During this blog post, I am going to attempt to convince you that more consumption of content does not equal more productivity or better results.
Do you also feel lethargic and do you feel like you cannot seem to produce the same results as other people? Do you also feel like other people are so creative and get so much more done during their day? I can assure you that you are NOT alone with these feelings. So many of us feel stuck with these limiting beliefs.
I know there are so many reasons why you could feel this mental drain. In this blog, I am going to talk about one of the potential reasons which is over-consumption of social media. Over-consumption of social media leads to serious attention deficits. I present you a possible solution that I call the “social media consumption diet”.
How did I think about this idea? Like so many other people I got inspired by social media to talk about social media. I almost wanted to skip on this part as it feels controversial to the rest of this blog. I have consumed way too much content of Gary Vee before I started to create myself. That demonstrates the fact that I am by no means immune to these mistakes.
The first one on my list of inspirations is Mark Manson. He is literally one of the best bloggers/ writers I know. Every piece of him I have consumed has been a building block to create my own pieces of content. Mark Manson has made a piece which was called the attention diet. It would be almost illegal to not reference it, as it encompasses the same idea as this blog post. I can just hopefully say that my article is slightly more easy digestible.
The next inspiration source is Gary Vee. Everybody who is a bit into social media and entrepreneurship has already heard of Gary Vaynerchuk. I am not inspired by him because of the fact that he is successful and makes a lot of money. I am inspired by him because of his high emotional intelligence and strategic way of looking at life. He understands social media like no other. He understands that social media goes about sharing and creating value for your audience. I think he would completely agree with the idea of consuming less and creating more. If you find yourself consuming, you should always try to consume with a purpose of vision. A vision of how you can apply this piece of content in your own creations.
Cal Newport is an inspiration I have just recently heard about. He talks about the phenomena of cognitive residue that happens when we shift our attention and the importance of solitude to think more clearly without the noise of social media or other people. He is also a big advocate to dispel the myth of passion and he makes the case for deliberate practice to become so good they cannot ignore you.
The man who did three hell weeks in a row with only sixty percent of his heart capacity. The man who ran a 100-mile race without any proper training. He is the pure exhibition of dedication, perseverance and focus. In his world there is no consumption of ocntent of other people. There is only focus on his own process.That is something we all should be inspired by.
Ok, I will stop rambling now and I will explain what this consumption diet means in the next paragraph.
What does consumption diet mean?
We all have a horrible conditioning with the word, ‘diet’. It is one of the words that we tend to talk a lot about in January but we remain silent about during winter. A diet is something that induces suffering as it forces us to go into a caloric deficit. We will lack the proper amount of calories to cure our hunger pangs.
A diet is in essence pretty simple and straight forward. In order to lose weight you have to make sure that you consume less calories than you burn.
The same principle applies to this consumption diet. You need to be able to limit your consumption of social media in order to create more content. Your consumption needs to be balanced with your creations in order to remain healthy.
The relation with a diet?
By consumption, I mean everything that needs your attention but that is not created by yourself. Consumption is everything that you surround your brain with to fill the void and the silence when you are alone with your thoughts. Just imagine this scenario, “When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you do? Most likely you will find yourself scrolling through your news feed, mindlessly distracting your mind to relieve anxiety. How many times have we end up being even more stressed and anxious after this behaviour?”
When you read news or other content about how bad the world really is, you will start to act like that. You become what you consume. When you read the news daily, most likely you will end up as an old, cynic person.
Is consumption bad?
Consumption is something that happens so many mindless times. We are not aware of how many we consume on a daily basis. Yes, even checking your Twitter homepage is considered to be consumption. The question we can ask ourselves, “Is all consumption really that bad?” No, definitely not. There is a lot of good practice out there when consuming content. You need to consume content in order to learn and grow.
The two different types of content
I have arbitrary divided content into two categories. There is no scientific evidence to do so, but I felt it made sense to deliver my point.
Type A content
This is the content you can learn something from like books, courses, informational videos. This is the type of content that intellectuals, like me, love to consume. A lot of times we trick ourselves in believing that we have learned something after consuming this type of content. Type A content is only relevant when it is followed by action. That is why I call it A-content. In order to actively learn and implement the material in your own mental models, you have to start practicing. This action phase is the creation phase.
