The Consuming vs. Producing Ratio

It was time to record my monthly Unconventional Tips Found on Reddit series. I sat down and did my regular routine. I checked all the usual subreddits looking for something useful and unconventional. I spent about an hour researching with no luck. I just couldn’t find anything I haven’t heard before. At first, I felt disappointed. But then I decided to figure out what was going on there. And today I want to talk about the idea of consumption and creation. Because I think this situation I found myself in with Reddit is a perfect example I can use to illustrate the shift that happens when you go from being a consumer to being a producer.

producing

In oversimplified terms, when your brain is active it can be in two states:

  1. It consumes something.
  2. It creates something.

From a very early age, we are taught to consume. We are taught to read before we are taught to write. The conventional logic states that you need to consume first before you can create. School teaches us to consume large amounts of information. Even when we are asked to create something, it usually means paraphrase nicely what other people have already said.

Point of Maximum Consumption

Reflecting back on my life, I can see that in my teenage years and early 20s, I was consuming more than I was creating. Substantially more. I was and still am a very curious person. I like learning new things. And this curiosity is what drove my consumption in the past.

I remember a period in my life where I was obsessed with YouTube. I was watching a bunch of videos. I would spend hours consuming content daily and it was fun. However, last year something happened. Before I started my podcast, I had reached a point where I thought I had outgrown the Internet. It was strange because I could remember myself enjoying YouTube so much. But then I couldn’t find a single channel on YouTube that would catch my interest.

It felt like YouTube or any of the social media platforms didn’t provide the same thrill as they did in the beginning. I blamed it on content creators. I thought that there are no unique creators, no unique opinions left on the internet. I would be ready to proclaim that creativity was dead.

The same thing happened to me last week when I was looking for unconventional Reddit advice for the month of May. I was ready to proclaim that creativity on Reddit was dead. However, what was happening is that I have reached the pinnacle point of maximum consumption.

If you lose interest in what you are consuming, you have reached the maximum consumption. No additional consumption will bring you enjoyment. It is time to create.

Here are some other signs that you’ve reached the point of maximum consumption:

  • you don’t feel positive emotions from consuming more
  • you feel like you’ve seen/heard/tasted all of this before
  • you start talking sh*t about other creators or producers
  • you start remembering the “good old days”
  • you are losing your child-like sense of curiosity
  • you feel down

I believe this is our brain sending us signals to stop consuming and start producing. There is a diminishing utility on consuming more. And the brain makes it obvious. It makes you recognize that it is no longer fun. It sends you all these signals to make consumption less desirable. However, many of us treat these symptoms as a reason to just shift the consumption from one area to another.

Blaming the outside world for not being entertained enough and demanding better entertainment will not solve your problems. It will not give you the same thrill and excitement you had the first time you’ve consumed this type of information or entertainment. However, you can find the same thrill and excitement in the production of new things. 

Once you start creating something, you get the same kind of childish curiosity and interest you had when you first started consuming. It works in all areas of life. When you start publishing videos on YouTube, you’ll experience the same level of excitement, if not more, that you had when you first discovered YouTube and your first favourite channels. When you start baking cookies from scratch you experience the same level of excitement, if not more, as when you had tried a delicious cookie for the first time. 

creating

The more you produce, the less interested you become in consuming.

This is weird at first. I always thought that in order to produce 10 units of new information, I needed to consume 10 units of information. I always thought that the split is 50-50. But it doesn’t work like that.

You can reach a certain point where you consume too much. But the threshold for producing too much is much higher.

And this is what had happened in the Reddit situation. I’ve been actively creating new things for the past 6 months. And the amount of time I spend on Reddit, YouTube, Netflix, even podcasts has been drastically decreasing from month to month. The more I create, the less interested I am in consuming. Because emotionally it is much more rewarding to create something than to consume.

You would expect the opposite to be true. Because we are taught that we need to consume first before we create. But I am finding that you need to produce in order to produce more. The more you produce, the more ideas you have. My best ideas come from interacting with my clients, my readers, my listeners, and not from listening to other podcasts, reading books, or watching other YouTube videos. My best ideas come from getting real feedback on the work I have already created and published.

