Have a look at your phone. How many of the apps on your home screen are primarily for consuming content? How many are for producing content?
Have a look at your schedule this weekend. Have a real good look. How many hours of your weekend were spent consuming (content, food, beer, you name it)? How many hours were spent producing content?
Everyone needs their downtime.
But the default in society is not to produce. It's to consume. The default is to watch every episode of Game of Thrones. Every episode of every new show. To not miss out. The default is to catch up on your Facebook feed. To get rid of the red badge on the Twitter icon. To read every message that hits the inbox.
When you've done all the consuming you need to do, is it any surprise there's no time left for producing?
Making more time for producing
I've struggled with this challenge for a long time, but I feel I'm producing more work, and better work than I have in years.
What I'm doing differently:
- Replacing the "consumer" apps on my home screen with "producer" apps – apps for writing, for drawing, for sharing.
- I never interrupt my day to read an article. It gets saved to Instapaper for reading at a convenient time.
- I use Instapaper's "Speak" feature to read out articles while I'm commuting and walking. So I save my eyes and my time.
- I'm setting myself a small but significant goal of writing once a week. It doesn't necessarily get published but it gets written.
- I almost never check my Twitter timeline. I am not up to date to the second on every single tiny message that everyone on the Internet shares, but I'm ok with that. Instead, the very most important news is pushed to me from the BBC News app, and the most shared articles on Twitter make their way to me via Digg's "Digg Deeper" feature that gives me a list of the top shared links from all the people I follow on Twitter.
- It's not to everyone's taste, but I've found the Apple Watch to be a big influencer on my habits – I no longer get distracted when I get an email or a notification. I just glance at my wrist and then carry on with my day. My old routine involved checking one app, then checking all the other apps that have a red badge on them. And then inevitably reading my Twitter timeline.
- As a team we've been getting smarter about our use of Slack so we each get notified about the information that's most relevant, and can tune out of less relevant updates.
A quote I read a while ago that's really stuck with me (unfortunately I can't find who originally said it):
"No matter how much time you spend watching TV, watch less."
We all have time to learn. We all have time to produce better work. It's how we choose to spend our spare time that separates the beginners from the experts in any field.
Have you got any tricks to help you increase your productivity? I'd love to hear them! Let me know on Twitter – I promise to read your mentions and nothing else.