TT 009: Consuming Content Stops You From Taking Action

I’m forever consuming content, in the form of books, podcasts, online articles, and blogs.

Does consuming content on an hourly, daily basis impact your ability to execute?

I’ve always got a podcast on when I’m exercising or at my desk coding. There is a stack of books on my bedside cabinet which I’m working through at lunch and bedtime. Even when I’m watching TV, I find I’m picking up my phone and finding something to read, to learn from.

I’ve also a to-do list of things I want to get done, it’s not that big by today’s standards.

It seems that my to-do list is growing and that I can’t seem to get through enough tasks each week.

Is that because I’m consuming too much information?

You would think all this information is great but is it having a negative impact?

Is the human brain binary, can it only do one thing?

If like me you spend hours a day consuming content, does it impact your productivity? At some point, you need to put into practice everything you’re learning. If you’re always taking things in, hoping to learn something then nothing is ever being ‘spat out’.

Over the last five years, I’ve lost count of the number of books I bought and read.

Many of the books have been about personal development, marketing, and business.

Even though I’ve read so much, even taken course after course to learn new things. I’ve not moved forward as much as I would have liked. It’s down to not taking action, I will read and read, but never act on the information I’m learning.

I heard about this one guy who reads up to 10 books at a time.

My first thought it he would never get anything done, turns out he is very productive.

What he does is he takes action whenever he reads something useful. If he reads a chapter in a book that shows him a new framework on how to do something. Instead of making a note or bookmarking the page for later. He puts the book down and starts implementing what he has read.

This is why he is able to read so many books at once.

He reads a lot of books that interest him on things he wants to learn, but he takes action immediately.

This backs up my theory that our brains are binary, and can only do one thing, receive input, and produce output. There’s no point focusing on input if you don’t have a way to produce output. Being able to take something on board and then have the discipline to then act on the data is a huge skill to develop

You only have a limited amount of mental capacity each day.

What I’m finding is that consumption drains the capacity, even if it is only a small amount.

So if you always have a podcast on, reading when you get the chance, even binging on Netflix. You are draining your daily battery, leaving little left for output.

Another tactic that I’m going to try is to go on a ‘consumption diet’.

I’m reducing the amount of content I’m consuming each week to a minimal amount.

I’ve stopped listening to podcasts when I’m exercising or working. I’m also stopping myself from buying any new books, instead, I’m going to re-read the books I already have. This time I’m going to be tactical in what I’m reading and put into action something I’ve read.

I’m hoping this tactic will help me work through my to-do list, and make me think “what content can help me get better?”

So many people say “take a walk to help you to think”.

Most days I take time out each day to go for a walk, it helps with your mental health too.

What I’ve found myself doing is listening to a podcast when going for a walk. This defeats the object of the walk, it’s about taking time out to think and put your subconscious to work. I’ve been working against this, as I’ve butchered it into more content consumption.

Another rule I’ve put in place is that I can’t take my headphones with me when I’m going on a walk, no matter how long I walk.

I know this is consumption, but if you haven’t already, I would read the book ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.

One concept he talks about he building a habit by giving yourself small rewards.

Using a reward has helped me build up some daily habits that I’ve not been consistent with it in the past. I’m a big coffee lover, so before I’m allowed to treat myself to one, I have to spend an hour or so on daily marketing tasks. This has helped me develop more consistency on things I usually put off or skip altogether.

One plan I’m trying to put in place is that I can’t listen to podcasts during the week.

If I’ve got through the to-do items I want to do that week, then when I go for a run Saturday morning I can put on a podcast.

I’m not sure how this is going to work, and if it is a reward at the end of the week. One thing I’m thinking about it is how can I reward myself more for taking action, for executing. That consuming the right content at the right time to support the action taking, not instead.

One conclusion that I’ve come to is that you can’t consume content and be productive at the same time.

Also, you can’t keep consuming content on the off chance that you will act on it someday, you have to plan the action.

The key could be saying that each day you are either going to ‘input data’ to consume. Or that day is going to be about ‘output’ to work through your to-do list. You decide that day what direction information is going in your brain.

If like me you struggle with consuming too much, write this one a post-it note and stick it to your monitor.

Become a “just in time” learner, not a “just in case” learner.

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Phillip Hughes

Tech entrepreneur and side hustler. Founder of elementaryanalytics.com and baitcamp.net. Loves fishing. Plays guitar. Enjoys exercise.