The same has been true with cooking. I used to rely a lot on take-outs. I enjoyed going out to new restaurants and trying new things. The pandemic forced me to cook most of our family meals from scratch. And the more I cooked, the less interested I became in consuming already cooked meals. Take-out food lost its appeal after I practiced creating meals from scratch. And this is a common trend among people who cook a lot at home. You start tasting too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat in take-out food and it doesn’t taste that good.

I’ve heard jaw-dropping statistics. In the US,  people spend more time watching culinary shows than actually cooking. Don’t believe that it can be true? Go on YouTube and search “Clean with me” and be amazed at the number of views. People watch other people clean houses instead of cleaning their own.

Consuming vs. Producing Principle in Content Creation

I used to be a person who would listen to a ton of podcasts and watch a lot of videos on YouTube. I subscribed to a bunch of smart-ass magazines like the New Yorker, the New York Times, Economist, etc. I challenged myself to read 50-60 books a year.

In short, I consumed a lot of information. But I didn’t create new information. It was a one-way consumption for nothing in return.

And then in 2020, I’ve reached a point of overconsumption. And how it looked for me is that everything started to seem mundane. I felt nothing new was happening in the world. I cringed every time I would log into YouTube or other social medial platforms. I just scrolled the videos with no desire to watch anything because nothing excited me.

My mistake was that I took this as a sign of me becoming less curious as a human being. I thought there was something wrong with me. The things that used to bring me a lot of joy and excitement no longer provided that.

Shortly after, I decided to start a podcast, then a blog, then a business. Because nothing seemed worth consuming, I decided to create instead. I am so glad I did. By doing that, I was able to experience all those amazing things that we attribute to consumption but on a much deeper level.

As you probably know from my previous episodes, I embrace the ‘Nothing is hidden’ philosophy. Because I had consumed too much information in my 20s, I didn’t want to consume any more information as I embarked on the creative journey. I didn’t want to get stuck in the research phase. I just wanted to create and ship as fast as possible. Even if it’s not perfect. I just didn’t want to do any further research on Google or YouTube. I just wanted to create. 

And that’s when my mood got a lot better. Honestly, the first two months of me embracing being a producer vs. a consumer was one of the happiest memories of 2020. Even though when I started my podcast, we were in the UK in the midst of another lockdown. Everything was closed. The weather was well… UK weather. Despite all of that, I remember these couple of months as my favourite part of 2020 because I was busy creating and producing something new, something that didn’t exist before. Listen, I didn’t make any money. I didn’t have a lot of views, or readers, or listeners. I didn’t have money to advertise. I didn’t have any results to be proud of yet. I didn’t see the real feedback. I embraced the Rule of 10 and focused on shipping my work without analyzing the first results. But the whole process of creating and producing something gave me a lot of energy and positive emotions.

Even looking back at 2020, people that had the easiest time going through that year were the ones that decided to build something new instead of consuming hours upon hours of Netflix or YouTube. The ones who built new habits, renovated the house, started a new side project had an easier time going through the pandemic than the ones who were stuck in the consumption mode.

What are you going to produce today?

If you’ve reached the point where consumption doesn’t provide the promised happiness, consider the option of producing instead of consuming. When you start producing, consuming loses its appeal for the most part.

In a recent podcast episode, Tonya Leigh shares her wonderful daily practice. Every morning she asks herself, “What am I going to produce today?”. Some days it is work-related, some days it is health-related. But it is always something finite, result-driven, and ‘shippable’.

Having tangible results at the end of the day is very rewarding. “Here, I’ve made this!”, as Seth Godin would say. Seeing tangible results of my work is what drew me towards supply chain and start-ups in my career. However, some of us work in very process-heavy bureaucratic organizations where it is hard to see tangible “creations” of your work on a daily basis. My recommendation still holds true here. Produce something regularly. If not at your work, do it at home, do it with friends, or do it as a hobby.

