Consume Less, Learn More, Create Most

when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

_why the lucky stiff

I won’t deny that Battlestar Galactica and House give me significant pleasure. Surely I would miss them if I stopped watching, but I think a line can be drawn in one’s consumption habits between the most compelling content and the fog of mediocrity. For one, I try not to watch any other TV shows. I am always reading one book, either fiction or non-fiction, and the rest of all the content I consume is filtered based on its potential educational value. In other words, I keep the list pruned by routinely asking myself: “Is this teaching me anything useful?”

I stopped reading TechCrunch and about 100 other feeds in favor of a few high-quality feeds that end up delivering all of the content that’s important to me. All of those unsubscribed feeds delivered interesting content, but none of them were helping me accomplish or learn anything new and useful. I don’t watch the news, read advice columns, play games or use FriendFeed. I do spend a lot of time reading about emerging technologies, economics and web development, in addition to writing regularly. I’m still nowhere near as productive as I would like to be, but I’ve cut back my consumption diet to the point where I actually run out of things to read (save for my books) on a daily basis.

There is an incredible amount of value in a clean slate and an empty inbox every day. Instead of burning up hours on an endless stream of interesting (but ultimately useless) content, I am faced with a blank page and a free block of time to write, code, design, create and explore on a much more frequent basis. I no longer have to set time aside to create things—instead, the blocks of time come to me. Instead of fighting off a fire hose of incoming information and all of life’s offline distractions, I only have to contend with the latter to avoid losing my time to meaningless and unproductive activities.

This method certainly isn’t for everyone, but I have a feeling that most people who spend time on the web could benefit from a drastic reduction in consumption, if only to grease the wheels of creativity and knowledge. I only hope that this piece will fall into the interesting and useful category, so as not to be terribly ironic.

Originally published:
March 19, 2009

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