Planning and editing solo episodes

Michelle: When it actually comes to me going through the file, I have a lot of places where I need to remove repetition, find the right version, you know, get rid of. unnecessary parts that don't fit. And that feels like a kind of first rough edit. And then I need to go through and tidy it up. And then there's that third, one of four have I really caught everything. I need to listen to the whole thing fresh.

Mark: Welcome to what's your problem, where I try and make podcasters lives easier. One issue at a time. My name's Mark Steadman. I'm a podcast producer, consultant and coach. And in this episode, I'm speaking with Michelle Grant of The Great Full.

So Michelle records, a mix of solo episodes and guest interviews. She finds her solo episodes rewarding to provide to her listeners, but with deadlines comes to the looming sense of dread to plan the next one. So she's looking to find ways to make not only the planning process. A little less painful, but also to remove some of the drudgery around the editing process.

Michelle: I've been running my podcast for just over a year. In the first season. I focused primarily on interviews with others. And in the second season, I am mixing interviews together with solo episodes, where I offer some insights and coaching tips and guidance on challenges that are common for women in particular, when they want to lead change around sustainable development or food systems, which are the spaces that I work in.

I really enjoy doing these silhouette episodes. I was surprised by that because I avoided them for a long time. But I am noticing that they take me a lot of time and energy and I feel I could potentially be more efficient. And if I'm more efficient, it wouldn't feel like each time I come to record one of them, it's this huge mountain to climb. I'm trying to find a way to make my process more fluid more lighthearted and just basically easier so that I can have. It's not that I want to be churning out episodes, but just that I can have, yeah. I guess a greater consistency and flow in my work. And of course, more joy.

Mark: And of course, more joy.

Michelle: Yes.

Mark: Why don't you run me through your process for how you take the germ of an idea of an episode until it's live and published?

Michelle: There's the structured part and there's the messy part. So the messy part is when I feel the deadline of a new solo episode looming, and I start ruminating on what's the best topic in the world for this solo episode, which seems to feel like the only episode I'm ever going to make. And. Once I've landed on a topic, then I typically jot down my initial ideas. I make a mind map. What are the key ideas topics I want to cover? Where do I feel? I have a lot of experience, knowledge, insights already. And where do I feel? I might need to do some research.

Enter opening the rabbit hole where I then do the research. So my last episode was on imposter syndrome and changing the status quo. And it was really important for me to have a different lens on this topic or what I think is, more widely spread. Um, And so I also wanted to, research diversity of voices researching and speaking on this topic, and though I enjoyed the process, I spent literally days, time digging even deeper than I already was having worked with this topic for a while.

And so then of course, the next step is to funnel that back in again and bring it back into my structure to write kind of relatively like a skeleton of what I want to cover. I don't say word for word typically. Uh, then to record it. And then I think the next laborious part comes, and that is the editing of the recording.

I seem to have to go through it about three times on my own. So once for a rough, just getting rid of all the repetitions and whatever wants to tighten everything up and then maybe a final one to add all of the different music and intros and outros and everything like that. And then there's the show notes and then there's the promotion of it. And then the cycle ends and it begins again, basically. Yeah.

Mark: you mentioned the looming deadline. Woo. Hoo, who imposes that? Where does that deadline come from?

Michelle: And I try and be relatively lighthearted with it. I try and keep a consistency of one episode every two to three weeks. But if something comes up, I just had an injury, for example, I am quite tend to be lighter on myself and just, if it stretches another week or so that's fine.

I don't want this podcast to become. It's something extra that I do on top of my work. And I don't want it to become a big source of stress or just unnecessary pressure, cause I think that takes away a lot of the issues.

Mark: I'm really conscious of that feeling of guh, that dread that sort of whatever it is that comes up. You said, I think the second time you feel that is when you start to edit, but I might have missed what the first time is when

Michelle: I think it's actually where I'm at right now, which is in the next couple of weeks. I need to have a, an a solo episode. Ready?

Mark: It's the homework deadline yeah.

Michelle: I need to have landed on a topic. And I avoid that part for a little while. I'm not entirely sure why have three, four or five topics that are probably all perfectly good in my head for some reason, the committing to it takes a moment. And then once I commit to it, that research phase seems to be the next barrier. Then the third barrier and the final one is the distillation of the research. Um, but after that I tend to get into my flow and I actually quite enjoy it. And then I Feel it's not a barrier so much, but I feel tired in the second or third round of editing where I'm kind of like, I would pay someone to just finish this right now.

Mark: Is it I've heard this enough or is it uh, you know, the sound of your own voice? Is it just boredom?

Michelle: It's just there. It's the grit, the slog part of it. Like I've heard this three times. I'm ready for it to be finished.

Mark: Yes. So let's look at the first thing. I'm thinking about planning and coming up with the topics and that dread of, so I've written recently about this and ways that we can think about planning. The episodes that we're going to make in the next few weeks or however long that is for a season.

And I wonder because you work in seasons, you could potentially plan out in rough give each episode, maybe a rough title and a rough bullet points of the kind of things you want to cover for a few weeks. So you sit down and you, you, you have one sort of afternoon, morning, whatever, of a marathon planning session of, so for me I will be doing this soon because my first mini season of six weeks topic is coming to a close, so I'll have a week off and then I'll have another week or I'll have a looming deadline soon where I've got to sit and come up with six post ideas and that might also be podcast ideas. And I'm still a bit woolly about that.

But it's about sitting there with these are the ideas, make a whole big list. All of the things I want to cover in a particular topic. So instead of trying to pull from the whole Pantheon of human existence, every time you come to sit and think of a topic your, if you think in themes, so a season or a whatever, and in the post that I will link to I was using, there's a couple of frameworks. You can use the story framework or something like the hero's journey or Don Dan Harmon's story circle. Or you can use the cycle of the seasons and divide things up because we, we tend to think in in those terms of winter might be about conservation, spring is about renewal and starting new things. And I think anyone, when we're making stuff that relates to people, we can all relate to thinking in certain parts of the year, that changes how we think about things.

And so that can inform the kind of content that you make. And so when you're sitting in, in in planning, then, when you're going to try and write as many different sort of rough titles of episodes or rough ideas, Okay, this is the kind of thing that I'm talking about for this period.

Michelle: When you plan, this is a question I have about this. When you plan topics up. And you come to do any, you don't really feel it. Do you push yourself through or do you let It go? Because that's a bit my issue. I write the topics down. I come to it and I'm like, I'm not feeling that right now. And I can't do it somehow, if it doesn't feel fully authentic. So I'd be interested to know how you manage that. If it comes up.

Mark: It does come up for me. And I think if I'm perfectly honest, I look at that and I think I tend to wonder if that's bad planning on my. Because I've come up with a bunch of titles and I haven't thought about do these actually like to borrow a phrase, spark joy? Do you know, do, are these really things? Are they like, for me, one of them is actually, are they good enough or are they just there? And that sometimes happens for me where I'd go because of, you know, ADD brain or whatever. I'm like, okay. I'm just churning through this process of planning now. So let me write a bunch of titles. There we go. I can tick that off now. And it's done. I've done planning.

And then, future you five weeks down, the line is looking at past you go, dude, what did you do to me? I've now got a bunch of rubbish and I've got to deal with this. And I'm no, I'm not feeling any of these because they weren't. There at the beginning. And I think I, so I it's like when your hard drive fails and you go and download software to recover from your to, to recover data and all the softwares, like install this before you have a data, you know, it's like,

Michelle: yeah.

Mark: I don't know how helpful that is now. But it's one of the things that I think of when it comes to that planning stage is maybe the harder part is actually pushing through and maybe even doing it in a couple of sessions to really think of and really be brutal in terms of maybe that idea is not quite good enough. Can you look at each one and go, I'm excited to talk about this?

Michelle: I think that's a good point. I think I rushed perhaps the, just get the ideas down and okay. They're there, but then to come to them and feel like that's not, it. But then the other thing is like, my enthusiasm for topics definitely have cycles as well. And the peak of the enthusiasm is probably several months before the recording of the actual episode. So I just probably need to find a way to regulate that in the sense that from excited enough to write it down as a topic, get the meat on the bones, then even do the outline of the episode and

Mark: Yeah, I think the only, and I think that's great. I think the only thing to be wary of is that you don't use up too much of your energy. Getting down one rabbit hole and get excited about one particular episode. And then you're like, okay, onto the next one. And you sort of look and you go, wow, I've spent two hours doing that and you could have recorded an episode who I don't know. But yeah I know that I could quite easily do that

Michelle: yeah.

Mark: So the, yeah the, the research thing is, I think, I like to try and find ways to make that as comfortable as possible. And like physically comfortable I wouldn't be seated on a sofa, maybe with my big fo sheepskin throw over me perhaps with a bit of vinyl on. So I'm really feeling like maximum cozy. So it doesn't feel like a chore, like it feels like this is something that I'm choosing to do that I want to do. And I'm there with my iPad and maybe I've got my little pencil and I can highlight things and I tend to feel that set it sort of mise en place almost of setting that stuff up can potentially help that aspect of just, yeah.

And it could, because sometimes these are things that we have to do, like almost as extracurricular work, because we've got our actual day jobs and we've got things we've got to do. And so finding the time to do that could be hard, but if you almost make it an event and make it a, this is the time I'm going to sit down and I'm going to make everything around me lovely.

Michelle: Um,

Mark: So that I'm really just, I'm having a nice time doing it. And if that means you're occasionally distracted by something, I think that's probably a. An okay. Price to pay because your not hating the process. And that can bring you a little bit. The process itself might not bring you joy, but the, again, the of just being in that nice environment, whatever it is that makes you feel that can potentially bring some joy.

Michelle: And I actually, I mean, I do enjoy the research stage. I think what I'm getting better at is saying, okay, that's enough, stop nasty, emphasize. And that's, that's where I also add the value, right? Is synthesizing the ideas, bringing the structure. And then for me, it's important in each episode to really offer concrete tips, insights, exercises, things that people can do to actually move forward with it. uh, that I find easy there. I have always three, four or five times the options of the that I need and I make sure to myself okay, three to five concrete tips and that's it. So Yeah. that's okay. But I think for me, it's that probably getting better at saying enough earlier in the process so that I can just keep moving forward And then onto the next thing,

Mark: And I think some of us have a certain mindset and I think you are absolutely of that mindset that you want to make it. It's almost like why not do it? If it can't be the best thing that it can be.

And I think. That's that is so the it's such a good attitude to have, but I also think it misses the fact that. The wonderful thing about podcast episodes is we get to do them again. Like we get to have another shot. It might be a year down the road. You know, I was listening to something this morning where the guy was saying, and I've talked about this before. Yeah, you absolutely did, like, you know, A year, 18 months ago and that's okay.

I think we can escape some of that perfectionism or hacker way round it by realizing that these are not things that are set in stone. One of the things I brought up on on a podcast episode a couple of weeks ago is it takes something like YouTube. You make a YouTube. That video itself, that unit is stuck because if it becomes popular, if you share it around, then that's great. If you make a mistake or if there's something in there that you later want to redact or remove or change, you can't, you have to delete the video and upload a new one. You know, You can't replace that video. Like a tweak. We can do that with podcasts. And they can, they're just blog posts with an MP3 file attachment. We can change the MP3 file. We can change the text and the unit still stays the same. And so I think as a shortcut around that procrastinate or distorted that perfectionism thing, it's one of the lovely things. One of the little quirks of this medium.

Michelle: And I think that's a really good point. I hadn't thought of that. It's also interesting because I find once I've put it out and let it go, I easily let it go and move on. I had the same issues with my book. Like when I was writing it, I had all these perfectionism stumbling blocks, but then once it was out, I don't stress about those things anymore. So it's also very interesting to maybe observe a bit more where that gets stuck and when I let go of it.

Mark: Then looking at the editing then, so you're doing a few passes of this,

Michelle: Yes.

Mark: What are you editing for? What are you removing? What is, what has to go when you listen to the episode?

Michelle: Well, It might be tied to how I'm recording as well. So what I decided to do is just do. Effectively one pass to record the whole thing. And then if I notice I stumbled, I correct it life in the sense that, if I'm trying to get an idea out and it doesn't work, then I'll pause start again. And I find an, I don't know if it's, because I've been editing the podcast for awhile now.

I'm pretty good at basically editing in real time, realizing like, oh, that would need to be edited, so redo it. So then when it actually comes to me going through the file, I have a lot of places where I need to remove repetition, find the right version, you know, get rid of. I just unnecessary parts that don't fit. And that feels like a kind of first rough edit. And then I need to go through and tidy it up. And then there's that third, one of four have I really caught everything. I need to listen to the whole thing fresh. So that's the three, three rounds

Mark: Okay. What are you editing in at the moment?

Michelle: Descript, which I love, I couldn't probably do it otherwise.

Mark: absolutely. One of the things I'm not sure. And I don't, I think you can do it, but I actually don't know how accurate it is I think you can leave markers in descript while you're recording but I think the marker is then off when you're recording. I think because it marks based on what it's transcribed rather than the actual time code of when you said, sorry, I think that um, but that is something you can do is you could hit the MK and create a marker so that at least then you can scan down and you can see where the edit points are.

Michelle: The first round could then just be text-based editing and the next round could be listening, doing the final things. Yeah,

Mark: that's it. I think. I never, and I, whether this is down to having done it for a long time or whatever, but I never do multi. Passes have an edit. Actually, that's not true if I'm doing, if I'm editing a conversation between a couple of people, I will do a technical pass while I call a technical pass, which is taking the sequence, taking the two people talking and looking for over-talk looking for active listening noises.

I tend to remove. Because I think they make sense in a visual form. I don't think they, we need them on a podcast and they're all always delayed by half a second, which bugs me, um, cause it stops it sounding natural. So I tend to remove those. And then I will do the, sort of the content editor. And then, so that is really just listening, trying to active, listen to everything sometimes on a slightly higher speed, uh, so, you know, I might, I might wish at a higher speed, but I'm then listening for, okay. What, what can be removed? What is, and I'm not necessarily thinking in terms of editorial in, in almost a journalistic sense. I'm thinking, what was the mistake? What needs to come out? What was really boring? Uh, If I know that was a really boring tangent or like me, I repeat myself a lot. So if I've done that then, okay. I'm deleting that.

And then usually what I will do is I will give it a final list. In, not all cases, but in most cases I'll give it a final list. And then I'm thinking I'm really just catching any flubs, any mistakes, any edit mistakes that I didn't catch, but by going through and being, cause some people do a sort of like a spear fishing edit where they will just go through and they're tactical and they're going, I know there was a thing here. I know there's a point here. I'm going to go in, remove those and either publish or listen again. Lots of people do that, whereas I've always preferred. To edit as I listen, and then I tend to find that it doesn't really, it doesn't really mean that you need to go and give it another listen.

That said, I think having another, listen the next day, popping it in your, uploading the file somewhere so that you can pop it in your headphones and actually give it a listen is really, really helpful. And you

Michelle: Yeah. The last round I was doing that just, while I was cooking or something else, I just had my laptop nearby. I was listening. So it didn't feel like I was sitting in front of it again.

Mark: Yeah,

Michelle: Okay. But if I, maybe I can get it down to the two passes. So the first round put everything in from music to, tech, edit to content, edit everything, and then a second pass of just

Mark: quality assurance.

Michelle: Exactly.

Mark: That's it.

Michelle: I think the other thing is, I've been trying to keep them to a half an hour in this last episode. I just got really deep into it, and it was an hour long, which just meant a lot more editing too. So if I can really be strict, if I have a big topic, then I break it up into two, for example ironically it's like the most downloaded podcast of all of them. So I'm also having trouble to work out what people want in terms of length of time. But I think, yeah, for the future, maybe that's what I could do. is that could have been part one and part two, And then I have two episodes for all of that time instead of, instead of just one really long one. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that.

Mark: I do. And I tend to think that the I prefer, and I'm not necessarily right on this, but I tend to prefer one thought per. If

Michelle: okay.

Mark: So that also means one episode per thought. So, you know, If you're talking about imposter syndrome, your episodes are usually half an hour and you talk for an hour, that's an hour long episode. Um, I don't think we need to artificially or arbitrarily divided up because we've decided that this unit of entertainment lasts for this long. Um, It's about how well you can view. It's almost the thing of w like how long it is, how long should an episode be, as long as it's interesting, really, you should cut the episode when it starts to get boring and you should cut the boring bits out.

And I, yeah, you could you could really condense something down into half an hour. You could take an hour's worth of content and you could condense it down, but then you're not necessarily giving yourself space to. And then listeners space to breathe as well to actually digest what you've said, because you've just rammed it so tightly with stuff.

Don't stress about the length just don't stress about anything, but if you are going to stress about anything, it's just not making it boring or repetitious that's it.

really What are you preferring or not preferring about doing solo episodes? versus an episode w

Michelle: tih a guest?What I'mm enjoying about it is the chance to structure and deliver a coherent message around topics that I'm working with and dealing with on a daily basis. So it's helping me to, yeah, just get even clearer about my position on certain things, about what I want to offer to help people move forward on those topics.

It's helping me listen better to my coaching clients and to hear that. Challenges their pain points. And to think once I've heard that, again and again, to realize, okay, a lot of people who are listening to my podcasts have the same issue. So let me support with something around that.

So I think that. Been really nice also from an aspect of community building, because I do reach out to my community and ask what topics they want to explore or see how they respond to different things that putting out there. And it also helps me connect to others, working on these topics, seeing what's out there. I, for that reason, I enjoy that research process as well, to dive a little bit deeper.

And I also enjoy. I have full control over the whole process. Which is then the part that sometimes I don't enjoy is that there's not that push of be, you know, having the interview with the person and a clear deadline and something to repair or, connecting with them to feed back on the editing and see if it aligns.

So it's yeah, it's that loss of accountability then you can sometimes have when you actually got guests. Which I guess is the downside of.

