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Don’t Be Paralyzed By Media Consumption in 2011

“I will be a producer, not a consumer.”

Late last year a friend shared this resolution on Facebook. It caught my attention as being a great resolution that I think every entrepreneurial blogger could do well to have.

Have you ever been paralyzed by consumption?

As I write this post, it’s 11.49 a.m. on Monday morning.

This morning, I returned to my computer after a weekend off with the intention of jumping into some solid blogging. My plan was to start early (8.00 a.m.) and whip out at least five posts this morning and to start work on a report that I’ve been planning to write in the afternoon.

That was the plan, anyway…

The reality is that I’ve been quite distracted. It started on Twitter (I should never switch on Tweet Deck that early in the day!) with a link that a friend sent me to read. That link led me to another, and another.

This morning I must have read 20 articles and blog posts, scanned 100 or so feeds in my feed reader, watched ten videos, spent a good hour scanning my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook feeds, spent another 30 or so minutes in forums, tested out a new plugin, and … well, you get the picture.

Everything I did was related to blogging and my business. It was all interesting. Some of it was even helpful, and gave me ideas I may not have otherwise had.

However, until right now, I’ve not actually produced anything at all today. This morning has been about consumption rather than production.

Is consumption evil?

Don’t get me wrong—there are times when you need to consume.

We all know that our bodies don’t function properly if we don’t eat well. Cars don’t run well without consuming petrol. Consumption is necessary.

We all need to consume to survive in a physical sense. In the same way, as bloggers we need times when we take in the ideas of others, and are informed by what others are saying—time when we soak in the latest trends and information in our industry.

There are also times where we just need to switch off from work, and consuming something fun and mindless can be good for us, too (anyone for Angry Birds?).

However, many people live in consumption mode to the point where they don’t produce anything.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve chatted with bloggers who have the following problems:

  • not enough time to post, but plenty of time to aimlessly surf the web for fun
  • too many distractions, whether they be Angry Birds, Farmville, Twitter, Youtube, or something else
  • feeling the need to read every other blog in their niche for fear of missing an important development.

I suspect a “consumption” mentality is one of the reasons that many of us get to the end of a year and wonder why we didn’t achieve any of the grand plans that we had.

Consume to produce

Let’s return to the example of our bodies. The main reason we consume food is to gain energy—to take action. We eat so that we’re fueled to do.

The danger with food arises when all we do is eat and eat, and we don’t actually burn off the energy the food gives us. Consumption without some kind of action to burn off what we consume leads to obesity. And my experience is that the same advice applies to running an online business.

There’s nothing wrong with consuming what the Web has to offer, but take the approach of consuming to energize your own action and production and you’ll be in a much healthier space than if you’re simply consuming for the sake of it.

I resolve to be a producer, not a consumer, in 2011

As we enter into a new year, I wonder if perhaps we need to do something concrete together to get us on a path to production in 2011.

I don’t want to get to the end of this year and look back on the year as being one where I read a lot of articles, played a lot of games, and read and made a lot of Tweets…

I want to get to the end of 2011 and be proud of the fact that I’ve:

  • created things that mattered to myself and others
  • inspired others to better themselves
  • added to conversations instead of watching others talk
  • made the world a better place in one way or another.

I resolve to be a producer, not a consumer, in 2011. How about you?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Vivek Parmar says:

    Thanks for sharing the good post at right time. as i’m in same situation and it did a lot of motivating work for me. thanks again for such an inspirational post.

  2. Well I don’t see so much as a bad thing. Everyone today wants current news and updates. If you aren’t consuming what is current how are you going to apply that to your readers. But of course with everything comes moderation. Too much consumption means you get nothing done.

    • dotCOMreport says:

      Too right. Too much consumption without any production is the problem. Time blocks should be set for checking social media, just to keep in the loop of things. It is realistically difficult to stick within those time blocks but if you are conscious of them, it will help you gradually limit the amount of time you spend on consumption alone.

    • Tim Woodbury says:

      This seems about right to me. A certain amount of consumption is normal and healthy. It can inspire new ideas, teach us new things, and spur us to action. The key, as stated, is moderation.

