How to Take More Effective Notes On Podcasts and Remember Insights

Srinivas Rao
7 min readJun 15, 2021


Podcasts can be a gold mine of valuable insights, ideas, and knowledge. But if you don’t capture that knowledge, you won’t be able to capitalize on it. You have to learn to take more effective notes on podcasts.

One of the biggest challenges with taking good notes on podcasts is that we’re not usually sitting at our desks or in front of a computer. You might be commuting to work, going for a walk, or washing the dishes while listening to a podcast. If you hear an idea you wanted to capture, you may not even remember it when you get back to your desk.

Before we talk about how to take more effective notes, we need to understand something that is critical to good note-taking.

The Difference Between Real Learning and Consumption and Why it Matters if You Want to Take More Effective Notes on Podcasts

take more effective notes on podcasts

When my roommate Matt asked if I had straight A’s in high school, I had to laugh. If you’re Indian, your parents don’t reward you for getting good grades. That’s what they expect.

But as I learned in college, having good grades in high school is not a sign of intelligence. It’s a sign of discipline. If you do what the teacher says, turn in assignments on time, and memorize what’s on the test, you’ll get good grades.

However, this does not mean that you have learned anything. True learning comes from understanding and being able to process the information you encounter.

As I learned my first semester at Berkeley, what makes you an upstanding student in high school does not make you one in college.

Supply and demand is a fundamental concept in economics that you read about in textbooks and hear about in lectures. You can solve problems, memorize equations, and more.

But when you take an exam, you have to apply what you’ve learned in contexts you’re not familiar with. So memorizing a textbook or lecture won’t help you at all. My grade point average of 2.97 was a clear indication of that.

Most of my friends who studied computer science couldn’t even build a website after they graduated. When I asked them about it, they all said, “I don’t know how, but I could learn how to build a website or any other programming language in a week.” That’s true learning.

Learning is not taking in information or memorizing facts. True learning comes from being able to elaborate on what you’ve learned and apply it regardless of context. If you are not able to explain what you have learned in your own words, then you have not truly learned it.

Why You Should Take More Effective notes on Podcasts

take more effective notes on podcasts

According to Sonkhe Ahrens, author of How to Take Smart Notes, every intellectual endeavor begins with a note.

My personal experience with building a body of work can attest to this. Every section in a book I’ve written or every article I’ve published began with notes on a podcast or book I read. In other words, note-taking is a fundamental aspect of any creative project.

Why Transcripts Don’t Help You take More Effective Notes on Podcasts

Many podcasters provide listeners with transcripts of their episodes. But raw transcripts don’t help you take more effective notes on podcasts.

First, they’re inefficient. You have to search the transcript, remember what you’re looking for, and know where it was in the episode. If you can’t even remember what you were looking for, the transcript is useless.

Second, the knowledge you capture from each source becomes more valuable when you filter for relevance. The transcript of an average episode of Unmistakable Creative Podcast is more than 10,000 words. If all that’s relevant to you is a paragraph, there’s no point in reading an entire transcript.

Not only that, if you haven’t listened to the episode, you have no context for what anyone is saying. Without context, even the most brilliant insight is meaningless…,

In his book, The Accidental Creative, Todd Henry says: “If you want to turn the noise in your environment into something useful, you need to develop systems for filtering stimuli and identifying which of them is most relevant to your work.”

Third, studies have shown that people who take notes verbatim retain less than those who take notes by hand while listening to a lecture. And reading a transcript is the equivalent of taking notes verbatim.

Fourth, in order to turn information into insight and knowledge, you must rewrite it in your own words. Capturing what you consume is only the first step.

3 Rules to Take more Effective Notes on Podcasts

In his interview on Unmistakable Creative, Jared Horvath shared the following 3 rules for note-taking that you can use to take better book notes and more effective notes in podcasts.

Rule #1: Take notes only when you know there is a big idea or concept or something you think is really important.

A lot of people just randomly jot down as much information as they can. Stay with the people. Stay with the speaker. Stay with the talk until there’s a big enough idea that you’re willing to lose a little bit of information, but hold on to something important.

Rule 2: Always take notes by hand

When you take notes on the computer, you can usually type as fast or just a little slower than you can speak. So you can jot down a lot of content. But when you’re jotting down content, the only thing that matters is the sound of the words themselves. All that matters is the words themselves and their order, which means you’re just listening for the sound. You’re not really paying attention to the meaning.

Rule #3: Do something with the information

Instead of writing it down verbatim, change it to your own words. Rewrite it into a different meaning. Take all the underlying parts and create a paragraph or summary out of it, that kind of work. This also deepens understanding because now you’re going from the simple words back to the meaning and then to the purpose and the link.

Take Notes On Podcasts With The Airr Podcast App

When you listen to a podcast, you can’t always take notes by hand. But you can apply rule #1 and rule #3 to take more effective notes on podcasts by using the Airr podcast app.

Airr simplifies the process of taking notes on podcasts. It allows you to highlight and share the best moments of a podcast and transfer that knowledge to build a second brain with a feature called Airr Quotes.

Airr works as your daily podcast player — you can listen and subscribe to your favorite shows in the Airr app.

Transcripts are already available for many episodes, and you can request a transcript for an episode that doesn’t already have one. You can even save an audio highlight or AirrQuote by highlighting a portion of the episode’s transcript. You can also save an AirrQuote by tapping your headphones (using the same command you normally use to skip back to the previous track).

Export your AirrQuotes to Notion, Roam, and other note-taking apps using Airr’s integration with Link to more information:

If you want to take more effective notes on podcasts, Airr is the best podcast player on the market. After using the Apple podcast app for more than 10 years, I finally ditched it for Airr.

Take Effective Notes on Podcasts and Transform Them into Knowledge

But if you only capture highlights, you do not create knowledge. You are only storing information.

When you store references, you’re not actually creating knowledge. You’re just storing information. Information becomes knowledge when you do something with what you’ve learned. It might involve writing about what you read .

Going deeper into the material by paraphrasing it in your own words is an important part of understanding what you’re listening to in a podcast. That’s the foundation of good note-taking.

Fortunately, Airr lets you add a caption to each highlight that you should paraphrase in your own words. And if you want to get the most out of Airr, I recommend watching the video below and reading the book How to Take Smart Notes.

Want to Take Better Notes on Books and Podcasts?

I’ve created a free course on how to take better book notes which allows you to transform your notes from books and podcasts into a library of knowledge that’s always at your fingertips. Click here to learn more.



Srinivas Rao

Candidate Conversations with Insanely Interesting People: Listen to the @Unmistakable Creative podcast in iTunes