Increasing Productivity: Great Personal Productivity Podcasts

” Remember self-help tapes? You used to throw them into your car [stereo] or Walkman when you were going on a lengthy trip so you could ‘grow on the go’ and hope to return home all the better for it… Well, podcasts that discuss various aspects of productivity very well could be the evolution of those self-help tapes.” — Mike Vardy, Stepcase Lifehack.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” — Paul J. Meyer, American motivational speaker.

“None of the world’s problems will have a solution until the world’s individuals become thoroughly self-educated.” — R. Buckminster Fuller, American author, designer, and inventor.

From a productivity standpoint, the relentless march of technology allows for all sorts of new opportunities for self-education. And make no mistake: you have an obligation to constantly hone your personal productivity skills, lest you find yourself suddenly overwhelmed by your workload as it evolves to meet ever-changing workplace conditions.

Fortunately, productivity training can be as simple as sitting around and listening to other people talk—which brings us to the topic of productivity podcasts. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can acquire a whole host of these simple audio presentations for free, and with very little effort. Some focus on specific professions, from the creative arts to software development; but many handle general productivity topics, often in gratifying detail. A good podcast can last anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, making them perfect for filling up your downtime gaps or drive time that you might otherwise waste. Just download them to your MP3 player, and off you go!

A quick Google search will net dozens of these little productivity programs, whereupon the problem becomes which of the many to spend your limited time listening to. Luckily, you’ve got me to round ’em up for you. In this exciting entry, I’ll give you the scoop on five productivity podcasts I believe you’ll find both enlightening and educational.

43Folders Podcast
Although the entries appear very irregularly and it hasn’t updated in a while, Merlin Mann’s 43Folders podcast is both helpful and fun. But this podcast goes beyond mere infotainment, because while he’s a pleasure to listen to, Mann’s recommendations have a lot of merit—and he uses them personally in his self-described quest to help you “[find] the time and attention to do your best creative work.” If nothing else, Mann’s exuberance can be infectious, stirring you on to greater workplace productivity.

Accidental Creative Podcast
Todd Henry, the author of The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant on a Moment’s Notice, helms this info-packed podcast. Henry posts new episodes about twice a month, and while he doesn’t joke around as much as Merlin Mann, he’s a vibrant speaker, interesting to listen to, and manages to snag some pretty good productivity experts as guest stars. In recent months, Noah Scalin, Michael Bungay Stanier, and Mark McGuinness have made guest appearances.

The Productivity Show

This Australian-based podcast starts from a Getting Things Done perspective, but ranges widely over the entire productivity field. It draws its guests from a variety of endeavors, including popular music, and often focuses on specialty software products designed to boost productivity. There’s a two-year gap between the last two podcasts in the series, but as of August 2011 the host, Tony Goodman, appears to be back in the saddle; and in any case, the archives make for fascinating listening.

Back to Work Podcast
For those who’d like more Merlin Mann (and prefer to get your fixes more regularly), I recommend Back to Work, which Mann hosts with a fellow named Dan Benjamin. These two enjoy great chemistry, and spend their podcasts exploring topics like personal limits, communication, and solving workplace problems in a chatty conversational style. But beware: these ‘casts often last an hour or more, so they don’t lend themselves to filling small pieces of downtime; they require a bit more investment.

Get-It-Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips

Stever Robbin’s brief productivity tidbits offer a sharp contrast to the Back To Work crew’s lengthier discussions. They rarely clock more than five minutes, making them just right for listening to while standing in line at the pharmacy or waiting for the traffic light to change. Robbins comes across as witty and interesting, and his to-the-point, time-saving tips make a lot of sense.

Bottom Line

Aside from staving off boredom, these and other podcasts will keep you thinking and questioning what you already know and do, making them valuable tools for refining your workplace productivity schema. It takes just a minute or two to download the individual ‘casts, and if you’ve got an iPod, you can subscribe to many of them via iTunes. So why not embrace this opportunity to better yourself?