ARTICLE: Producing and consuming - the key equation for training and life

With less time to write in recent years, I have been trying to come up with a few ideas for producing more content that may be useful to readers with less time. This post will be the first attempt at squaring that circle.

New Year's resolutions

I do not really do resolutions and never have apart from the Danish joke that 'I won't have a single drink again this year' uttered usually in the dying seconds of the year. I do remember one memorable quote from a book I read about what we read. There is a perception that everything we read online is 'free' (unless behind a paywall, of course) when in reality there is a price: it consumes our ATTENTION.

Since our attention is finite, constrained by the limited years of our lives, we should not spend it frivolously. MJ DeMarco noted a similar contradiction in our behaviour in life where we regularly trade our limited resource of time for a theoretically infinite resource (money or things purchased for money). We will trade 20 minutes extra driving time (20 minutes of our lives) for saving a few euros and so on. This is too big a topic for here: the quote merely made me consider something else MJ DeMarco said: that there are two types of people on the world - consumers and producers. The more time you spend consuming and the less producing, the poorer your life probably is. This goes back to the idea that essentially our economies reward people who are perceived to be valuable by their peers (for what they do or what they create) and it does not reward those not perceived to create value.

Without going into a discussion about how to improve perception (marketing) and how to create more value (product creation, service delivery), each and every one of us can optimise the formula of life if we spend more time producing and less consuming. Whenever I read an article online I am 'consuming' and whenever I write one I am 'producing'. Let's put aside whether the produced good (the article) is valuable or not for a brief moment (hey - people find cat videos valuable - because of the logic that anything has value if its educational, useful or entertaining). If you're a consumer of adult videos online you can try to see which of those three brackets your chosen consumption service falls into!

Improving the equation

So I went into 2018 thinking about how I could improve the 'production' vs. 'consumption' formula. As a quick aside you can use this metaphor to understand running as well: in a certain way some of your training-related activities 'produce' fitness for you to 'consume' later (racing). Some of your habits 'consume' your overall life and vitality (a heavy drinking session, over-training, junk food, training with negative people) whereas others 'produce' more 'energy' (training within your limits, complementary training, spending time outside in the sun and so on).

In my business, and probably most one or two-man startups, a lot of work takes place on the internet: writing and editing content, doing accounts in Excel sheets, planning marketing campaigns on Facebook or Google, analysing online training logs, taking Skype calls and emailing existing and prospective clients. Coaching today is almost an IT job and I daily maintain CRM systems (to handle emails), database connections (for customer data downloads), online banking systems, and website backend. This means we find ourselves spending a lot of time staring at screens. When we don't do that we read books as our field evolves all the time and if you do not keep up to speed you get left behind.

Sports news - you've got to go!

Like any good business, we can divide what we read into 'value-add' and 'non-value add' and, in fact, the same goes for anything you read. If I read a book and I can use parts of it to improve our training system or the way our business operates, then we have a 'Value Add' activity. The hours spend reading the material are suddenly 'an investment' that may have a return down the line. When I read a book that adds nothing positive to my own training or that of my clients or the way the business operates, then it better be entertaining or relaxing - otherwise it is entirely 'non-value add'.

As I am a sporting fan I eventually noticed that I had one low-hanging fruit. Unlike a lot of people, Facebook use is not a big time waster for me. I suppose the novelty wore off and it's mainly a practical place for me now. I also decided to remove notifications from all except a few key pages and groups so that I have to 'seek content' rather than 'content being pushed at me'.

To find time wasters - places were I was consuming - I had to look in other places and I found my weakness was reading English newspapers - particularly the sporting section as I am a sports fan. So I removed any apps from my phone for my key newspapers and removed the reading of their pages from my regular morning routine (I grew up in a home where the newspaper would be raised first thing over breakfast with father and son fighting over who got the sport section first - father always won! This ritual has stayed with me most of my life). Doing this was easy because I noticed something: reading about sporting results let's you experience the emotions of the result twice - a bad thing if the result was poor. So reading about sporting results,  I decided, needed to be saved for only the huge occasions.

We all have our own vices but a simple way to replace the desire to 'read about something' is to fill it wih the desire to 'produce something'. I was helped here by memories of myself as a kid - first busy playing with Lego, then endlessly filing up my armies of plastic soldiers and then, growing older, writing stories, making websites and then actual real-life projects in the dorm I lived in. This can be a major solution for a lot of people stuck in consumption (making you poor first in time and then maybe in money): find a desire to produce instead. The world is now so open that almost anything we produce is valued by someone out there so whether you're looking to monetise your produce or simply to harvest acclaim, reconigition or some feedback, you have a chance.

My current consumption

I want to finish with an example of what I would 'consume' at the moment:

  • Blogs: I am not currently reading or following any blogs or websites with regularly. Call it a break from 'online reading'. I drop in on some old favourites the odd time. I did read Jason Kehoe's review of his 2017 season - Jason is the runner I have coached for the longest period (7 years now) - so to say I'm invested in his success is an understatement. For those worried where the 'mountain-runner' in the url of my blog has gone, well, at least I'm still coaching a mountain running champion.
  • Books: for relaxation and 'reward' I generally no longer read running books as they make me 'think about the business' so I currently read Stephen Fry's 'Mythos' about the Greek Gods and 'Song of Wrath' about the First Peloponnesian War. For 'work' I am currently reading Jay Dicharry's 'Running Rewired'
  • Audio books: I just finished listening to Neil Gaiman's rendition of the 'Norse Myths' and now am listening to Eckhart Tolle's 'The Journey Into Yourself'
  • Podcasts: The next one I have put on my watch list is 'Dr. Jack Kruse - Functional Medicine Mistakes, EMF, Sunlightand Your Mitochondria'
  • Newsletters: I unsubscribed from all newsletters (except one - my secret) because I wanted to live by the Chuck Norris principle (i.e. 'information doesn't find me. I find information). 
  • Online courses: I am currently working through, at my own pace, the Functional Patterns 10-week course and then have the follow-up course lined up for myself
  • Tv shows: For 'dead moments' and while doing repetitive tasks I watch several shows - I prefer historical ones (like Vikings or Knightfall) or anything involving fantasy, sci-fi or superheroes. No normalcy for me, please.
  • Movies: the last movie I watched was 'Star Wars - The Last Jedi' in cinema before Christmas. I enjoyed it.
  • Books I started but not finished: There are so many it's embarassing now - so won't dare write it here as it also includes a few I have promised to review. Book reviews is an activity I will stop after the current batch as, while enjoyable, I just cannot justify the time anymore.

My current production

I won't bore you with every work task I have accomplished only online content:

Three short videos for our YouTube channel on training:
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