Google Productivity Pad: Life at double speed: How to learn more by listening twice as fast

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Life at double speed: How to learn more by listening twice as fast

Learning is something that it seems quite certain we will never complete. For the life long learner there will never be enough time to discover, let alone study, everything that they may want to. This is the reason that I can get depressed walking through libraries if I let myself consider how many books there are that I will never read.

For this reason I have tried to find ways to learn faster, and one of the best ways I have found is to listen to things at double the speed. I try to listen to all spoken recordings at double speed. Podcasts, audiobooks, online courses, TED Talks, YouTube tutorials, all of it gets sped up if it can.

This pace can take some getting used to, but once you have developed the habit of listening this way you find it excruciating to go back to normal playback speed. It will seem so slow to you that it will be a burden to listen to it.

Of course some of this is dependent on the person you are listening to. Some people talk twice as fast as most people anyways and those you may not listen to at double, at least not right away. Other people talk so slow that you may want to speed them up even faster than double speed, but I don't know of a way to do that without going through more work than would be worth it. So a general rule of thumb is to go at double speed.

Here is a quick rundown of how to listen at double speed to the content I mentioned above.

The native podcasts app on iOS 8 makes it easy to listen at double speed. You simply click the speed button in the lower left corner that normally says 1x and change it to 2x. You could also start with 1.5x if it makes you more comfortable starting out, that is what I did.

Podcast hosts vary widely on the speed that the talk so it can take more getting use to with some than it does with others, but I have found that all the podcasts I listen to regularly can be listened to just fine on double speed and after some practice it sounds normal to my ears.

Most 3rd party podcast apps also have a speed up option, some with more granular control than Apple's native app.

For audiobooks, it depends on which app you are using, but most have the speed up options. For example I listen to books in both Librivox and Overdrive and they both allow you to speed up your listening.



Audiobooks are almost always recorded at a slow pace and so they can be sped up with very little trouble. I also find that annoying voices are less troublesome at double speed.

Online Courses
If you take a course online the instructors will likely talk slower than they need to for you at certain times, while other times you may need to go back and listen again to catch a difficult concept. When they are speaking slowly it can be helpful to put them on double speed. The service I have used for online courses, Udemy, does not allow you to speed up videos when you watch in a web browser, but when you use it iOS app you can. So check and see if your service has an app, and chances are you can speed up the videos there.

TED Talks
TED talks are an invaluable resource when it comes to learning and expanding your understanding. Most of them can easily be listened to in half the time. Unfortunately the TED app on iOS does not give you the option of playing either video or audio at double speed, so I don't use it. Instead I suggest using the native podcast app to listen to or watch talks on the various TED podcast channels, or watch them on YouTube as explained below.

The ubiquitous video site is one of the great founts of knowledge in the 21st century. Nearly anything you might want to learn can be learned on YouTube, to the point that I once said I was a graduate of the U of YouTube. However this learning can be done much faster if you learn to watch at double speed.

This particular method requires you to do a little prep work because the YouTube app does not currently allow double speed playback.
Go to and make sure you are signed into your YouTube/Google account. Then click the check box to use the html5 player. Once you have done that you will find an extra option under the settings gear on YouTube videos that will allow you to change the playback speed. You can do this on your iPad or iPhone as long as you watch videos in safari and are signed into your YouTube account.

And there you have it, a simple way to speed up your learning that you can do today! I hope you find this article helpful, and that you will share it on your social networks. If you use other apps to speed up learning please tell us in the comments below.

Enjoy learning at double speed, and remember, live better.

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