      Not that knowing that makes it any easier to avoid the black hole otherwise known as “the internet.” But living in complete isolation seems to run counter to the nature of “social” media. And, for better or worse, that is the space in which we’ve chosen to work.

  3. Stephen says:

    That’s a great motto – I think I’m going to write it out and stick it to my monitor.

    It’s so easy to get caught up in consumption and avoid production. The best way, as has been said before, is to close the browser and everything else and concentrate on producing something before you consume. Easier said than done though…

  4. Joanna says:

    Excellent topic Darren! I do the same, saying I don’t have enough time to post when I seem to have plenty of time to go through my reader or surf new crafts or recipes. I’ve found it helpful to hold only myself accountable for what I do with my time, and not use social media or that little search box as an excuse for my lack of initiative that day. Though I do find my feeds a great way to relax and get new ideas, if I need to work that day I’ll set a time limit!

  5. I, too, resolve to be a producer, not a consumer, to add to conversations and to inspire others to better themselves in 2011.

    Consuming is fun but oh so distracting.

  6. Toby says:

    Know exactly what you mean its just so easy to get side tracked, but justify it by saying to yourself well its work related anyway. Yep thats true but it doesn’t actually get those blogposts and articles written. as Joanna says above – time limit. For me its the only way, otherwise Im scuppered. Thanks for the post

  7. Craig White says:

    Darren,

    This is so weird. I was thinking about this very subject last night. I get so consumed in scanning all the
    Social Media sites and blogs that I usually subscribe to, that before I know it half the day is gone and I have been running at less than 50% production.

    I will join you in your fight against “Social Media Addiction” its a terrible disease and it must be stopped.

    “My name is Craig, and I’m a Social Mediaholic”

  8. Andy Warner says:

    I believe the key to Darren’s point is that we must unplug ourselves in order to contribute. I agree that we can get distracted by the high volume of information. We feel it is a must to consume, consume, consume. However, there is a distraction factor in the consumption. My suggestion is simply providing time limits on consumption and production. These time constraints force focused attention and productivity in both areas of consumption and production because both activities are needed.

  9. Sotiris says:

    “This morning I must have read 20 articles and blog posts, scanned 100 or so feeds in my feed reader, watched ten videos, spent a good hour scanning my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook feeds, spent another 30 or so minutes in forums, tested out a new plugin, and … well, you get the picture.”

    Hm… reminds of me …

  10. Jason says:

    I have had this problem myself and I’ve been thinking of developing a set schedule. I think it boils down to self discipline.

  11. Thanks, Darren. I resolve to be a producer, too. I believe over-consumption is one of the biggest obstacles that keeps us from getting things done.

    I find it helpful to create a task list for the next day before I go to bed and then really build the habit to work off that list.

    I also like to keep track of how many hours I actually spent producing – instead of consuming. My goal is to spend at least 5 hours every day producing. This is actually the first item on my to do list, every day! And every time I finish one hour, I will note that down on my list.

    The key here is to be honest with yourself and really not count the time when you are distracting yourself.

    Maybe you want to give this method a try. It sure helps me a lot!

    Again, thanks for the insightful post,

    Lucas

  12. suz says:

    Your are not alone :-( I’m batteling with this one too. There even is an academic term for the dilemma: information anxiety and a book about just that. Even more to read. –> Information anxiety by Richard Saul Wurman

    Perhaps we just have to accept that we can not know everything. In the old these, before the internet, my teachers used to say: You don’t need to know everything, you just need to know where to find it.

  13. I was paralyzed most of last year by media consumption. Not much TV but an obsessive need to read, read and re-read blogs, articles, books…

    I justified it by telling myself… “Knowledge is power. You’re learning from some of the best.”

    True, to some extent… but that’s not why I was over-consuming and under-doing. I was searching outside of myself for knowledge I already had but wasn’t implementing.

    Looking back, I can see how all of the consumption (and not enough production) resulted in less creativity and killed my productivity.

    Lesson learned.

    2011 will be my year! I commit to less consumption, more action and more engagement – because lurking around and watching others talk is no fun. :)

    Thanks Darren!

