Tag Archives: Podcasts

Inbox Zero and Consumption Culture

Inbox Zero and GTD changed how I work. The tips of “Don’t constantly be reading incoming email” and “move email messages out of your inbox” are keys to how I succeed at managing what seems like a deluge of incoming email. It’s changed me, in some ways for the worse. I see inboxes everywhere now.

I’ve got a Netflix Instant queue filled with movies I’m never in the mood to watch. I feel bad that I have hundreds of unread articles in Pocket. I just unsubscribed to The Magazine because I couldn’t keep up to date with new issues. I even quit playing Words With Friends, because it was just another inbox.

That’s just the beginning. My Letterboxd watchlist has just over 400 movies added. My Downcast “Everything” playlist tells me I have 238 unplayed podcast episodes (a little over 100 hours). I just added up some 25 seasons of TV shows I’d like to watch, including Breaking Bad, Supernatural, Sopranos, and many others. The unread shelves in my Goodreads have 168 books. I’ve got a stack of video games that each deserve 40-50 hours of play time. Let’s not even talk about comic books, new music, board games, and Longform articles published online.

For a long time I felt almost crushed under the pressure of not having any time to consume all these things. Really, who has that kind of time? I’d need some 2,500 hours of free time to get through all my lists of unread/unwatched/unconsumed stuff. If I spent 2 hours a day, it would take me almost 3 and a half years.

Then I realized: then it’ll take 3 and a half years. It’s not going anywhere. Some of those movies and TV shows I’ll watch with my wife, some of the movies, books, or podcasts will be things I want to talk about with friends. Some of those books will get made into movies, some of the podcasts episodes will be worth skipping, some of the movies I won’t finish, and some of the video games won’t merit a second playthrough.

When I first got my Xbox 360, the game I played most was this puzzle game Hexic. You just spin these pieces around in the grid shaped game area. It dazzled me and I played for hours. I was the same way with Tetris. And nearly every other video game I can remember, I was constantly replaying it to master a top score or best time. I must have rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy every week of my childhood, and I can’t count the times I’ve seen some of the movies we watched as a family growing up (Romancing the Stone, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure come to mind). I think as a teenager I saw more reruns of Quantum Leap and Saved by the Bell than any single person should.

I think most people are like this. I think most people are daunted by the things they haven’t done/seen and comforted by the things they know best. I think most people would rather eat at the restaurant they know they like then try some place new, or eat at the same entree than try something they may not like. Sometimes its nostaliga that has us watch old movies we love instead of a new one or revisit vacation destinations than visit a new city. It takes a great deal of effort to try new things, step out of your comfort zone, and take a risk.

So I refuse to think of my Watchlists as Inboxes anymore. They are wishlists. They are a pantry. They are a rainy day toy box. No one ever feels pressure to use up all the flour and sugar in their pantry. Just use it as needed, since it’s not perishable. When Christmas is over, no one should ever feel pressured to buy up the rest of their Christmas list. It’s about enjoying what you have, not what you don’t. And some toys you keep stashed, in case kids can’t play outside. So that is my new philosophy. And I feel much better.

If only I could make a decision on what movie to watch next.

99% Invisible

One of my favorite podcasts is raising money on Kickstarter to produce Season 3. They’ve reached and far exceed the initial goal, but they have a benefactor that will grant them an extra $10,000 if they get 5,000 backers.

This ambitious goal inspired Debbie Millman at her brand new Design Matters Institute to offer a challenge grant of $10,000 to motivate 5000 people to show support for 99% Invisible at any level they can afford.

I was backer 3,249. I gave one dollar. You should too.

So if you have an extra 30 minutes today (you totally do, you know you do), check out the podcast. Here are a selection of my absolutely favorite episodes:

  • 04: Details. It’s about how the design and creation of the modern toothbrush.
  • 18: Check Cashing Stores: a breakdown of how a Check Cashing store is more user friendly than a bank. Fascinating stuff.
  • 33: A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll. The history of how a little bit of paint on a graphic design on a ship’s hull saved hundreds of lives and changed an industry.
  • 38: The Sound of Sport. A job I never knew existed.
  • 50: Deafspace. How a building was designed to accommodate the hard of hearing and how it’s actually better for everyone.
  • 55: The Best Beer In The World. Why the monks who make arguably the best beer you’ve ever tasted go to great extents to make it difficult to buy.

Each one is only about 10-15 minutes each. Listen to two or three of them, realize the brilliance of it and how much you kinda want to go back and listen to all of them (which I recommend, they’re “evergreen”), then go to the Kickstarter page and give a dollar so that Roman Mars gets $10,000 and keeps making cool stuff that we all enjoy.

And if anybody wants to buy me that $55 Samuel Plimsoll shirt on his Kickstarter, I would appreciate that.


The days of syncing podcasts to my iPhone from my computer via iTunes are history. There are a dozen iOS apps that let me download podcasts directly onto my iPhone over WiFi & 3G. They even let you stream them. They even let you search for podcasts to add and let you add RSS feeds manually. They even will check for new episodes automatically. They will even let you backup your subscriptions feeds to a file. If you’re listening to one or more podcasts regularly, you ought to consider cutting the USB cable and getting a good app. I’ve tried over a dozen; these are the best 3.

Instacast $1.99 It feels more like an RSS reader than a music player, it displays any show notes from the RSS feed, lets you save the show notes to Instapaper/Read It Later, has the best podcast directory Search of any of the apps I’ve used, and it lets you star podcast episodes as a favorite which is more useful than I thought it would be. And it’s my favorite. My only criticism is there isn’t a good “Now Playing” or “Last Played” screen.

Pocket Casts $1.99 It feels like a library card catalog. The podcast library displays the shows in grid layout with the artwork from the podcast subscription. Different than everyone else, kinda neat. It has 3 different themes (Orange is my favorite of them).

Podcaster $1.99 One of the first podcast iOS apps, does a lot of things right. Definitely mimics the iPod audio player. It still has some features that no one else has, like Push Alerts for when new episodes are available (up to 10 feeds), auto-refresh feeds, and auto-download new episodes. Very handy.

Pantscast Free rather than try to explain, just check out their website http://pantscast.com