Last week I had two clients mention to me that they’ve lost interest in YouTube and Netflix. Today I want to share these stories and my theory on why it is happening. Don’t worry. It’s not about imposing a strict screen time limit or heavily relying on self-discipline. It’s better than that.
Mike & Netflix
Let’s look at the first client. Let’s call him Mike.
Mike is a medical practitioner based in the UK. When we started working together, the biggest concern he had is the sheer amount of time he spent watching Netflix. He spent so much time doing it, he didn’t have time to properly maintain his patient notes, do follow-ups, go to the gym, or even have a proper sleep schedule.
We spent few sprints building new habits, improving his sleep schedule, building a habit of daily patient notes management, etc. After that Mike focused on consistently publishing YouTube videos. And last week, during our final sprint he shared something with me. He said he decided to watch a Netflix show another day and he turned it off after a few minutes. It just wasn’t as exciting anymore.
It wasn’t that he was limiting the amount of time he wanted to spend on Netflix. It’s that he didn’t like it anymore. He didn’t find it interesting, relaxing, or engaging.
And this drastic change happened in just a few sprints. Isn’t it amazing?
Lucy & YouTube
Lucy is a student from Korea. She came to me because she had to do a lot of school projects and essays during the summer. She didn’t feel productive. Most importantly, she found herself constantly distracted by YouTube videos and other digital entertainment. Instead of studying, she would spend hours on YouTube.
We spent the first week or two building the foundational habits of productivity. If you are enrolled in the Monthly Method, you know what they are and the process I follow for building them.
During the last week of her sprint, she shared something with me. Watching YouTube was not as fun anymore. Like Mike, she sat down to watch some of her favourite YouTubers and the thrill wasn’t there. It was a bit blah… She watched or video or two and then just stopped.
If you’ve read Consuming vs. Producing Ratio post, you might remember that I went through a very similar experience myself.
Before I started my own podcast, my own blog, I was addicted to digital consumption. I would spend hours on YouTube weekly. I watched so many Netflix shows… And then I rewatched them. I listened to so many podcasts, audiobooks, etc.
But the moment I started CREATING digital content in a form of the podcast and this blog, everything changed. And it changed very quickly. And now I can see the same thing happening to my clients.
Creating vs. Consuming
During our time working together, Mike and Lucy started producing something from their head. And putting their ideas into finite pieces of work made consuming other people’s ideas less interesting.
What I mean by a finite piece of work is a blog post, a Reddit post, a podcast episode, a YouTube video, an essay, an article, a painting, a song. Something that has a beginning and an end. Something that is complete. Something that you can ship into the world as a finished intellectual product. Something that started in your head as an idea and now it manifested into something real. Something you can share with other people (not that you have to).
In Mike’s example, the goal he had for two sprints was to publish videos on his YouTube channel. This was the piecess of work he was producing. In Lucy’s example, she wrote a total of 2.5 essays during our sprint. These were her school assignments. She wasn’t necessarily publishing and sharing them with the world but it doesn’t matter. She was producing during the sprint. And the more essays she produced, the less interested she became in consuming other people’s ideas via YouTube.
My observation contradicts the conventional productivity advice. Usually, people are told that the reason why they are not producing anything interesting in their lives is because they spend too much time on the internet. They are told to limit their internet consumption, track their screen time, rely on self-discipline, etc. And AFTER that, they can start producing something.
I can see the logic behind this advice. And it seems very rational. However, this is not what worked for me. And this is not what worked for my clients.
A different approach to fixing digital consumption
Instead of forcefully limiting the time you spend on YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, Reddit, etc., instead of focusing on your consumption amount, focus on your creation amount.
Don’t set the goal to cut down your screen time. Set the goal to produce something during the sprint with your ideas, with your talents.
The creation of something new always beats the consumption of something new. Yes, it’s harder. But it’s more fun.
All you need to do is to push through the first few attempts. But then you will experience the satisfaction and excitement that comes from looking at a finished piece of work. And all the consumption that you could’ve done during this time fails in comparison. Then it becomes a no-brainer to create instead of consuming.
Not because it’s the right thing to do.
Not because you have to do it.
Not because this is the way to make extra money.
You do that because it FEELS better. There are very few things in this world that can compete with feeling proud of yourself. And looking at the finished piece of work gives you a chance to feel proud of yourself. And it’s intoxicating.
If you haven’t produced anything in a long time, think back to your university years. Remember how happy you were when you handed in that paper? When you delivered that presentation. I can bet it felt wonderful.
If you are constantly distracted
If you feel like you are stuck in the digital consumption mode, that you are feeling distracted at all times, start producing something.
Not for the sake of getting rich.
Not for the sake of getting famous.
Do it because it feels great to transform your ideas into something finite. Something tangible. Something that you can share. Not that you have to.
Get it out of your brain. Put it on paper. Put it in a video. Put it in a song, or a painting, or something.
This is how you beat your digital consumption. Not by limiting it. But by embracing the opposite – the process of creation.
How to do it
Create a goal for your next sprint. Commit to publishing a blog post a week. Or a podcast episode. Or a video.
What’s your favourite form of digital entertainment consumption? Is it a video? Ok, commit to making videos.
Treat it as an experiment. Do it for 3 weeks or a month or two. Give yourself full permission to stop after that. But do it for at least 1 month and see what happens to the levels of your digital consumption. I bet it will go down.
And please let me know how it goes. I always love hearing feedback from my readers when they implement my advice.
If you prefer an audio format, please consider subscribing to the Monthly Method Podcast.