    • Stacey Herbert says:

      Good lucky Vickie. I can totally relate to what you are saying

    • Great phrase-over consuming under doing! I’m going to have to remember that one. Some days I do better than others, but definitely will be producing more this year. One way to do it is to sign up for a challenge. I hope this isn’t inappropriate, but Ezine articles is about a week into their 100 articles in 100 days challenge. I signed up and it’s definitely one way to get some accountability to produce.

  14. Ishan says:

    Same is the case with me. Lot of media consumption and very less production.

    I think this is a common problem around the blogosphere and we need to unplug ourselves. I am going to start right now. I was planning to write a bit but have been reading for last 2 hours! :(

  15. Really good tip; I’m guilty of this myself. I’ve been paring down my Google reader list, and bookmarks significantly though, in an effort to change this.

  16. I read this when you tweeted it and resolved the same. I also wrote up the quote ‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ and between the two I’m powering through my stuff.

  17. Nacie Carson says:

    Amen to this! I would add though it is about finding balance between producing and consuming – when you produce 100% you can run the risk of not listening to those you are producing for, just like on the extreme end of consuming you have too much listening and not enough doing. Finding a happy medium where you are giving AND taking is where I’m shooting to be in 2011!

  18. Lynn Palermo says:

    This is a great mission statement for 2011, and I will join you! As someone who wishes to write a couple of e-books, a novel and several family histories I often find myself twittering away a day “researching” and never getting anything accomplished. Thanks for the reminder, I’ve posted it above my computer to keep me focused.

  19. This problem actually comes when people don’t put their ideas into action! As said in the above comment, I agree that too much consumption without action is in-vain. However, I believe in focusing on ‘Live in the Present’ and I would suggest the same :)

  20. Stacey Herbert says:

    Thank you Darren for this timely and insightful post. It felt like you were speaking directly to me and the situation I find myself in. As a new blogger, who is starting from scratch technically, but has some experience in writing. I find myself getting so consumed by the learning process and the technical stuff, wordpress, seo, design, link building, guest blogging, twitter-and the list goes on. Apparently all the things it would seam I’m supposed to know, do, and do well- in order to blog successfully, with the intention of it being profitable someday.

    However, I’m making very little progress, despite my consumption being off the chart. You have reminded me that I need to focus on writing regularly and well, put what I have-out there, without expecting everything design/functionality wise to be perfect. Also that I need to monitor my use sage of tools, and resources/information, that are good in moderation, but shouldn’t become a hindrance to progress. I guess you need to apply the things you are learning one day at a time, rather than try to know/understand/do, EVERYTHING, before you start. (note to self)

    Maybe we use excessive consumption as a form of procrastination, because for one reason or another we are scared. I guess that’s something for me to think about, but thank you for this timely reminder to use my time wisely

    (sorry for the long winded post)

    Best Wishes
    Stacey

  21. Sathishkumar says:

    Wonderful article, Darren. As we are in the age of Social network with lots of fun, it will be easy for us to get distracted and spend times on consuming too much stuff instead of focusing on our main job. I am planning to be a better producer this year, but even I won’t achieve that feet, I will not be a bad consumer.

  22. SuzRocks says:

    I am so guilty of this. So I’m going to quit reading blogs today and work on my own.

  23. Cara Gourley says:

    Fantastic! I feel that I am consuming way more than producing sometimes. It’s had not do it! I’ve been working on setting more of a schedule so that it happens less.

    Working online and blogging can get distracting very fast so I set myself certain times in the day to stumble and read through my subscriptions.

    It’s working.. so far!

  24. Nick Begin says:

    The irony is that as I read the post I was feeling guilty for consuming as I’m putting off producing this morning. I have to say that I have been looking at my time management lately and I have been slowly cutting out the activities that are not beneficial to my production activities. Too many mind numbing distractions.

    Increasing production is my goal with some well balanced consumption of knowledge and inspiration.

    Good luck to everyone in 2011!

  25. Sooo…any chance there might be a follow-up post to this one with specific ways to avoid overconsumption? The comments here were great towards that end too!

