Are you Consuming or Creating?

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 03/01/22 •  4 min read

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 Ogle

Sean 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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23 comments on "Are you Consuming or Creating?"

  1. NomadicNeill says:

    I completely agree with this article. It’s why I had to take time off from my blog. It wasn’t providing an income for me and was just a way to make myself feel busy.

    I’ve started writing for it again but without restricting myself in any way so that it’s no longer a source of ‘feeling busy’.

    At the moment I’m creating an introductory guide to paleo / primal nutrition, it’s been of huge interest to me over the past year.

    1. Sean says:

      @Neil I was wondering what happened to you! Someone actually sent me an email asking if I knew why you stopped writing. Glad to see your priorities are straight and good luck with the guide!

  2. Moon Hussain says:

    Sean, a lot of my time does go into consuming but I”m trying to get into the creating mindset 😉

    I have been analysing what I need to do to earn money online and that’s why I’m changing the direction of EIP as well. I love what I do on there, but I’m not earning a cent from it.

    Really great post about consuming vs creating and now I’ll be thinking about it throughout the day.

  3. Tony Ruiz says:

    Sean, killer article. I think we were on the same writing wave length last night dude.

    I wrote a similar post about information overload and how to overcome it.

    I keep the same link ( as my home page. David and Chris are two online entrepreneurs I highly respect mainly because they don’t stop creating and when they create its good stuff. When muselife wasn’t being updated I knew David was creating a monster, M6 has proven that theory.

    Chris on the other hand shots to write 1,000 words a day. With a 1,000 words a day you’re bound to see some solid creation – no wonder he is able to pump out high quality unconventional guides.

    Good stuff, Sean!

  4. Joel Runyon says:

    i found that same link [from you I think] a few months back and it’s been my homepage bookmark for a while now. I love it.

    Just cause you’re busy, doesn’t mean you’re productive. Big difference.

  5. “Over the long haul if you consume more than you create you’re bound to fail.”

    I’ve read hundreds of books in my life, thousands of articles and have gained so much knowledge from so many different sources. Creating anything of that magnitude would be impossible.

    1. Sean says:

      @Andrew – I don’t mean to say that consuming books and knowledge isn’t a good thing, or extremely beneficial, but it is what you do with that knowledge that is most important. Keep in mind this is based on an entrepreneurial mindset, so if you have all that knowledge, and then don’t create anything with it, then what’s the point?

      @Matthew Good luck with the work! And glad you found the link useful

      @Joel “Just because your busy, doesn’t mean your productive” So true.

      @Tony Can’t wait to read the article. It’s an excellent link, and David is the man when it comes to creating systems to build businesses. Chris takes a completely different approach to his business, but one that has been extremely successful. The point being there are an unlimited # of ways to create – find yours and you’ll begin to see some success. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Awesome link! I might have to modify that and set it as my desktop background.

    This post was timed perfectly. I was taking a break from working on my ebook (Sticky Note Love) and catch up on reading. Got to your post in the reader, and now it’s time to get back to work. 😀

  7. Lilian says:

    *stick Post It Note with message* Guilty as charged on the many occasion of not having a balance in taking in information and creating. Think I have to seriously set a strict writing schedule.

  8. Jason says:

    I bookmarked that link to focus as soon as I saw it.

    I imagine what I could be doing all the time, especially as I sit in this office from 9:00am to 9:30pm everyday. I spend every spare moment working on projects that can get me out, but still I get sucked into time sinks too often.

    This post and that link will help me keep on track. Thanks! I’ve always believed that the universe treats those that create well.

    Also great comments about blogging vs focusing on making money.. I’m also dealing with this problem.

  9. David says:

    That’s a great link. I think it’s better to not just bookmark it, but to make it your default homepage whenever you open your browser (and maybe also for every new Tab).
    I’m also considering to turn it into a Wallpaper.

    For everyone who is interested, Tynan also wrote a great article about that topic recently.

  10. Hey Sean,

    I like the contrast between creating and consuming. I feel that we have gotten so affluent that we feel that it is our right to consume. It wasn’t always like this. A century ago people had to ‘create’ constantly just to have enough food to survive. Now with everything in abundant supply, we are able to sit back and receive. We eat too much, watch too much TV, play around on the internet and generally waste our lives complaining how difficult everything is.

    Enjoyment comes from creating or giving to the world, not from taking. Intense focus on things you believe in is the only way to find satisfaction.

    Nice Post!

  11. Creation is where all good things starts from. All the world’s technology, books, magazines, shoes laces and foods you love came from creation. Why would you think, different about your life. Just create from the heart and expect millions to appreciate and love it. Nothing wrong with a big dream and the work ethic, behind it.

    In closing- Consumption brings in the bills. Creations Pays them..=)

  12. JD says:


    I never thought of it this way before. But I think I’ve spent the majority of my life thus far – consuming, but I never committed hardcore to creating. Or, at least until now, I had never found something I was passionate enough about to put in the kind of creative energy it takes to build something worthwhile and valuable.

    In fact, I was reading your blog tonight and I thought to myself, “This is what he’s talking about, you’re reading (consuming). Post a comment, create!”.

    Anyway, if any of you out there are having a hard time committing yourself to the creative aspects of your life, in business, art, or whatever. Consider that maybe you should be creating in the area that you’re most passionate about. I know that has helped me.

    Over the last 10 years, I’ve started at least nine different websites, and all of them failed. In the end, they didn’t succeed because I wasn’t passionate enough about the topics (or my life) to put in the hours and work necessary to create something sustainable and valuable.

    Anyway, I’m rambling and it is late. Find something you love and create within that field, passion, or hobby as much as possible. Repeat.

  13. lucinda says:

    Excellent post- thanks for creating this one! It’s a subject I’ve thought about often, and you’ve just given me the push to act on it.

  14. Alan says:

    I think you and I talked about this in Boston a few weeks ago. It’s a constant struggle with so many quality things (books, articles, movies, etc.) to consume. But each day we don’t produce, it becomes harder and harder to take that step.

    A nice, refreshing read. Made a list of “things to produce” over the next month. Thanks for the push!


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