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2x speed listening has changed my life

I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks. Before the pandemic, I would get a couple of hours to consume content while commuting back and forth to work. I’d power through so many podcasts and I’d constantly run out of things to listen and seek out for more.

An overwhelming backlog

I have been working from home for almost a year and have lost those 2-hours-per-day blocks. As a result, I have an overwhelming backlog of podcasts, audiobooks, Kindle books, physical books, comic books, TV shows, and movies. At a time where there seems to be a lot of time, I have found the opposite to also be the truth. An oxymoron for sure.

The revelation

For a few years, I have been listening to my podcasts and audiobooks at slightly faster speeds. Nevermore than 1.5x. I found it difficult to get into anything faster than that.

Since the pandemic, this has changed. I started looking at my backlog and wanted to find efficient ways to get through it—especially the casual non-fiction kind of content. I gave 2x a chance. While comprehension was difficult at first, after a few days it became a lot easier.

2x meant a 40-minute podcast takes only 20 minutes. A 10-hour audiobook takes 5 hours. The backlog doesn’t seem as daunting or overwhelming anymore. However, I still consume fiction work at a slower pace and savour the stories as it unfolds.

Naysayers would say ‘what’s the point in rushing? Why not just enjoy life at a slower pace?’. Honestly, the main reason is that there’s so much good stuff in the world, it’s a net positive for me to experience more of it quickly, rather than less of it slowly.

— Ali Abdaal (source)

Platforms I use for speed listening

My podcasting app of choice is Overcast. It has an excellent Smart Speed feature that automatically shortens the silences in speech.

Two screenshots of the Overcast podcasting app. The first screen shows the episodes for the Fat Man Beyond podcast. The second screen shows sliders that control the speed of the narration.
Overcast iOS app interface

For audiobooks Audible does a good job. But I hope Amazon would someday have their own Smart Speed functionality.

Two screenshots of the Audible app from iOS. The first screen shows the audiobook Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. The second screen shows the interface to choose the narration speed.
Audible iOS app interface

I’ve only recently started watching YouTube videos in 2x. It’s really handy for those long Ted talks or super long and boring coding tutorials.

A screenshot of the Youtube player, with the settings menu open and showing that 2x playback speed selected
Playback speed setting in the YouTube interface

Is speed listening (or watching) right for you?

I’d say give it a go! It may feel unnatural at first, but in time you too may get used to it.

Here’s some further reading if you want some convincing: