I recently discovered a way to get episodes of Manager Tools and Career Tools on specific topics into small adaptive playlists in iTunes. It involves a couple different techniques that I'll share here. Feel free to use and improve on these techniques. Post your changes and questions here for the whole community to enjoy.
I'm going to start with the overview. Then I'll go into some specific scenarios. Finally I'll give some detailed iTunes instructions.
The technique is to combine regular Playlists with Smart Playlists in a way that gives you the most control. In iTunes both types of Playlists are available in the File menu. You may want to also use a Playlist Folder to keep things organized with your other playlists of podcasts, music, and audiobooks. This is not Genius Playlists.
Start by building a regular Playlist on a specific topic, like Feedback or Coaching. I use the All Podcasts area of the Manager Tools website and filter the list on one of the topics. This step is the most time consuming because you're going through the entire list of downloaded podcast episodes to drag them to the regular Playlist. You can also right click on the episode and use the Add to Playlist command.
Once you have regular Playlists set up as a library of episodes to choose from, start building Smart Playlists that update automatically. The first rule in the Smart Playlist uses the Playlist field. Then select the regular Playlist. After that you can set other rules like, Rating is greater than 2 stars. You can also set a limit like 100 MB selected by least recently played.
Now when you sync your iPod or other device, just sync the Smart Playlists. As you listen to episodes and sync, the episodes you've listened to will drop off making room for other episodes. This helps budget your available space, gives you hours of Manager Tools between syncs, provides access over time to all six years of Manager Tools, and still leaves plenty of room for your Jimmy Buffett collection.
I've got an iPod nano first generation that I loan out to people who I want to introduce to Manager Tools. It only has 2 GB of space available. After I get The Basics loaded, there is some room left, but not enough for six years of One on Ones, Feedback, Coaching, and Delegation. There are many other topics from Manager Tools like Effective Meetings, Communication, Hiring, Interviews, and DISC that also don't fit.
I wanted a way to organize the episodes into topic areas while also limiting the size of the playlists so I could sync them to a 2 GB iPod nano. (By the way, you can get a used 2 GB iPod nano from eBay for around $30 making it easy to grab a couple loaners.) I've tried assigning topics to different other fields in iTunes and adjusting my Smart Playlists around those. It takes time. There is also no good way to include a single episode to multiple topics. There are some great episodes that bring together two or three ideas and I don't want to try to decide which one is the "most correct" like a multiple choice standardized test.
As I was building up a Smart Playlist recently, I noticed that one of the fields you can build a rule around was Playlist. Regular Playlists only point to your libraries, so you can add the same song or the same episode to many Playlists. There it is.
You can build up a regular Playlist for One on Ones. Drag from the Podcasts library all of the episodes you want to this Playlist. The filtered All Podcasts list on the website is a good start. You may think an episode not listed also relates, just add it to your Playlists.
Now build your Smart Playlists off of this base library of Manager Tools episodes about a topic. Establish your own set of rules and limits. You can use last played, date added, Rating, and Time (duration).
In my scenario, the limiting factor was space available on the iPod nano. Since that was the limiting factor, that is what I had to budget for, so I use the limit to 100 MB option in the Smart Playlist.
If you're used to 8, GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB mobile devices, you may be worried that 100 MB is too small. Build one of these up and then look at the bottom of the playlist where it tells you how much time is included in this playlist. Now consider that you're really busy with other work and only get a limited amount of time to spend with Manager Tools. Ask yourself if you're going to be able to listen to the entire playlist before you get back to your iTunes computer and sync. With iOS 5 and the WiFi syncing, all you have to do is walk into your house.
Now I can have The Basics on the 2 GB nano as well as additional episodes on Hiring, Meetings, DISC, e-mail, and resumes. My friends get to start at the beginning and know the vast array of help available that you already know.
Detailed iTunes Instructions
Let's go through the steps for doing this. They are the same for Windows and Mac using iTunes. I'm sorry for the Android, BlackBerry, and other MP3 player users out there. I'm not familiar with the podcast management tools available to you. If you have a way to do this on your platform, please post a reply here and share with the community.
We're going to do one example using DISC episodes. From there you can repeat it for the other topics.
Start with the Website
First verify you're a Member. The free membership gives you access to the Member's Only podcast feed (a.k.a., RSS Feed). You'll want this so you can download all of the previous episodes.
Start at the Manager Tools website. Select Products --> All Podcasts. In the Show Only area, use the drop down and select disc. Now select the Submit button. This gives you a list of all the episodes flagged as DISC episodes on the website. If you can see this while you're working on iTunes, keep it open. If not print it and keep the list handy. You can even do this on a computer that doesn't have iTunes installed. I've printed it at work to hand to someone so they can use it as a checklist to make progress through listening to topics.
Build the Regular Playlist
Now open up iTunes. We're going to go ahead and create a Manager Tools folder because you're probably going to do this more and more, so you don't want these mixed up with your music and movie playlists. To create the folder in iTunes, select File --> New Playlist Folder. When the new folder appears on the left, type "Manager Tools" as the folder name. Now select File --> New Playlist and name it MT-DISC. This will be where you collect all of the episodes related to DISC.