Mark: Yes. I feel that keenly. Yes, I wish I had more people that would keenly miss an episode if I didn't have one out, I think there's, yeah. There's something about I must get this out for the people like we want to, we want that. We want to believe like the people

Michelle: the people are waiting.

Mark: The people are waiting.

It's just, we know they need this, but not everyone knows they need it. Yeah. No that's

Michelle: be honest, I find that really helpful. Like I tell myself repeatedly, literally, no one's waiting, even if they are, even if there are people subscribed to the podcast

Mark: But they're not there with the phone in hanger. Where is it?

Michelle: Exactly. They're not like Michelle puts something out this time every week, where is she? I'm glad I have enough flexibility to be like, you know what? It's not going to be this week and that's okay.

Mark: That's interesting, because I think I, I tend to counsel the opposite, but I also do take that point that in reality, You know, that that is the thing I think. One of the things that we have as a potential benefit with podcasting is that we can fit ourselves into people's lives. And I think that's a good aim, but I think I also liked your thing that you said at the top really, which is about being lighter on yourself or with yourself um, being easier on yourself, because I do think consistency is important. It's one of the things that like lots of people in my position preach, but also. I think if there's a choice, one of the things they don't necessarily talk about is if there is a choice between putting out a great episode in three weeks time and putting out another one, because it's the deadline, like I get it. And people in our circles talk about shipping and talk about you don't ship because it's ready. You ship because it's Friday

Michelle: yeah.

Mark: shit. But also who? Yes. And do you know as much as I'm talking myself in circles because there are lots of contradictions and ifs and buts here, but there is this idea that, yeah, I would rather take a little bit longer or more to the point that you were saying earlier. I would rather make sure that I feel this episode. I would rather make sure that I know that I'm going to put good wood behind the arrow. I know that what I'm going to say is actually going to be useful and impactful rather than so I'm here again, and this is an episode and we're going to, talk about a thing

Michelle: Cause I said I would. And I think for me, like the reason I set up my own organization and work for myself is also because of a certain amount of joy. I want to combine with my purpose, a certain amount of. I don't want to say work life balance, work, life integration, and peace of mind and calmness to live and work this way. And so for me, that's about having enough consistency that I show up and get the things done. So I commit to an season and I say every two to three weeks, there's going to be something. But within that, I offer a little bit of flexibility. It doesn't become this noose around my own neck the, of my own creation.

So I think that's really important. I've seen a lot of people suffer, they start their own projects because they want this freedom and work-life integration and then create so much stress for themselves that it's just a repetition of where they are. So, you know, I've also been there too. So I've just tried to avoid that by finding this balance and think that's the, yeah, the yes and to, how can you hold both lightly?

Mark: This has been a pleasure. Would you please tell me and the listener about your podcast and where it can be found?

Michelle: Sure. My podcast is called The Great Full, and in it, we talk to leaders who are trying to build a more sustainable world. So people who are really dedicated their lives and their work to making this planet, we live on a better place. And as I mentioned earlier, I'm also in this season, adding solo episodes where I go into detail around leadership challenges, coaching topics that come up for people when they are trying to lead change in this space. So things that I see a lot with my community or with my coaching clients and trying to unpack the topic, but also offer really tangible tips and practices that we can integrate in our lives to move forward with it.

So for example, finding and using our voice or imposter syndrome, these types of topics that come up. And often there are topics that come up for women who I work mostly within this space. So yeah, it's available wherever you get your podcasts. I believe, I think I've ticked all of the boxes. Um, But somebody told me the other day that it wasn't on, is it Pocket Cast? And now it's on there. I think so should be everywhere. Otherwise on my website, which is

Mark: dot HTML. How is the imposter syndrome going?

Michelle: Good. Actually, I think, I don't think it Imposter thoughts ever go away for us because we're human beings. Regardless of gender or lived experience, we all have them at some point. What I do think is that we are able to witness them, observe them and dance with them differently so that they don't hold us back. And I feel like I'm much more in that place now of, oh, here they are again. Okay. Here's this a suite of different tips, practices or things that I could do to move forward here. And I think that's the most. Point is realizing it's happening, observing without judgment, and also knowing that we're not alone and it's not a personal problem of as actually most of the world experiences it.

So rather than pathologizing it, let's actually collectively talk about how it can help each other forward with it.

Mark: My thanks to Michelle Grant for joining me on the podcast. Head to for links to Michelle's podcast and to the things we discussed. There you'll also find a format to apply, to be a future guest on this podcast. Take care of yourself and I'll speak to you again very soon.