Over-consumption of media is a common problem these days. It’s one of the most common ways how I tend to be inefficient with time and I am pretty sure that most of you can relate to that.
In this article you will learn why you should lower your consumption of media, increase (or start) your production and why the next book or video probably won’t help you anymore.
Balance is everything.
A few weeks ago I stumbled on the Youtube channel of James Jani which I instantly enjoyed. There was one video in particular that peaked my interest – it was called “Escaping the Rat Race: What School Failed to Teach You About Money” .
In essence it is advocating that there are basically two sides when considering what creates “wealth”. On one hand is the production side, on the other hand is the consumption side. James stresses that most financial advice will try to reduce the consumption side. Don’t eat out that much, sell your car and drive by bike, live in a smaller flat – you get the idea.
However, according to James that totally ignores the second part of the equation: Your production. The amount of money you bring home every month. In the grand scheme of things the potential from the production side is unlimited while the consumption part can only get you so far. The consumption for sure has to be cut down (James mentions broke millionaires – I never thought this would be a thing), but in order to really up your financial potential you have to increase production.
I am not exactly sure how my mind drew a connection between these two things. But as soon as I heard that idea I wondered if this was also applicable to my media consumption.
What is consumption?
In this article I will refer to “consumption” as the act of reading, watching or listening to other peoples’ ideas. That could be on television, Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs (like this one), Kindle, a newsletter, podcast, radio… basically all kinds of media.
There are multiple reasons to consume media. Often it’s a way of releasing stress after a hard day of work (well, I was told there are actually people who work hard out there – yeah, I also was kinda skeptical about that). It is also used as a means to avoid said work. In the age of social media and permanent availability through all kind of messengers it has never been easier to get distracted.
Most importantly I personally often use it as a way of building knowledge. Consuming other composers work at their music, skilled people analyzing screenplays or reviewing camera gear, all that good stuff. There are some *great* sources out there that share their knowledge freely and openly. What a time to live in.
What is production?
In this article I will refer to “production” as the act of creating consumable media. That could be a blog (like this), a picture, a video, a podcast, music (like on this website) – basically everything you could or would also consume yourself.
Some people (like me) produce something at least as a part time or full time job. Some are doing it as a hobby. And a whole lot don’t produce anything at all.
Media consumption for acquiring knowledge is a trap.
Okay, so here’s the thing with contemporary media in the internet age: it is designed in a way to keep us addicted. Let’s take Youtube as a prominent example. Google earns money with Youtube through adds. Therefore, it’s their topmost goal to keep the viewers engaged on the platform. The more viewers there are and the more time they spend watching, the more adds can be sold for higher prices.
Here’s where the Youtube algorithm comes in: It is designed to keep you on the platform by showing you suggestions for more videos that are somehow related to the videos you watched, but still different enough to not show you the same thing. That keeps up the interest.
Clickbaity titles do the rest to keep us engaged. You even could take the title of James’ video: “Escaping the Rat Race: What School Failed to Teach You About Money”. It is subconsciously resonating with our fear of missing out, our fear of being on the back foot. It is trading in on our curiousness, that there’s somewhere a secret that once revealed will finally solve our problems. And while I really think James did a great job with his video and actually provides value (well, at least to me) most of the other stuff you consume on Youtube doesn’t. It’s a massive time sink.
The same goes for blogs (once there are more articles here there will be suggestions at the bottom of this site – feel free to go down the rabbit hole) or even books. It’s a common thing for people who are into self-improvement or the self-help industry (I am totally not one of those people – no really). There is always one more book to read.
Here’s the thing: There is only so much you can take in before you will forget things. The brain will dump new information in the short term memory and only if it gets recalled regularly it will be deemed important information and then be saved to the long term memory. So binging on podcasts, streams or whatever medium you prefer will constantly overwrite the short term memory because there is no active recalling of that information.
It gets even worse. This whole process feels productive to us. We learned something new. We grew. We got better.
Let me tell you something. You didn’t.
And you traded in a lot of your life time for no progress.
