Guilty pleasures. That’s something many of us suffer from. Especially when it comes to consuming online content.
We scroll through never-ending feeds of the sizzling and sensational. From celebrity confessions, adorably cute animals, to gruesome murders, religious riots and the latest episode of “Who should we publicly shame today?”
Unfortunately, trashy content consumption habits could negatively influence your ability to produce great content.
Social media – the mind, time and energy suck
First, you need to understand that mindless consumption of content isn’t doing you any good.
Psychological studies have proven that Facebook addiction impacts the brain the same way as drugs like Cocaine. And we all know how unproductive a distracted mind can be.
Beyond the constant craving which social media content triggers, you need to recognise how much time you spend online.
Citing this report by We Are Social, consumers in Asia Pacific spend between 3.1 hours to 6.3 hours on the Internet each day.
In Singapore, Hashmeta reported that the average number of hours spent on social media is about 2.1 hours each day. This figure is likely to be much higher for teenagers, youths and young adults.
What about your energy levels? According to this article on Buffer Social, we have four different kinds of energy:
- Physical energy – how healthy are you?
- Emotional energy – how happy are you?
- Mental energy – how well can you focus on something?
- Spiritual energy – why are you doing all of this? What is your purpose?
Genius only occurs when you can muster and master all four forms of energy. A healthy and happy mind that is intellectually stimulated and inspired is a productive mind.
If you squander all your energies on consuming crap, you will not have any physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual resources left to produce a content masterpiece.
#1 Manage your online diet
How can you then break out of this vicious cycle?
The first thing you need to do is to actively filter what you read, hear, or view online. You can do this by taking the following steps:
- Limit the frequency and time you spend on mindlessly scrolling through social media. If possible, restrict yourself to no more than five to six times a day. Choose to do so during your meal breaks or intervals. Each time you do so, give yourself a maximum of say 10 minutes per session and do something else after that.
- Actively manage your Facebook settings. Set your news feed to “Most Recent” stories rather than “Top Stories”. You can also “Hide” posts, “Unfollow” a person (but still remain friends), or “Hide all posts” from a particular source. This allows Facebook to learn what content you prefer to consume and what you prefer not to.
- Seek out thought leaders, trend setters, and industry icons in your field. Either follow them on social media, add them as friends (with a message on why you are doing so), or subscribe to their blog feeds.
- Use an RSS newsreader or a blog aggregation tool like Flipboard or a topical content aggregator like Alltop to act as your online newspaper. Manage the content topics that you are interested in, or the influencers whom you wish to follow.
#2 Explore the real world
Often, I receive my best inspiration for content when I am away from my desk and not peering into my smartphone. You can do so too.
Here are some habits that you can consider:
- Go for a walk anywhere, anytime for any duration. A short stroll around your neighbourhood. A brief lunch-time exploration of the alleyways around your office. An occasionally long hike up the woods. Any of these would boost your endorphin levels and stimulate your physiological and creative energies.
- Abstain from screens for at least half a day (and it doesn’t include your sleeping hours). Yes, I know this is incredibly difficult to do. However, doing so helps you to reconnect to the real world and re-energises your writing with originality and fresh insight.
- Observe places when you commute. Instead of furiously trying to battle an online troll, put your smartphone in your pocket and gaze at your surroundings. Watch what you see, listen to the chatter and sounds, identify the scents in the air, or feel the coolness or warmth of your environment.
#3 Embrace social without the media
When was the last time you met and chatted with a friend without furtively glancing at your screen at least once? Maybe 10 years ago?
Let us bring our presence back into our social gatherings!
Focus wholly on what the other person is saying. Listen not just with your ears but your heart. Participate in conversations with your whole self.
Beyond listening and speaking, make it a point to observe how people behave. What is their body language telling you? How do the inflexions in their tone of voice vary? Tap onto their emotional energies to trigger a similar connection in your heart and mind.
In-depth face-to-face conversations yield the greatest inspiration for quality content. Try it yourself and see if it works for you.
#4 Actively read or listen to good books
There is nothing quite like reading a good book or listening to an audio book.
Active reading sharpens your mind and boosts your creativity in a way that passive screen consumption doesn’t do. Regular readers of my blog would know that I am a serial bookworm, with a tonne of business book reviews in my name.
Here are some suggestions on how you can tap the wisdom of the printed (or spoken word):
- Commit to spending at least 15 minutes to half an hour each day reading. On weekends, increase your reading duration to an hour or two if possible.
- Vary your reading diet between non-fiction and fiction. When reading fiction, opt for genres that stretch your imagination such as fantasy or science fiction.
- Read to calm your mind before you sleep each night. For me, I like to read something spiritual nourishing or encouraging before I turn in for the night. Doing so helps to soothe my nerves and restore peace in my heart.
- Stay away from trashy stuff – unless your job depends on it!
#5 Convert consumption to production
I have been fairly regularly blogging and publishing at least two blog posts a week, 52 weeks a year, over the last 8 years or so.
Many friends asked me how I managed this, considering that I was holding down a full-time senior management job plus various other industry and board appointments when I first began.
More recently, I committed myself to sharing one visual post on Instagram at least once a day or every two days.
Through a process of meticulously posting quality content and engaging with my followers, I tripled my Instagram followers over a 9-month period – from 550 followers in December 2014 to my present 1,720 (or so) followers.
The secret lies in substituting consuming with producing.
Instead of watching television or YouTube videos, I use that time to write a blog, comment on the posts of others, tweet interesting posts, and engage. On weekends, I devote more time to producing social media content – sometimes as much as half a day on a Saturday or Sunday.
You can read more of my thoughts on this topic here.
What other strategies can you think of to improve your content diet? I’d love to hear your experiences!