I often think of something I refer to as my production-consumption ratio. This is a rough comparison of the time I spend on production-centered activities versus time spent on consumption-centered activities.
By production, I mean the active process of creating things, making things. This includes writing, taking photos, making food, and playing the piano. By consumption, I mean the passive process of receiving or absorbing content: watching media, listening to podcasts, and reading anything (articles, books, a nutrition label).
Importantly, whatever I’m producing should feel unquestionably enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be work I plan on sharing, or anything remotely useful or creative.
I prefer to keep my production-consumption ratio high, because I’ve noticed that times when it’s been low have generally correlated with times I’ve felt undefinably dissatisfied. My guess is that the two factors are codependent. That is, dissatisfaction leads to lower creation, which further leads to dissatisfaction.
To break the negative cycle and exit a rut, I create something – anything.
There’s a multi-pronged reason as to why this works. When production is creative, it becomes exhilarating and intense. When production is productive, we gain the satisfaction of working towards one of our goals (namely, the dopamine boost associated with anticipated future rewards). And when it’s non-creative and non-productive, production becomes meditative. It leads to the relief found in scrawling in a journal, the excitement of bustling about the kitchen to assemble a meal, the quiet comfort in a coloring book.
When so much content is readily available at our fingertips, the default is often a pattern of consumption. Absorbing some material from outside sources can be rewarding. It injects new ideas into our minds, introducing us to amusing, intriguing, or far-fetched concepts. But if all of your leisurely time is spent receiving content, there’s no room for your mind to synthesize its own ideas.
This is the importance of creating things. It allows your mind to establish its own connections and contemplate the information it’s already been given. To me, it’s invaluable to living a rewarding life.