My friend Jason Womack has influenced me a lot. He’s got two books: one is a snackable book called YOUR BEST JUST GOT BETTER. The other is more of a 5 course meal called Get Momentum. I recommend both.
I don’t recall if it was from a book or from one of our conversations. But he teaches a concept called the creation/consumption cycle. He advocates being in balance with both. Basically, you have to consume good material to create good material, and you have to know what you’re doing.
Since that conversation, I’ve read a little more deliberately, and I’ve had days (Fridays) where I don’t create anything but I read and take courses. I’ve also had weeks (one per month) where I don’t have to create. It’s worked for me, and I’ve had permission to consume.
Consumption Gone Awry
Even consuming smart, literate stuff that makes you think can be wrong.
Around election time, I was freaked out by the prospect of a Trump presidency. If not exactly freaked out, the spectacle was gobsmacking. Our presidential candidates were making dick jokes! Trump was vulgar! When will it end, can this really be happening? It was an astonishing experience for me. The whole thing made me nervous!
The blow-by-blow breathless coverage didn’t help much. Ryan Holiday talked about it a bit here. Still, I was reading “the good stuff.” Great stuff, the créme de la créme. Atlantic articles, New Yorker and FiveThirtyEight think pieces. I had to be well informed. The first to know. I had to have the nuanced rationale to be against Trump, and to dislike him for the right reasons.
But my own personal production slowed. I wasn’t right. I got anxious, twitchy and tense over the whole mess. I didn’t get done what needed to get done.
For me, productive consumption – trying to be informed – crossed a line to destructive consumption. A real thing. And some consumption for comfort, for nostalgia or for other reasons is probably beneficial in small doses.
But if it’s a retreat away from creation, a retreat away from duty, or an endless anxious loop. Being nervous about Trump, being obsessed with the Cubs (and going on sports betting sites – to learn their TRUE odds) was not a good use of my time.
My productivity – which had been increasing – ground to a halt over the election (which I was a spectator). And it was because of destructive consumption. I had to have the last word with the Internet. And I wasn’t playing video games, I was just seeking to resolve the unresolvable morass that was our election.
Sometimes – in life – you’ll fall off the wagon and get off the rails. Destructive consumption is a new issue. This happens. What’s important is that we recognize it more quickly.
The way I’m inoculating myself is:
- Habits. Single tasking and deep work.
- A curriculum: plan my consumption over a long period of time (and schedule it).
- Journal what you consumed & look at your browser history once a week. This will help identify crazy patterns.