  26. Ayngelina says:

    I use Tweetdeck to schedule my tweets and one of the things I did that made a huge difference was to schedule them at the end of the day for the following day.

    So when I wake up I don’t need to worry about Twitter for a few hours. I can start writing and then catch up.

    I would love to hear if other people have little tricks like this I can learn from.

  27. me too Darren. I def want to be a producer and create my first e-book, and online workshops. I am like you in that I can get consumed with consuming! There has to be a balance, because like you said, we have to consume or feed ourselves, to be able to produce ourselves.
    Great post! Gotta stop consuming for the day and start producing!
    Bernice
    Assess your life for stress

  28. Earl z Pearl says:

    Excellent Darren! Everybody knows we are in the information age, its consuming, comprehensive, and mind boggling. I always feel I’m missing something, balance is the key with discipline according to my mentors, I have to preach more to myself every day as to not get caught up in consumption. “Producer not consumer IS the key.

  29. I totally agree! I think my biggest problem working on the internet IS the internet and its overwhelming info. I saw a speaker at TED say its not that you don’t have enough ideas, you have TO MANY ideas already, you have to be the one who actually delivers.

  30. Having a “to do” list and doing the most important tasks first of sometimes the most unpleasant task first makes me feel productive. After I’ve produced I’m allowed to consume.

  31. WPSPY says:

    I think now I have to stop reading problogger and start to produce something like problogger. :) for others to consume.

  32. Ibbo says:

    Outstanding, yet so simple. i am just beginning down the blogging road yet read so many “productivity post” that i am actually failing to post. A great resolution for 2011, will let you know how it goes at the end of the year!

  33. Kiran says:

    I am so much in agreement with you. I get loss in reading articles, blogs, tweets and facebooking without realizing I am losing out on time to produce quality content. Gotta reorganize and reprioritize :)

  34. Ikenna says:

    This is exactly the problem I’ve been facing of late. I want to produce contents for my blog. I even have a long list of posts to produce but I realise that I spend most of my time commenting on facebook groups/pages/profile, and just doing stuff that don’t help with creating contents. Even when I just want to concentrate on my primary goal, I somehow find myself going back on my plan. I guess I’ll have to instill a level of discipline to work this out. Thanks a bunch for letting me know that I’m not alone..

  35. zoop says:

    i believe we need to consume to survive – its a way of life. i also like to set my own schedule and work at my own pace – this helps me relax and gives me time to think about “whats next”

    excellent post!

  36. Constantine says:

    I look back at December 2010 with shame, 90% of my time was wasted consuming news, a large portion dedicated on guardian coverage of wikileaks.

    This year I decided to manage my time better. Emails, Facebook, and Twitter are the first thing I deal with after I wake. I never return to them during the day. Next is posting and then followed by reading and researching for ideas in my three niches. The evening and night are spent on sports and my other passions.

    Am now able to produce daily, 2 articles each for my two new blogs and 1 article for my established blog. Am now feeling happier and satisfied with my blogging. I have discovered being organized can bring a peace of mind.

  37. This is a good word. My blog does depend on me consuming a lot of books, but I have wanted to step back from that and expand its content. Thanks for the post!

  38. Christine says:

    I’m totally with you. Its so easy to be sucked up in consuming on the web. Ya, really easy. I vow this year to be a producer, too. Time to start keeping a schedule and stickin’ to it.

  39. james says:

    This post is a bit hypocritical. Aren’t you basically saying that growing food is good, but eating it is bad? Well, if no one ever eats the food, whats the point of producing it?

    Put another way, if your resolution is to stop reading my blog, and my resolution is to stop reading your blog…then aren’t we both resolving to just talk to ourselves for the whole year?

    My resolution is to stop wasting so much of my time on internet postings and spend time on activities that are more rewarding, like family and video games.

    • Darren Rowse says:

      James – perhaps I didn’t emphasise it enough – but I’m not saying consuming is bad – but rather many people spend ALL of their time doing it to the point that they don’t actually produce anything. The point being that consuming can be good, but its best when it fuels you to actually do something.

      To use your example – Lets read each others blogs, but lets not stop there, lets use what we read to stimulate something new, useful and even better than what we had before.

