On How to Not Feel Overwhelmed (At Least When Choosing Podcasts)

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I’ve always liked having choices. I enjoy a lot of things so I want the option to experience all of those things. But I’ve gotten to a point in life where I’ve become overwhelmed with options and instead of making choices, I’m paralyzed by the thought of having to make a choice. Or maybe life has become overwhelming with options…

Either way it’s wreaking havoc on my confidence in making decisions. In these situations I’m not able to be mindful. I fear missing out (Good ol’ FOMO.), making a poor choice, wasting my time. I’ve experienced these consequences of choices in the past and it wasn’t pleasant.

I’ve been most overwhelmed by the amount of  information out there even though I’ve always enjoyed access to information. I’m super curious, love learning, and worked as a researcher so information has always been important to me. Yet, now it seems like there’s too much information and I can’t figure out how to sift through it.

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So this is where podcasts come into play. I’ve become a big fan of the medium in the last year or so. Stuck in a car? Have to fold some clothes? I have a lot still to learn so I might as well kill two birds with one stone (Or the less violent version of that metaphor whatever it is.). The problem is that there are millions of podcasts! At least it seems like it. So every time someone mentions a “good” podcast I add it to my queue. I’m currently at 48 podcasts. Most with hundreds of episodes.

My initial-not well thought out-plan was to start at the beginning of each one, ultimately learning all the secrets to success, wealth, unending happiness, unconditional love, and immortality. What I found instead were that many were total BS, trite, or boring. But being the committed person I am, I told myself, there must be a nugget of truth somewhere, just trudge through the sludge and find it. This led to actual stress in choosing a freaking podcast!  And disappointment when it turned out to be a complete waste of my time.

I also panicked because how was I ever going to consume all of this information in my lifetime?! Even if everyone stopped making podcasts and recording new episodes, I will never listen to every single episode ever recorded. Even if that’s all I did for the rest of my life.

Finally I brought myself back to the present moment. I mindfully took a breath, stopped going into podcast purgatory, and accepted that I was wasting my time. Just because someone records their voice into a microphone and uploads it to the Internet doesn’t mean it’s worth my time. Even if other people really like what they have to say doesn’t mean it has to ring true for me.

And ultimately, a lot of information out there blows. There’s less vetting for quality and accuracy. Everyone gets a voice. Which is amazing in some ways. But not so much when you’re looking for quality content.

So I quit podcasts. For awhile. But they have such a hold on my soul. I craved that easy access to information, particularly when I was stuck in traffic.

I had to figure out a way to overcome the overwhelm I felt and mindfully choose which podcasts to listen to.

Serial podcast, seriously check it out if you haven’t already.

Serial podcast, seriously check it out if you haven’t already.

The first step to this was acceptance. Aside from accepting that not all information is created equally and I don’t have to listen to crap in hopes there’s something worthwhile in it, I also accepted that information is infinite and I won’t be able to consume all of it. So I have no choice but to choose.

I then had to be strategic. Since there’s too much information out there, I had to figure out a system to sort through what’s meaningful and worthwhile for me. I just couldn’t waste anymore moments of my life. Ultimately there is no scientific process to this so I had to be mindful and trust my intuition. I came up with the following guidelines based upon that:  

What Is EVERYONE Talking About

No one can go wrong with Serial or Dr. Death. Unless you aren’t into true crime… I’m trying to think of a less morose, but still popular podcast and am failing. I’m sure they’re out there and I’ll get to them eventually. This method isn’t full proof on it’s own, though. I really never got into S-Town and everyone loved that one so there’s that. Also, the second Serial, not as great as the first.

Who Do I Actually Trust and Respect

Just because some rando on a professional forum thinks so and so is the greatest thing since sliced bread, doesn’t mean I will. However, if people I know to have good taste recommend something to me, I generally like it. Or it’s at least worth taking a look at even if I don’t completely get into it. This includes NPR podcasts. Even though I don’t know NPR personally, I respect their journalistic integrity and know that they present information in an entertaining way. And I’ve never been disappointed by one of their podcasts. I also enjoy podcasts some of my friends record. Because I enjoy them.

Delete if it Sucks

If I were to record a podcast, this is how I’d do it!

If I were to record a podcast, this is how I’d do it!

I listen to an episode. I’ll even give it a second chance if the first episode wasn’t entirely horrible. But if I’m not into it after two episodes it’s gone from my life forever! Delete. This has been so satisfying to do. I suppose I’m Maria Kondo-ing my podcasts. Living the minimalist lifestyle. Speaking of which I don’t know if Marie Kondo has a podcast, but The Minimalists have an amazing podcast.

Choose Episodes Based on the Vibe

I’m trusting the universe here. Or my gut. God for the religious. Whatever we want to call it. I no longer start a podcast at the beginning and listen to it all the way through episode by episode (Unless it’s one that tells a story and needs to be listened to in order.). I look at the episode title and it’s brief description, then if it calls out to me, I listen to it.

And so far so good. This method is working out so much better for me. I’ve actually enjoyed every single podcast episode I’ve listened to in the last week since developing these more mindful guidelines. I’ve learned more and feel like I’m spending my time wisely. And I haven’t felt overwhelmed at all. Which was the goal. I’m working on how to outsource this method to the rest of the choices in my life, but for now I’ll be listening to podcasts with more intention and peace.

P.S., Unfortunately I don’t get any sort of kickback for recommending podcasts (or anything else) so all recommendations are simply because I enjoy them.