Sapere aude – Dare to think for yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, there is information out there that creates change in us just by knowing it. You hear it or read it once – and it already changed your life. There is no going back. I am sure you will be able to come up with some information that had this very impact on you. But 99% of the things we consume aren’t of that quality (disclaimer: it’s a subjective number I made up when reflecting on the videos I watched – you can easily test this for yourself by opening your recently watched videos and examine how they changed your life; yeah I thought so).
Once consumed, the new information will be in the short term memory until it gets either overwritten or used. It needs to be part of a production process.
So the simplest way of using information would be in “active note taking”. You write down the information you want to remember in your own words. This requires you to think about the information you got. You need to understand the new information on a fundamental level to rephrase it.
This is the very first step to better recall and use the information as you are actively engaged in the process. You could go one step further and turn your notes into “evergreen notes”. Evergreen notes are written in a way that they can stand for themselves and be understood without the context of the source or the other notes surrounding it. This is the basis for a “Zettelkasten”, a thinking device that we might take a look at on another day.
But one key principle of the “Zettelkasten” is already important right now: Connecting the new information to your own thoughts and existing information. That means: Implementing the lessons learned in your own work, or if not directly applicable, write about it, make a podcast, share it. That of course doesn’t mean you bluntly copy it. You still need to give it your perspective. But in the act of doing so you will create something new that others will be able to see.
This idea is how this very blog came into existence.
Producing is hard work.
In fact, it is scary work. Putting yourself out there is summoning all kinds of fears from the inside. What if nobody likes what you do? What if you alienate your colleagues with your work? What if you even get laughed at for what you do? What will your friends think about you? What if you fail to get your point across? What if you are a failure and everyone can see it?
This is a common thing for creative people and one of the best reasons to hide in binge watching videos and pseudo productivity in the first place. It is something I struggle with a lot for myself. So why then did I start this blog?
I realized that I am guilty of doing all these things outlined above. The books are piling up and my watch-later-list on Youtube contains close to a hundred videos.
The truth is: I am a composer and I greatly fear to show my music and be vocal about it because I could fail. I fear that nobody cares what I create. I fear to be a failure.
I also came to realize that this fear is the biggest thing holding me back. Because there are some great benefits to being visible to others or in other words: to produce something.
So what might actually happen, when you are brave enough to change from only consuming to creating something? From taking to giving?
First of all: You will get a reality check. If your thoughts are trash, there will somebody be there telling you exactly that. If you got things wrong – there will be somebody who will resolve this for you. You will get valuable feedback. New ideas and views that are unbound of the algorithms’ code. How wild is that?
It is the most valuable tool to actually grow. This is what will move you forward. If nobody reads your musings – well, either it is not interesting or you didn’t reach the right people with it. Draw you conclusions and improve on it.
In the process of producing you will need to get your thoughts in line. If you intend to write about a topic and explain it you will realize pretty soon if you actually know and understand what you are writing about. You will detect holes in your knowledge, in your ideas, in your experience.
Guess what: This would be the time to intentionally consume something to educate yourself. But don’t fall for perfection. Improve on one thing – and get it out there. Collect feedback. Rinse and repeat.
The process of producing will strengthen the knowledge, will sharpen your ideas. Heck, while producing you might even encounter new ideas because you have to finally think about stuff instead of brainlessly observing moving pictures on a screen. How’s that for a change?
In addition it will tremendously help you with self-realization as you will reflect on what you know, what things you value, what your opinions are… the list goes on. And it is even more effective if you are writing all of that down.
And finally a very beautiful aspect. You create for others’ profit. You create something that hopefully fills the holes in other peoples’ brains, that sparks new ideas in other peoples’ minds. Who knows, maybe one day you listen to music that was inspired by something you created. Listen to a voice that explains how your words helped him or her improving their lives. You might see a picture you don’t even know was painted after watching your video, your film.
In this article you learned about why I decided to start a blog. Why mindlessly consuming will not help you in any way and why you should tip the scale towards producing more than consuming. You learned how this will channel real growth.
Maybe now would be the time to stop consuming. Maybe… 😉
Hey. My name is Chris and I am a trained audio visual media designer. I work as a composer and sound engineer. On this site I am blogging about all the topics I am interested in. I always try to make sure they are somehow related to music production and composition in general. I am also documenting the experiences in my projects to share new insights and learnings.