  40. I always tell myself that my consumption is necessary for my work as a writer and writing my blog. And it is, to a certain degree, but not the degree I sometimes allow it to take over. I’m experimenting with allowing myself consumption time in the afternoon, after I’ve actually gotten things done. We’ll see how it works out.

  41. Wow, Darren, that describes many of my days. I bookmark all those sites to go back to about the information. Thanks for letting me know you go through this too.

  42. Diana Timmons says:

    So timely, and so true. I’ve decided that for me 2011 will be the year of less consumption, and more hands-on. Dare I say that I tire of the overload of info and the overload of “social” media? I’m looking for real experiences, and creating content straight from the heart.

    The morning that you describe is all too familiar.. I call it going down the “internet rabbit hole.” Minutes become hours, and suddenly I’ve accomplished little of what I’d intended. Thanks for the reinforcement and the wake up call. :)

  43. Mario Monk says:

    I’m sure it is a good article, but after reading first paragraphs I realized that I have a “To do” list containing lots of tasks to be done today. I’m better off doing them now. Will read the rest later! :)

  44. If that first story that I read doesn’t give me the inspiration I need to proceed into a “blogging situation,” forget about it. I stumble around and then my hour is up.

  45. I find it very synchronous that you just posted this as it was loosely the subject of my last post – along the lines of how we spend our time engaged in busyness instead of business.

    Although I don’t believe in resolutions, I think it’s a good goal for me to put into practice. I know how to write posts. I know how to create content, and lots of it when my ADHD doesn’t go into hyper-spazz mode. What I don’t know are all the technical aspects of stats and newsletter campaigns and marketing the products I create, etc etc etc. Rather than allowing myself to create content – like I know how to do – I find myself spending endless hours reading blogs on blogging just in case someone talks about something I’m a total moron. Even when I know the topic, I still read it…just in case.

    All the reading has to stop. I can read or I can grow my business. If I can’t find a way to do both, the consumption is going to have to stop until I have a healthy backlog of content.

    Or I could just go chat on Facebook some more… ;)

  46. Linda says:

    This is so true.
    I have resolved not to even look at emails, twitter etc until I’ve written some draft posts. In fact I intend to devote my mornings to writing and then my ‘reward’ later is to read blogs and sites and make some notes.
    Not easy. I just have to stay away from everything except the draft post mode…

  47. I’ll join the 100s of consumers here to agree, a balance of being consumer and producer is needed.

    I do have a routine that I seem to miraculously stick to, have done for a couple of years or more now.

    With breakfast I whizz through my MyYahoo for any latest blog updates and whizz through my Facebook Profile and Pages for updates and a quick posting. I do not bother with Twitter now, too distracting.

    I cut and paste interesting sections I read into Notepad and save neatly filed in folders, quicker than you may think when in the habit.

    My goal is to have an article written by noon every two days based on inspiration of conversations and what I have cut and pasted during the past 48 hours.

    Afternoon is work time for me, outdoors on nice days as I have a visitor’s centre.

    After lunch is 20 minutes of consuming like in the morning if nobody is here

    After dinner is a bit of consuming like the morning too and web site tweaking if I am not socializing.

    One day my articles will be a book, but not today.

  48. Dev Basu says:

    Separating signal from noise is the first step, and then channeling that to produce good content is the second. Production doesn’t necessarily have to mean blogging, but can be any other form of productive work. The point is to get out there and crush it every single day instead of wasting time you’ll never get back.

  49. Luke says:

    I think you’re on to something. It’s about striking balance. You can’t have producers without consumers. And blind or unfocused production doesn’t help much either. To play devil’s advocate a tad: you said you will contribute to conversations, not just listen in. Put aren’t you “producing” a listener? Anyway, if you have something to contribute to a conversation, by all means, but talking for the sake of talking is overrated.

  50. Bob Baker says:

    Awesome post, Darren!

    I’ve certainly been guilty of being sucked into the information overload vortex — and finding that hours have passed with no productive output.

    Love the body analogy — yes, we must consumer … as long as we are putting out an equal or greater amount of energy (and good vibes) into the world!