Everyday we wake up and journey through the day, we not only eat and buy, we also mentally consume. No matter how much you filter, you consume information & marketing messages. Whether it’s from your friends, your weekly chat to your mom, your boss, the newspaper on the train, the rules posted on the glass window inside the bus, the store posters, the ad on youtube or the ones on TV, the book you’re reading in bed, the feed on the ‘gram you just scrolled through for 20 minutes, the netflix show you just watched, the after work degree you’re desperately trying to finish…we’re all consuming.
I don’t watch any commercial TV. I don’t read newspapers. I don’t subscribe to or buy magazines. I refuse to go on crappy news websites that don’t have real journalism. My intake of news is generally limited to the New York Times The Daily podcast, scans of Vox (particular aggregations of new studies), Politico & the Centre for Investigative Journalism. My Facebook feed is blocked so that when I open it up there aren’t a million messages to scroll through (you can do that by simply adding a stylesheet to your browser like this).
My life is significantly better for all these things. But more than that, I’ve noticed that what I am consuming informs me a lot about the phase of life, or work, I’m in (that might seem obvious to many but when you consume very little, anything you change makes you hyper-aware of your self).
I strongly believe that where you spend your time and money is where your priorities lie. More and more I believe that what you consume (the articles, the podcasts, interviews, the friends you keep, work circles and news) indicates what phase you’re in.
When I first started my business many years ago, I did not know anything. So I consumed everything. I devoured blogs. Signed up to newsletters. Did it all.
As I got really busy practising skills and working deep in client projects, I spent a long time not only not consuming much, but actively cutting it off. It became less inspiration and knowledge and more comparison. It felt bad, so I stopped it. I culled my newsletters lists. Grew tired of every optin offer for the next 20 free downloads (seriously, who the hell has time to read or action that). Stopped following everyone. Shut down Twitter. As an avid reader, I even quit books for three years.
As the years have since gone by and I’ve grown comfortable in my our work and business, I began slowly becoming more and more insatiable to learn more again. But to learn very specific things. To learn new skills. To see what I’d missed in changes for a couple of years. Especially in terms of technology and processes. I found people three steps ahead of me, people who didn’t give a crap, who shared a similar style and quality to me, who were quiet and strong, who read broadly, and started listening to what they said, and paying attention to what they were doing. I essentially carved out a virtual, free mentorship customized to me.
Life changes. Business phases move. There was a period a little while ago when my Dad died that, on reflection now, I consumed nothing. Nothing. I didn’t read a book. I didn’t read a blog. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with friends and I rarely managed to return calls or messages. I barely even listened to podcasts (and I’m addicted to those). Between keeping a business going somehow, running client meetings, managing projects & staff, helping my Mom each day and organizing funerals, estates, a thousand court documents (go do your will people even if you think you own nothing – it sucks when you don’t leave one!) and more, it turns out I had no room left. No space to consume another thought. In conversation the other day, a girlfriend quipped to me that she had “run out of thinking”. I too, had run out of thinking.
Slowly coming out of that and voraciously consuming very detailed, specific information has showed me how much your mental space matters. How important it is to protect it and filter it. And how we can be gentler with ourselves and prioritize accordingly when needed . If you’re like me and not great at recognizing what you need for yourself, truly, then like me you might find your first clue to what you need to do, or do next, in watching your consumption and what you’re craving for (or not).
If you’re looking for a guide on consumption that works for you, think about this. Business porn, that is the indulging of other businesses and reading “inspirational” article after article, is a comparison syndrome. We need to cut this out. Instead, focus on stimulation. That is, information outside of your industry, or from leaders within it, that give you new learnings, new understandings and new processes and practical ideas to try.
What I consume tells me what phase I’m in. What are your consumption habits telling you?