Podcasting into Productivity / by Cassandra Lam

Podcasting has recently taken over my life, and I absolutely love it. 

Since I moved to New York City in 2015, one of the absolute sweetest changes in my everyday life was the elimination of the need to drive to work (or anywhere, for that matter). Unfortunately, that's definitely not to say that I'm spending less time in transit. Whether on foot, on the subway, or in a cab, New Yorkers always seem to be on the go. Unlike in Los Angeles, however, where I was often found stuck behind the wheel, rendered useless, miles deep in a morbid sea of brake lights, this time in transit can actually be utilized for something! I've been obsessed with life-hacking my own daily routines lately to increase personal productivity and efficiency so I set out to find something useful that I could do with this time. 

Something I constantly struggle with during the week is finding the time and energy to stay current on both things going on in the world and things that personally interest me. While I thoroughly enjoy going on a good Internet news article binge as much as the next person, sometimes you simply can't afford such luxuries. And frankly, I find it overwhelming to sift through the fluff on the Internet to find quality pieces that are worth reading. So until there is a TL;DR button for everything that exists online, it remains a chore to get accurate and well-written information. Even with news aggregators such as Feedly, there is still an abundance of material to sift through daily, if not hourly. It's a lot for a set of tired eyes and a sleep-deprived brain to attempt to consume. 

This is where the wonderful world of podcasting comes in. Like many New Yorkers, I've adopted the habit of carrying headphones around everywhere, which makes it easy to tune into the things that matter to me on the go. It’s been a few months now, and I can honestly say I’m much more informed than before. Podcasting has given me a lot of joy in knowing that I am better utilizing all my time spent in transit. It has also empowered me to be more productive with my time overall, to stay current on the topics that matter most, and to feed my curiosities. If you have an interest, niche or not, there's likely a podcast for it, which makes it a fun exercise in discovering unique content! The added sense of accomplishment you get from multitasking like a champion is just the cherry on top. 

I found that diving headfirst into podcasting can be overwhelming at first. Hopefully the list below proves helpful as a starting point. Enjoy!

My Top 5 Podcasts of 2016:

  1. Slate's Double X Gabfest
    Feminism, like many other topics, is incredibly complex, diverse, and intersectional. As someone who's trying to do the work daily to uncover what exactly her feminist beliefs or stances are, I find it really helpful to listen to what others are thinking or saying in this same space. In a sense, it helps to put my thoughts into context and it informs my own decision-making.

    Double X Gabfest is hosted by 3 women - June Thomas, Hanna Rosin, and Noreen Malone. Each episode follows a similar format whereby the women discuss a handful of highly relevant topics (mostly drawing from current events) from a feminist perspective. Perhaps my favorite thing about this podcast is that the women don't always agree with each other. In fact, sometimes it's outright disagreement that leads to really thought-provoking arguments and eye-opening discourse, all of which lends more support to the fact that feminism is quite multidimensional. 

    Most recent episode: The Women and Headphones Edition
    My current favorite episode: Actually Good News for Women Edition
     
  2. Vox's The Weeds
    I am a closet policy geek, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I was recommended The Weeds from a good friend and I can't get enough. This podcast satisfies my heart's every little policy craving! The Weeds combines the tackling of highly relevant topics with discussions of policy, the implications of said policymaking, and really smart commentary.

    The 3 hosts (Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Sarah Kliff) do a great job of summarizing each topic so that anyone listening in can understand. Similar to Double X Gabfest, the hosts each hold their own opinions and butt heads at times, which makes for really stimulating discussion. Each episode follows a similar format whereby the hosts discuss a few topics and then analyze a recently published white paper by dissecting its findings or approach live. 

    Most recent episode: Best Census Ever, the Trump Foundation, and Class Discrimination
    My current favorite episode: EpiPen Prices, the Clinton Foundation, and Lead Exposure
     
  3. Freakonomics Radio
    The majority of the reason why I enjoy Freakonomics is because I love the way Stephen Dubner presents information. Plus, the wide range of topics they cover, though sometimes seemingly disparate, on this podcast are pretty interesting questions I often have myself. This is one podcast that feeds curiosities I didn't even know I had but am extremely satisfied to have indulged in after I've listened to an episode.

    Most recent episode: Should Kids Pay Back Their Parents for Raising Them?
    My current favorite episode: Is the World Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income?
     
  4. Slate's Political Gabfest
    Keeping up with politics and government on a day-to-day basis is confusing. Trying to do all of that during election year? Even more difficult and exhausting given all the mud-slinging, media bias, and drama on the campaign trail. When in doubt, I reach for Slate's Political Gabfest to break down the craziness of the American political system into digestible, if not also insightful, pieces. It doesn't hurt that David Plotz, Emily Bazelon, and John Dickerson also have such a powerful dynamic that lends so much credence to the arguments or analyses presented in each episode.

    Most recent episode: The “Hack, Sputter, Cough” Edition
    My current favorite episode: The “Get That Baby Out of Here” Edition
     
  5. New York Magazine's Sex Lives
    Sex is not taboo! It's an integral part of human life, and it's healthy to have forums where people can comfortably talk about their own experiences and learn from those of others. The existence of the Sex Lives podcast is representative of a growing movement in support of shifting the mentalities towards sex in the media and in society. It's really cool to encounter resources that aim to strip the stigma surrounding sex so that people can talk openly, healthily, and honestly without shame. Personally, I find it incredibly fascinating to interpret or dissect human behavior as it pertains to relationships, which is exactly what this podcast does!

    Most recent episode: Are the French Better at Sex?
    My current favorite episode: Is Dating in New York Actually That Bad?

Out of my love of music, I'd like to start the tradition of sharing a song with each blog post. Here's a current favorite to kickstart your week!