Less Consumption, More Creation - Verbal to Visual, Doug Neill

Less Consumption, More Creation

How much new information do you take in each day? Do you (like me) have the tendency to fill all of the white space in your day with business/creativity/productivity podcasts?

In this post I’d like to chat about why you might want to consider scaling back the amount of information that you consume.

Though there is plenty of good information out there that’s worth diving into, there are also plenty of benefits to spending less time consuming information and more time creating things based on what you learn (or simply taking a break).

A “Stop Doing” List

To set the stage here and share why this topic of consumption and creation is interesting to me right now, let me share a story from a few weeks back.

Not long ago, after reading the book Company of One by Paul Jarvis (which I shared my sketchnotes of in this video), I created for myself a Stop Doing list – a list of things that I wanted to remove as options to improve how I spend my time each day.

I recently created a “Stop Doing” list to improve how I spend my time.

One of the specific things that I added to my stop doing list was to stop listening to business or creativity podcasts in my downtime.

I had gotten into the habit of trying to fill most of the white spaces in my day with new ideas.

When I was out on a walk or doing the dishes or even doing some editing that didn’t require my listing skills, I would fill that time with a podcast about building a business or developing creative skills (and that’s in addition to the time that I already spend each week sketchnoting podcasts and books).

Consumption vs Implementation

As I began to look more closely about how I spend my time, I started to realize something.

I pictured the graph shown below that maps out the relationship between the amount of information that you consume and how that relates to the quality of your implementation of those ideas (how well you’re actually putting them into action).

How the amount of information you consume relates to your ability to put that new information into practice.

My sense is that up to a certain point, your ability to apply the ideas you learn stays fairly constant. But there comes a point at which the more information you consume, the less you’re able to actually apply what you’re learning, and the quality of your implementation goes down.

It’s when you move past that point that you get diminishing returns on the time and energy that you put into that information. You’ve already reached the full amount that your mind is reasonably able to take in, process, and remember.

That’s what I felt like was happening when I was listening to podcasts in my downtime.

Yes, sometimes the ideas that I came across were interesting and helpful, but I didn’t feel like I had the time and space to apply those ideas to my life because I was already working on applying the ideas that I’d been sketchnoting earlier in the day.

And the fact that I wasn’t able to take action immediately on some of those ideas made me feel guilty. So in addition to not being able to apply those ideas, I also felt bad about that, and that made for an unhelpful combo.

I realized that I needed to seek out (and then stay within) a range that precedes the point at which the quality of implementation goes down.

I do want to continue exposing myself to new and interesting ideas as much as possible, but not to the point where I become overwhelmed by the amount of new ideas that I’m trying to apply to my life.

Time Well Spent

Identifying that healthier range of information consumption reinforces the fact that the goal isn’t to consume as much information as possible, but instead to incorporate in a meaningful way whatever new ideas you learn.

It’s in the learning, remembering, and acting on those ideas that I think sketchnoting can play an important role. Even though sketchnoting takes time (maybe even more time than other forms of note-taking), I think that time is well spent because it helps to keep the quality of your implementation at a high level.

It helps you to put the new ideas that you learn into practice in a meaningful way.

Two ways you might spend your time instead: sketchnoting the ideas you’d like to remember or straight-up downtime.

By intentionally scaling down the amount of information that you consume, that makes it easier for you to spend time sketchnoting.

I also think there’s another important thing for you to do with that time that you don’t spend consuming new information, and that is just giving yourself downtime.

That’s what the brain needs in order to process those new ideas and make connections with others, with a book or person or memory from your past. Those types of connections make learning new things exciting, and it’s that type of integrating of ideas that really lights up your brain.

Quantity, Quality, & Action

So as I now think about the relationship between the amount of ideas that you take in within a given day or week or month, and how you might go about sketchnoting those ideas, for me I think it’s less about the quantity of information and more about the quality of the attention that you give to each idea.

Don’t focus on how much information you take in, but instead on the quality of your attention and what you do with those new ideas.

And after that high-quality attention, you get to decide what to do with the ideas that you’ve just learned.

My hope is that by sharing these ideas here it might remove some of the pressure that you feel to always be learning something new, always trying to cram new information in.

Instead, give yourself the permission to turn that knob down a little bit and turn up the one that’s focused on putting those ideas to use.

That’s where some time spent sketchnoting and some downtime for your brain can be really helpful.

Dig Deeper

If these ideas resonate with you and you’d like to develop your sketchnoting skills to help with the processing, remembering, and acting on the ideas you learn each day, then check out our online courses, starting with An Introduction to Visual Note-Taking:

Reconnect to making marks by hand as you learn to use text, layout, imagery, and color to engage your visual brain.

That course will walk you step-by-step through the process of developing all of the individual skills you need, and then you’ll get to bring those skills together into your own sketchnoting process.

You can also check out our full course library here.

Do keep learning new things and exposing yourself to new ideas, but don’t feel the pressure to be doing that non-stop.

Till next time,

-Doug