Use these 5 productivity podcasts to improve your workday

Our workdays are often filled with a lot of unexpected downtime – whether we’re caught in traffic, standing in line, or watching the clock in a waiting room. Sure, we can take that as an opportunity to be bored, but here’s a better idea: we can transform that downtime into an opportunity to learn. This is where podcasts come in. Listening to podcasts – especially those that can help you get better at the work you do – can be a productive use of the times when you find yourself stuck, but your mind is seeking something to work on.

Here are five of my favorites:

#1 – “Back to Work

Calling “Back to Work” a productivity podcast doesn’t do it justice – it’s not about quick lifehacks and doing things more efficiently. Instead, hosts Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann have in-depth discussions on how to really get your creative work done. This means asking fundamental questions like “Do you really care about the thing you’re making?” or “Is your ladder even leaning against the right wall?” or “Is it possible to have 27 priorities?” Because of this approach, “Back to Work” is best for those who are making transitions in their professional lives, find themselves buried in distractions and busywork, or have trouble starting anything. The show is also very entertaining. Benjamin and Mann’s deep camaraderie always shows through in their discussions peppered with references to comics, music, comedy, and The Big Lebowski.

Recommended episodes:

The 5-part series on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (starts with episode 95 and ends with episode 99)

Their early episode on failure

Their latest episode on New Year’s resolutions

Similar shows: If you like the talk show format of “Back to Work,” you might be interested in checking out “Home Work,” a productivity talk show for people who telecommute or work from home.

#2 – “You Are Not So Smart

In “You Are Not So Smart,” journalist David McRaney investigates what goes on in our brains and why we act the way we do. Technically speaking, this is a psychology podcast, but that’s exactly what makes it useful for productivity. McRaney helps us unearth the biases, fallacies, and instincts that get in the way of our happiness, health, and our goals.

Recommended episodes:

An interview with Dan Pink on motivation

An episode on how to break bad habits

Similar shows: If you’re interested in psychology and how it changes the way you work and relate with the world around you, you might also want to check out “Upgraded Ape” or “Invisibilia.”

#3 – “Beyond the To Do List

If you’re curious about how other creatives get their work done, as well as the struggles they face along the way, then you should check out “Beyond the To Do List.” Host Erik Fisher interviews creative artists and entrepreneurs about their work process and what you can learn from them.

Recommended episodes:

John Acuff on doing awesome work

Laura Vanderkam on the habits of successful people

Chris Brogan on cultivating “The Owner’s Mind”

Similar shows: If you find that you enjoy listening to the work habits and creative journeys of other people, check out these interview shows: “Systematic,” “The Tim Ferriss Show,” and “Inquisitive.”

#4 – “Defeat the Drama

Kirsten Ross’ “Defeat the Drama” is a podcast made especially for leaders who want to manage the drama of working with a team. She discusses topics like how to build your team’s motivation, how to encourage their success, and how to deal with any problems that come your way.

Recommended episodes:

How to make simple process improvements

How to get rid of your “victim mentality”

How to deal with the workplace whiner

Similar shows: For those who need tips on leading and managing teams, there’s the HBR Ideacast from the Harvard Business Review and Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast.

#5 – “Get-It-Done Guy

If you’re looking for quick tips and short episodes, then listening to “Get-It-Done Guy” is for you. Host Stever Robbins tackles everything from being better at email to building your personal brand – all in a concise, straightforward way. There’s something in his shows for everyone and, with over 300 episodes in the archive, you’re bound to find tips on almost anything you want to improve on.

Recommended episodes:

How to send clearer emails

How to measure your productivity

His series on how to be memorable

Similar shows: Productivity blog Lifehacker also has a short, general productivity podcast.

Other ways to learn via audio

While the above podcasts can get you started with auditory learning, there are also other ways for you to use audio learning to your advantage. Services like Umano and Podcastomatic can turn blogs, news sites, and your favorite articles into playable audio files. Online courses like those found in Khan Academy and Udemy also have mobile apps so you can play lessons using your mobile devices. Let’s also not forget that apps like iTunes and SoundCloud give you access to more than just music – with a bit of searching, you can find almost all the podcasts, radio shows, and audio books you’d need.

Given all this content and all these tools, the next time you’re commuting or waiting in line won’t feel like drudgery – instead, it will be an opportunity to learn and be entertained at the same time. Who knows, you might even end up looking forward to that long morning commute.

Post by Celine Roque

Celine Roque is an independent author and marketer focused on entrepreneurship, marketing, and creative work. Her writing has appeared in Gigaom and The Content Strategist.