This post was originally published in October 2010, and has been very lightly edited.
Have you ever put much time into thinking about the difference between the time you spend creating versus consuming?
My guess is that the overwhelming majority of your time is spent consuming – I know mine is, unfortunately.
There are a lot of different ways to define these two concepts, but in my world I think about creating as building my business, whereas consuming is everything else. It’s kind of like making a lifestyle comparison to income and expenses. Over the long term, spending more than you make, is a recipe for disaster. Consuming and creating are the same thing – over the long haul if you consume more than you create you’re bound to fail.
Or at least that’s the case for an entrepreneur.
That’s what entrepreneurs do, they create things. Whether this is in the form of a business, a product, or a service doesn’t matter – “entrepreneur” is synonymous with “creator.”
So why is it that on a regular basis, consumption is so much greater? I suppose it all comes down to personal definitions. How do you define the task of checking, organizing, and responding to email?
Many will consider this creative, and will also consider it work. They could spend two hours answering emails, and be perfectly happy with the two hours they spent “working”. I beg to differ – I don’t think email counts as work. Rather, it’s a way of dancing circles around work in order to make yourself feel more productive. I say this because I’ve done it for years.
Don’t get me wrong, in this day and age just about everyone has some sort of email responsibility. But is that really what’s going to make you successful? Chances are probably not. Sure it may allow you to build relationships that in turn create opportunities, but until you actually create something, that’s all that you’ve got – opportunity.
While I was in Thailand a good friend sent me a (now-defunct) link that for years sat in my bookmarks bar. It’s a constant reminder that building the lifestyle you want takes work. A lot of it.
It simply said in big bold print:
“It’s currently [TIME]. Are you creating or are you consuming?”
But more important than that, it takes focused work.
Think about your typical day (this applies to both entrepreneurs and employees). How much of each day do you spend creating vs. consuming?
I spend so much time in front of my computer, that certain regular tasks which my mind has been trained to think of as work, are actually anything but. Email, reading blog posts, checking the news, skype messaging – this is all consumption in one form or another and can take a tremendous amount of time each week. To think about what would happen if I replaced all of that with creative work is staggering. If I were to shut myself off for a week, and say this week, ALL work time spent, will be spent creating.
Imagine what you could do.
My wife Tate is an expert at this. I can watch her sit down and work for hours on end, with very little distraction. And she’s crushed it in her career because she’s able to get so much done.
Chris Guillebeau is another guy who knows how to create. Whether it’s putting together a library of useful tools to help others improve their lives, writing a book, or putting on a massive world summit – the guy has figured out how to limit what he consumes and maximize creation.
I look at people like these two and many others who have created very impressive businesses around their ability to create, and it forces me to analyze how I’m spending my time. Once I started thinking about my work and my life in terms of these two ideas, I’ve really gained a lot of clarity in regards to what I need to do to be successful.
This includes once and for all finding a system to make me more organized, creating a schedule and sticking to it, and not neglecting chances to meet new people and creating opportunities (while recognizing the consistent need to continue creating). That’s what I need to do.
So now that you’ve finished consuming this article – what are you going to create?
Sean OgleSean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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