Think of something. Plan it. Make it. Look at it. You just manifested something from the dimension of thoughts to a material representation. If this is not magic, I don’t know what is. 

Consuming vs. Producing

How to start producing instead of consuming

Step 1: Understand Consumerism

First, understand the main lie of consumerism that inflicts our society. Any marketing, branding, or sales efforts are oriented towards one thing – making you believe that consumption will make you happy and successful.

Look at any ad, marketing email, sales phone call and you will find what kind of “happy” or “successful” they are trying to sell you.

  • “Buy that car and you’ll enjoy happy summer camping trips with your family.” – selling happiness.
  • “Go to that new restaurant and you will be viewed as a hip trend-setter among your friends” – selling success.
  • “Share the status update on LinkedIn and you’ll have an image of being respected and successful among your coworkers” – selling success.

In reality, consumption can never make you happy or successful. Only you, your thinking and your actions can. No iPhone, no movie, no book, no car, no cloth can make you happy or successful. But hey, this truth doesn’t sell, so let’s keep it a secret.

Consumption never makes you happy and successful in the long term. Creating new things does.

Step 2: Evaluate your time

When I didn’t have a podcast I would research the hell out of podcasting equipment, editing software, etc. Now that I have a podcast I’m simply too busy creating those weekly episodes that I don’t have time to consume. You know for how long I’ve been wanting to buy a new mic? I’ve had it on my to-do list for months. I need to research and buy a new microphone. However, every week I am facing the same decision – do I spend the next 2 hours researching and buying a new mic? Or do I spend it actually creating the podcast episode? And so far the second option has been preferred. 

Step 3: Consume on purpose

What you consume affects your life. Garbage in, garbage out. Consume on purpose. Consumption is a fuel you can use to create.  Use it for inspiration. When you start using consumption for inspiration, you’ll find that you need a lot less than you thought.

Step 4: Embrace the experimental mindset

Do you know what the biggest killer of creativity is? Perfectionism.

Treating life as a set of experiments makes it easier to start on a new project. More on this here.

Step 5: Use the Rule of 10

We live in the world of data and information obesity. We can track everything – from our weight, sleep and movement to how many seconds we spent on Facebook on Thursday two weeks ago.

There is too much data. And here is that consumption lie again… “If you have access to all of this data, you’ll be happy and successful.” 

Nope, you won’t. Otherwise, all the people who own an Apple watch would be walking around having a hard time hiding their 6-packs abs under a shirt.

Obsessing over data and numbers makes it extremely hard to start and stick with the process. Because the first attempts don’t get you any results. That’s why I recommend applying The Rule of 10:

The Rule of 10

When starting a new activity/project, commit to 10 attempts and don’t analyze the results of these first 10 attempts.

Step 6: Adopt short-term planning

The companies that produced the most innovation over the past decade are the ones embracing some sort of agile product development. The Monthly Method applies agile principles to personal productivity. The first step is to plan your progress on a goal in short sprints.

create something – ship it – see the real feedback – adapt – repeat

Step 7: Overcome Resistance

No, you don’t need another productivity app, another book, another video. It is you vs. you. It’s always been you vs. you. The only thing that ruined your plans in the past was your own resistance. More on overcoming resistance here and here. 

Conclusion

If nothing inspires you, if nothing seems entertaining anymore, if it feels like you’ve outgrown your current life, it might be the time for you to start producing instead of consuming. It’s not that the world had gone downhill. The world is fine. Your consumption vs. production ratio is what might be off.

The most upbeat and happy adults I’ve met in my life produce more than they create. There is so much curiosity, interest and amusement in the creation process. Even if you don’t get the monetary return from doing it, it is still worth it. Because no type of consumption can deliver the same emotions.

If you are ready to start producing instead of consuming, let me show you an agile-based productivity system designed to achieve your goals without consuming all the energy and hours of a day so that you can have a work-life balance and enjoy your life.

Try the Monthly Method for Yourself


Read next:
  1. Why long-term planning is not as good as you were taught
  2. The one question that stops my procrastination
  3. How to be consistent. Normalize, then optimize. The Rule of 10.

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