Type B content
This is the type of content we choose to engage in purely for joy, entertainment, and escapism. That is a bit like this type of content, right? My blogs are the perfect escape drug. 😉 This type of content has normally no other purpose then bringing the joy of not having to think about anything. There is nothing more relaxing and fun than watching drama of other people while eating a bag of popcorn.
We should be able to consume more of this type A content. Type B content is not meant to be consumed on a regular or even daily basis.
The answer to the question, “What is this consumption diet?” is pretty straight forward. Every piece of content you consume should be followed by exactly one other piece you create. Your energy levels will implode when you use this principle.
Why this is relevant?
You could be asking yourself right now why it makes sense to limit your consumption. Why would you restrict yourself of the simple pleasures of life. There are 4 reasons I want to give.
Dopamine and your brain
We have all heard of the association of Dopamine between addiction. This post is not an outstanding scientific paper but I will provide you with some basic neuroscientific knowledge.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good when it is elevated in our brain. When we are rewarded, we experience an increase in the amount of Dopamine in our brain. This feel good behavior that increases Dopamine will be looked forward to. We create a positive feedback loop. We want more of this cheap and immediate Dopamine release.
When you do something hard though, like writing this blog post, your Dopamine release is going to be way more subtle and the reward is postponed to the moment you publish the post and you can be proud of yourself.
We get addicted to these quick and easy rewards. That is a problem and I will tell you why in the following section.
How this affects your deep work
It will make us incapable to get into the right state of mind in order to do deep work. While working, our phone will lie next to us, proving us with constant new notifications. The ringtone of these notification is the cue. We know that there is a reward in the form of a like or a comment or a fun cat video. The only thing we can do, is have a look at the message and get rewarded by our brain for doing so.
If you want to get into deep focus to do your work, this is very maladaptive behavior. You cannot focus on two things on the same time. What will happen, is that you shift your attention continuously and cannot seem to focus on either of the two tasks.
I have learned about this terminology from Cal Newport. He has explained it the following way:
You can be working on a given task and commit to not check your phone while you are doing your deep work. It can happen though that you get the idea to quickly check your e-mail to see if Jimmy has finally answered your request. You do a very good job by closing the tabs of your work and only opening the tab of your e-mail. You are proud of yourself that you can withhold yourself from multitasking. When you have answered the mail, you will return straight back to your work. The problem is however is that you have something called attention residue which means that you first need to clear all your thoughts about that mail. Your mind first still needs to process that mail properly.
Your performance is going to drop each time you shift your attention, and fill your brain with other intellectual junk that you do not need to complete the given task.
Humans are made to create
This post would not have been written by me if there was not one extremely cheesy paragraph. I just want you to think about this question, “How were we able as humans evolve in such a quick and impressive way?” To me there is only one answer and that is we have always been searching for creative solutions to complicated problems.
You could die in the evening when you went to bed because a wild animal would see you as his next Christmas Dinner —> Our solution was to invent fire.
We were the weakest animals alive and still we wanted to eat delicious meats —> Our solution was to create weapons.
When our public transport were horses, we had the problem of… yeah… horse shit —> Our solution was to create cars.
If you do not create, I do not know if you even can call yourself human.
Be more human again and start creating.
How to put it into action?
You have said things so nicely Sarah but how do we actually start? Glad you ask because that is where this chapter is all about.
I have already touched on the main idea which is that every piece of content that you consume needs to be compensated by one piece of content you create.
There is no better way to see things in action as being performed by the worst example (me) ever
This was a Twitter thread that I created after I had listened to a podcast of “The art of Charm”:
This was a video that I have created almost immediately after I learned about the concepts of the book Influence by Robert Cialdini.
This video gave me inspiration to create better vlogs. I have made notes about it in EverNote.
I got a personal message of someone on social media saying that I had a big problem with my focus. First I felt bad about it. Later I decided to put this negative energy (of myself) into action and make a video about it.
⦁ You have to react at every tweet you read. You can not keep scrolling without getting into any engagement.
⦁ Every photo you like on Instagram, needs to be replaced with your own photo or video.
⦁ Liking does not equal engagement. Do not cheat!
Keep in mind that consumption can also be replaced by time to relax. You do not always have to consume. You need to learn how to be happy with silence and solitude. Always prioritize active resting versus passive resting. Active resting means you go and do something that is partly going to be challenging for your mind. Passive resting is just lying down, going to sleep, choosing the path of the least resistance.
Some examples of active resting
The benefits of walking
Walking is one of the cheapest (free) medicines you have access to. this form of movement has proven to reduce blood pressure, resting heart rate, total body fat percentage, body mass index and total cholesterol. All of these are risk factors to get a serious cardio-vascular event like a heart attack. There was even a meta-analysis that showed that walking reduces all-cause mortality. There is really no reason not to walk.
Cardio or exercise
We all now that regularly doing some form of aerobic exercise can have its benefits for the mind and the body. One meta-analysis showed that it is possible that our left hippocampal volume will decrease less over time when we exercise regularly and this finding can be used as a preventive method against dementia.
There was another review study that looked at the relationship between academic performance and physical exercise of children. Physical exercise would improve class room behavior and other academic skills like reading and mathematics.
Is it maybe even possible that exercise can be beneficial for your creative performance? Exercise has the potential to lower the heart rate variability of individuals. The heart rate variability typically will need to decrease as well if you are doing creative work. Exercises also gives opportunity to go into certain thinking modes like spontaneous and divergent thinking. These modes of thinking are essential to feed the creative thinking process. Aerobic exercise could be a great gate-away to enhance your creative potential.
Meditation can be an answer to a lot of your problems. It can also be a solution if you feel stuck and you do not feel like you have something to create or tell to the world. I have been using meditation since I have started my blog and see how much content I have been able to produce.
There is a statistical significant correlation between creativity and meditation.
Meditation can, just like exercise, improve divergent thinking. Divergent thinking happens when we don’t come up with only one solution to a given problem but when we look at the problem from different perspectives.
Letting your mind sometimes wander, is the best intellectual thing you could do.
Easy things you could add to your daily routine after reading this amazing essay:
⦁ You can beat the drain of studying by going for a run and allowing your mind to wander.
⦁There is an opportunity to meditate in the morning before you start your deep focus work.
⦁ Go for a walk to clear your mind and to start fresh.
I have put everything together is this graphic:
But what are the benefits?
Here are some of the benefits you should expect to see fairly quickly if you follow my above suggestions.
⦁ You will get much more done in a day. It will almost seem like you have more hours into one day.
⦁ You will feel that you have more direction in your life. You will find that life purpose. (Or you could use another guide of me.)
⦁ There is the knowledge and the power that consumption brings when, instead of remaining passive, you are inspired to actively create.
⦁ Another benefit is that your attention span will rise to the heavens. At the same time, your head ’will not be up in the clouds but right down here on Earth.
How to keep yourself accountable?
Everything starts with awareness.
If you are not aware of how many times you check your Instagram feed, you will never really look the problem in the eye. Keep track of these habits! You can simply track this in a notebook or you can also download an app to see how many times you have checked your phone on any given day. You will not change if you do not get confronted with the problem.
Force yourself to actively document what you have consumed. First of all, it will help you to get from this passive mindset to a more active mindset. Second, you will be able to make much quicker notes about the content you have consumed if you write it down immediately.
You need to be able to build a system of reflection. Ideally you would do this every single evening. You look at what you have consumed and what have you created. You reflect if this has been in balance. If it was not in balance, you have to document why you think this has happened. Was it because of a lack of energy or was it because you were feeling down? If you want to take it one step further you could try to integrate some of your notes into a note management system like Notion. There is nothing wrong with emptying your own mind and feeding your digital mind before you go to bed.
Learn and adapt.
This is were true evolution starts. We can document very easily. The hardest part is to actually learn from your mistakes and to prevent yourself from repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Create a system where you unlock your issues and tackle them one by one to improve your overall productivity.
Consumption is important to keep ourselves up-to-date with things that other people are creating. Consumption of content can be a great way to escape from reality but you need to be cautious with the over-consumption of social media. Do not get addicted to the associated Dopamine kicks. You will not be able to focus properly and do deep work and most importantly you will not be able to find your full creative potential. In order to become more creative you need to limit your consumption of content on social media and balance it out with your own creations. This is a diet that will feel just as restrictive as any other diet but it will make you more anti-fragile and happy in the long term.
The video of this blog
Some extra material to finish with
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