I’m a content glutton. There I admitted it. They say that’s the first step to recovery, right?
I subscribe to hundreds of blogs. I have no idea how many email lists I’m on, but it’s a lot. And then there are the books and audiobooks and podcasts. And, oh yeah, Pinterest and Twitter.
There is so much content coming my way every day that there is no way I can absorb even a fraction of it.
I consume too much content. So, I’m going on a content diet.
How did I get to this point?
It was easy. Reading is like breathing – it’s something I have to do. I also love research. Combine those two traits with starting a new business and you have a recipe for information overload. There is always something to learn and I love learning.
Content consumption in and of itself is not the problem. It’s only when consuming content gets in the way of taking action and achieving your goals that it becomes a problem.
What are the symptoms of content gluttony?
- You skim articles and save them to Evernote “for reference.” Let’s be real. 99% of those notes will never see the light of day again. Wouldn’t it better to read fewer articles and then put the advice into action?
- You constantly change direction because of something you just read. This is not the way to grow a business. Growing a successful business demands strategy and follow-through. Deciding to implement a new tactic because you just read a great article or email is not strategic.
- You worry that you will miss something vital if you don’t read this one piece of information. Yes, FOMO is real. That’s why calls-to-action with a deadline work so well. But chances are you will be able to find that information again when you are ready to use it.
- You tell yourself that you are working. Because, “hey it’s research, or training, or [insert buzzword of your choice].” This is not work. It’s procrastination. Research and training are valuable, but at some point you have to do the real work. You know, the work that you get paid for.
- You feel overwhelmed. You think you need to do this and that and the other thing. Because you just read three blog posts – each of which had a different piece of advice. This goes back to being strategic. Create a plan and stick to it.
- You think you have to read everything ever written on a topic before moving forward. Instead of reading 50 bajillion articles on Facebook ads (for example), why not read one and then actually do what it says to do? (Because that’s harder – I get it.)
- And finally, you are not achieving your goals. This is the kicker. If you spend so much time reading and listening and watching, that you don’t have time to do anything, then you have a problem. Consuming more content is unlikely to help. Action will make the difference.
What does a content diet look like?
There are a lot of ways that you could cut back on content consumption. This is my plan:
- Set a time limit for content consumption. My time limit is 45 minutes per day. Why 45 minutes? That’s how I normally schedule time blocks and it works well for me. I work 45 minutes, then take a short break. So, I’m devoting one time block to content consumption.
- Go in-depth. Is all that skimming information really getting me anywhere? Instead, I’m going to focus on what I’m reading (or listening to). I’m going to take notes. I’m going to add action items to Asana. In other words, I’m going to apply what I’m learning.
- Focus on a theme. I mentioned that I love research and a lot of my reading falls into that category. But reading everything that crosses my path isn’t a good use of time. It’s more strategic to correlate my content consumption with content creation. Currently, I’m writing a lot about productivity. It makes more sense to also read about productivity, as opposed to say, Instagram strategies (which will only distract me).
- Be disciplined. Like any diet, a content diet requires discipline. I’m sure that tomorrow there will be a juicy headline in my inbox that will make me want to read the email. However, I will resist it until my appointed reading time and then read it only if it’s related to my current theme.
- Build in allowable exceptions.
- I sometimes listen to audiobooks or podcasts when I walk in the mornings. That time won’t count toward my 45-minute time limit for content consumption. (However, I will take notes on what I heard during the content time block.)
- Reading fiction is not part of this diet. I will always read fiction every day.
- If I get all my work done and decide to toodle around on Pinterest, that’s okay. But I’m going to be honest about the fact that it’s entertainment, not work.
To recap, if content consumption is interfering with your goals, then you need to go on a content diet. Try these steps:
- Set a daily limit for content consumption.
- Go for depth, rather than breadth.
- Focus on a theme.
- Be disciplined and stick to your plan.
- Decide what exceptions you will allow.
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