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I like podcasts. The problem is, I like podcasts too much. There are so many quality shows out there, and on every topic imaginable, that my queue of podcasts episodes I want to listen to can stack up quickly . Before I know it, I’ve got enough to fill several weeks, even if I did nothing but listen to them back to back.

This is not a rare scenario for me, but I’ve learned a few tricks for reducing the backlog and catching up (at least partially). What you might not realize, if you’ve never changed from your default podcast player or messed around with its features, is that these apps come with a bunch of tools to help you power through your podcasts more quickly.

More than that, I’ve also got some ideas for how to fit more podcast listening into your day. While sometimes you will have to declare podcast bankruptcy, clear the queue, and start again, these tips can help you avoid that method of last resort for as long as possible.

Take advantage of podcast app features to listen faster

There is no shortage of podcast players out there, and most of them offer features to help you get through your podcasts more quickly. I’ll highlight a few different tricks you can use in a variety of apps, so have a look through what your podcast player of choice offers—if it doesn’t have a particular time-saving feature you think would be useful, you can always switch to something else.

If you’ve got an iPhone, you may well be making use of Apple Podcasts, as it comes built into iOS. It’s not the most feature-packed of players, but it does let you adjust the playback speed (up to 2x) by tapping the 1x button on the left of the playback screen. It’s a quick and easy way of cramming more podcasts into the same amount of time.

Upping the speed won’t change the pitch of voices or music, but it will take some getting used to every talking at a rapid-fire clip. Try starting with 1.25x speed and increasing from there as your ears adjust.

Apple Podcasts podcast app

Speed up playback by a little or by a lot.
Credit: Lifehacker

Spotify has been busy adding podcast and audiobook support to its app in recent years, and one feature you’ll find on the playback screen inside the apps for Android and iOS is a sleep timer—it’s the small stopwatch icon over on the right-hand side. This can help you add a few minutes of podcast listening to the end of every day without worrying about missing huge chunks of episodes as you drift off to sleep.

The excellent Overcast app for iOS shows an impressive level of commitment to helping you get through everything you want to listen to. One of the best features it offers is Smart Speed, which you can get to by tapping the button showing three sliders, down in the lower left corner of the playback screen: It intelligently shortens silences in episodes, so you’ll listen to more talking and less dead air.

Overcast podcast app

Smart Speed cuts out the silence.
Credit: Lifehacker

Another hugely popular podcasting app is Pocket Casts for Android and iOS. This app can automatically elide a custom amount of time at the start and end of your podcasts. This is useful if a particular show includes intros and outros you know you don’t have to listen to every time. From a podcast’s individual page in the app, tap the gear icon, then Skip first or Skip last. (Pocket Casts can also let you adjust playback speed, trim silences, and fall asleep to podcasts too, which is why it’s one of my favorites.)

These apps (and others like them) come with various combinations of these features, so choose the one with the most options you find useful. In addition, in just about any app you should be able to automatically download new episodes to your phone (so you don’t have to pause your podcast listening when you’re not connected to the internet) and set up a queue of episodes to listen to in order, so when an episode ends you don’t have to fumble through picking a new one.

My favorite ways to fit more podcasts into my day

Besides the features you’ll find inside your podcast app, there are other ways to fit more podcasts into the time you have available. Maybe there are more moments you could be piping podcasts into your ears but aren’t: While you’re doing chores, working out at the gym, or making breakfast, perhaps. You don’t have to spend every waking hour listening to podcasts…but it certainly helps with your backlog.

If you don’t use a podcast player that works with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and one (or both) of those systems is available in your car, consider switching to an app that does. You can listen to podcasts during road trips, your daily commute, and even quick trips to the store (podcast players are smart enough to carry on right where they left off).

Pocket Casts podcast app

Sometimes, you just need to unsubscribe.
Credit: Lifehacker

Something that I’ve had to learn is to be less precious about listening to every single episode of every single podcast. Even with the podcasts you love, if there are episodes on a topic you’re not too interested in, or that feature a guest you’re not that keen on, don’t be afraid to skip them: You’re most likely not really going to miss out on much, and it gives you more time for the episodes you’re really into.

Along the same lines, sometimes you have to be ruthless about the podcasts you’re subscribed to: If you find yourself deleting episodes un-listened to more often than not, just unsubscribe from them to keep your queue free of clutter. If you’re not quite ready to make that step, try a reset: Archive all the existing episodes of a podcast, and start again with new ones being published going forward.

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