I’ve noticed during my day, that there are two types of productivity that I engage in: consumption and creation.
Consumption is inbound. It is consuming knowledge, learning, reading, watching, observing, conversing, and generally absorbing information from the outside world. This typically manifests in the form of reading for me, but it can be podcasts, videos, people, and so on.
Then you have creation. Creation is outbound. It is making something from nothing. It is building or writing or coding or selling. Instead of coming from the outside, it comes from within.
Both of these are important, for very different reasons.
Why Consumption is Important
What you consume, in a way, becomes what you create. All that knowledge and information you’re gathering is what guides your decisions, inspires your work, and fuels your creativity.
Furthermore, consumption is how you learn about new ideas and concepts and possibilities.
If you’re not consuming anything, you’re probably lacking in the ideas department. You feel uninspired and unmotivated.
Why Creation is Important
Consuming all of that knowledge won’t do you any good if you don’t put it to use. Creation is where results come from and how you can put your knowledge into action.
It is also how you get better at what you do. Continuously creating leads to progress and growth that can’t be realized in any other way. Creation is your voice and creating is the only way to let your voice be heard.
If you’re not creating you won’t feel fulfilled. You won’t see any progress because all that you know isn’t being expressed.
As you can see, both of these are pretty damn important.
Unfortunately, one is a lot easier to do than the other. For me (and I’d wager most of you too), consumption is the easiest way for me to feel productive. Reading a book, watching a TED talk, or listening to a podcast makes me feel productive, without actually doing anything myself.
Far too often, I find myself caught in this trap where I’m consuming a ton, but not creating nearly enough. Consuming is far easier than creating.
It’s not for lack of trying though. I set out to create something, like write a post for example, but then something happens. I start on my post and I get stuck. An idea or a point I wanted to make isn’t fully formed yet or I’m lacking in information.
So what do I do? I open up Google and search for the answer.
It may seem harmless, but that little hitch turned me away from creating and towards consuming. Sometimes there’s no avoiding it, but if you’re not careful, you could fall down the rabbit hole. What started as a harmless Google search turns into an entire evening of consuming information that you never intended. All while having your half written post awaiting your attention.
While consuming and creating are both essential, they couldn’t be more different. They aren’t meant to occur simultaneously and you should try to avoid multitasking between them. They are different processes and require their own unique approaches.
To maximize your ability to create, it’s important to separate these two processes out, so they can’t interfere with one another. Here are a few ways to do exactly that.
1. Set a Schedule
If you designate a time for consuming and a time for creating, you can ensure that you are able to balance both effectively. Perhaps you’d like to consume information in the mornings and then create in the evenings. Maybe it’s the opposite.
The point is to separate the two tasks, so that they don’t overlap and can’t disrupt one another.
2. Create a Space
In a similar approach, instead of segmenting by time, segment by location.
Create a space that is meant for consumption, where you have access to your books and media and then have another space for creation. One that is devoid of distractions and optimized for the work that you do.
3. Plan Ahead
If you know you’re going to be creating something in the near future, try to think a few steps ahead. Explore what that idea you’re thinking of really looks like.
What information might you need to do it justice? Where are the gaps in your knowledge that need to be filled?
By identifying the information you are lacking, you can better prepare yourself for the creation process. Instead of needing to do research on the spot, you can do it ahead of time, so that your creation time is that much more efficient and distraction free.
It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.Robert Greene
While both consumption and creation are important, creation is more challenging and far more rewarding. Finding a way to separate the two is key to maximizing the value both offer.
Create more. Consume Less.
Image via flickr