On podcasts during chores

It's 2022. It has become mainstream to listen to podcasts [1] while doing chores, preparing food, ambulating, eating food, driving places and pretty much all activities which do not require you to listen to something else or concentrate a lot on a certain tasks. It just seems to be free time to use on podcasts. Furthermore decades of motivational gurus blathering about "turning your car into an university with audio tapes" even attached some guilt to just wasting your time on mundane tasks and NOT listening to something educational.

Of course, when something becomes mainstream, it can not be all that good. Or as my advisor used to say: "As my advisor used to say: 'There is no free lunch.'"

First of all, let us acknowledge, that in most instances, it is very likely more time efficient to listen to most podcasts while doing something else. Sure, there are exceptions in which we would be better off listening to the podcast exclusively and take notes, but well, in our case we can assume the above without loss of generality.

However, there are some things we might consider as downsides:

  • we lose out on non-verbal time, which is critical for learning and problem solving; by filling our day with podcasts, this could mean the only non-verbal time is our sleep
  • suffering boredom is a good skill to have and the best defense against the engagement with content (and then getting trapped in the feed of choice)
  • the time spent doing something + listening to podcasts feels more productive than time just spent doing something, which in turn might reduce our compliance in other situations
  • sometimes searching for something good to listen to just takes longer than the task itself, forfeiting the time saving
  • it might introduce too much variety of topics, when we actually would need to focus on one or two areas of our lives

Clearly, this is no argument to never listen to podcasts while doing something else. This would be quite a radical approach and there are situations where it actually would be contraindicated, like, for example, just having a ton of really boring stuff to do we would otherwise just procrastinate on indefinitely.

But it is worth noting that there are costs associated. And sometimes these costs might be something we do not want to pay. At least it might free us a bit of the productivity porn shackles of the 21st century.

[1]or streams or whatever. I do not care. You know what to listen to while doing stuff. The only thing I probably exclude for this argument would be music.