepad or in a simple text document, then keep on going. That said, there are a lot of good tools and resources out there that can help you to be more efficient. In turn, they’ll save you time.
I really like Trello (though other board-based task management systems are available). Creating a Trello board for your podcast can be a gamechanger. We’ve already talked about facing your to-do list. Now, each task can get its own card containing all the info needed for that task, along with its own checklist and due date. Trello is ideal for immediately being able to look at what’s on your plate, and to see what you should be working on next.
Of course, digital tools aren’t without their downsides. You might’ve switched your computer on with noble intentions, but 2 hours later you find yourself watching a Rene Higuita compilation highlights video on YouTube. The good news is that analogue productivity tools exist too, and they can be useful beyond being photo props for coffee shop posers.
Author and podcaster Cal Newport has a great time block planner method that works well for organizing tasks and getting things done. You can use his dedicated planner, or deploy the technique on a cheap notepad. A podcast-specific alternative is The Podcast Host Planner which does exactly what it says on the tin (or front cover, as it were). You can organize and document everything, from big picture goals to timecodes for edits. Plus, there are regular sections for reflection and growth, too.
Spending blocks of deliberate and focused time on your podcasting to-do list can give you an unfair advantage over other shows in your space. Consistently delivering quality content for your listeners will build a core of fans around your podcast. With only a couple of hours a week, you can put something out that sounds like it’s your full-time job. On the other hand, you can spend 10+ unscheduled and drawn-out hours chasing your tail all week, and release something that sounds like it took no time at all.
Consider employing the use of tools and services, too. These can act as prompts and keep you accountable. They can help you plan, focus, and even offload the work you either can’t do very well, or simply have no time for. Some of the options I mention here are Lower Street’s Podcast Editing Service, ‘Podcast Maker’ app Alitu, task management system Trello, and The Podcast Host Planner. Figure out which ones look like a good fit for you, and give them a shot!