From here, move over to the Podcasts Library by selecting from the navigation bar on the left, the title Podcasts. Scroll through this until you find the Manager Tools - Members Only podcast. If you don't see it, go back to the RSS Feeds page on www.manager-tools.com, find the Members Only paragraph, and select the iTunes icon. In iTunes, next to the podcast name Manager Tools - Members Only, there is a small triangle that you can click to expand out the list of episodes available.
If you're looking at the full list of Member's Only episodes and you see a Get All button, it means you haven't downloaded all of the episodes yet. Click on this button to start downloading them. Watch the Navigation pane in the Store section and when you see Downloads appear, click on it. At the bottom of the view confirm that the Allow simultaneous downloads is UN-checked. (Pulling files from the same source at the same time gets confusing and can cause errors during download.) At this time, go off and do something else, like eat dinner, work in the garage, mow the lawn, or catch up on e-mail.
Now that you have all of the episodes downloaded, use the list we got from the website. Scroll through the podcast episodes in iTunes. When you see one on the list, drag it over to the MT-DISC Playlist. Continue until all of the episodes are in the MT-DISC Playlist. You can check your progress by clicking on it in the Navigation pane. Of course you'll have to click back to Podcasts to pick up where you left off.
Build the Smart Playlist
The time consuming part is done. As you get more episodes, you will have to go back and refresh the MT-DISC Playlist manually using this process. Now that it is done, it isn't too difficult to keep it up to date. You can do it once a quarter or once a year. The next part goes quickly, but will take more thought. This is the realm of iTunes that 80% of users are just not familiar with. We're talking about Smart Playlists.
In the navigation pane, select the Manager Tools folder, then go back to the File menu and select New Smart Playlist. A new dialog box will appear. This is where you set rules on how iTunes will populate the playlist for you. You maintain control of the whole process. For this example the first rule has Playlist in the first drop-down box. The middle box will be "is" and the last box select "MT-DISC" from the list of playlists defined on your computer.
At the end of that line, select the plus sign (+) to add a new rule. This one will be Plays is 0. That means we want only episodes we haven't listened to before.
We're not done yet. We want to add a limit. In the checkboxes at the bottom, select the first checkbox and make updates to the text boxes and drop-down lists so it reads "Limit to 100 MB selected by least recently added." This will help you catch up in the order that the podcasts are released. (It isn't perfect when working with back episodes. Once you have it set up, it works great moving forward.)
Now select the OK button and when the playlist appears, type "iPod-DISC" to rename the Smart Playlist. If you're new to Smart Playlists, take a moment to compare the icon between the regular Playlist and the Smart Playlist.
The dialog box applies the filters to the Smart Playlist. You can still sort it any way you like. For Manager Tools and other podcasts, I like to sort them by Release Date, ascending. If you don't see Release Date as one of the columns in the display, right-click on the headings in your Smart Playlist. You'll get a list of the other columns available. Select Release Date. Now left-click on the heading Release Date. You can toggle between ascending and descending sorts by clicking on the heading again.
Sync with iPod
Now that we have the Playlists defined, we want to sync them with our iPod. (This counts for iPhones and iPads as well since they have an iPod App in them.)
Plug your iPod into the computer. I recommend leaving the USB cable plugged into the computer since you're going to sync frequently to keep the stored content recharged like the battery. If you use a car charger or the wall charger adapter, I recommend getting an extra USB cable for those accessories.
After plugging in, your device will appear in iTunes in the Navigation pane. Select it. At the top of the device page above the picture and description of your device, there are some buttons or headings. Select the Podcasts one.
There is a lot going on here. It is giving you all sorts of choice for how to sync Podcasts with your iPod. It is organized from simple syncing to complex syncing. Now that we know how to use Smart Playlists, we can take advantage of the control that the complex syncing provides.
Starting at the top, make sure that Sync Podcasts is Checked.
Next make sure "Automatically include…" is Un-Checked.
Use the Page Scroll on the far right to scroll below the Podcasts and Episodes lists.
We're working at the bottom of the page in the list titled Include Episodes from Playlists. You should see the Manager Tools folder here. You'll also see both MT-DISC and iPod-DISC in the list. Only check the iPod-DISC Playlist. You can also see here the difference in the icons between the regular Playlists and the Smart Playlists.
When you check the box to sync the iPod-DISC playlist, you'll see the Capacity bar at the bottom resize. Go through your other playlists checking and unchecking boxes to see what you can fit on your iPod.
Now select the Apply button and your iPod will sync with its new content.
Go back through these steps for a different topic. This time, when you have drop-down lists open or dialog boxes available, look at the choices that are available that we didn't select here. Think about how you might be able to use them to make your Smart Playlists better or take control of what is synced with your iPod. You can build more than one Smart Playlist using the same regular Playlist.
Use these playlists for 4-6 weeks. Try to sync your iPod each day. I usually plug it in as soon as I get home and change or have dinner. By the time I'm done with that, iTunes has already synced and recharged both the battery and the content on my iPod.
I love hearing about your ideas with this as well as your questions. Please post them as replies in this forum. Thank you.