Life's all about balance.
We wake up, we go to sleep. We inhale, we exhale. We eat, then we...well, you get it.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires a balance of consumption, digestion & creation. Your mind & body require equal parts input and output of information, and letting the scale tip too far in either direction can easily skew priorities and obscure your line-of-sight.
Workaholics tend to ignore input, while couch potatoes lack output.
You probably know at least one person who spends an ineffable amount of time reading Buzzfeed and taking online quizzes. You also probably know someone who refuses to leave the office, and continues to work & check emails through every weekend.
Both of these mentalities are equally harmful.
While making more than you take is often the first step in creating sustainability, letting your I/O ratio fall out of whack can have dire consequences for the quality of your output.
I've already discussed why it's so important to consume whatever you're creating, and today I want to dive into how we can balance that consumption.
Step 1: Be a critical consumer
There's no harm in letting yourself be entertained, however be weary of the amount of time you're allowing your brain to tune out.
It's easy to do - digital media appears everywhere, and your brain is forced to filter out the vast majority of what your senses are perceiving. Consequently, we tend to adopt a habit of passive consumption in our day-to-day lives.
Here's a great example:
Many people find "background music" appealing, and many more even leave televisions and devices running constantly in their households simply to fill the empty space.
It's not good for you.
Even if your conscious mind is tuned out, your brain is still picking up tons of sensory information - light, sound, radio waves, etc. that carry through your living/working space. Not only does it distract from your full attention, this passive consumption habit makes us less critical of the information we're receiving, and less apt to judge its relevancy, quality, or effectiveness.
Be an active participator in your media input. You don't have to psychoanalyze every design decision the producer makes, however you should be aware of what your first reactions are - the whys of things. Why do I like/dislike it? Why do/don't I trust this? Why am I even seeing it at all?
Becoming an active participator in the media you choose to consume will not only give you a healthier understanding of yourself, it will lead you to discover more things you like, and avoid the things you don't.
Step 2: Digest!
Many artists and creators put a lot of effort into looking at their work from as many perspectives as possible. Similarly, many critics often view a film or work multiple times before judging it.
Whether or not you admit it, you've got a lot of preconceived notions going on in your head. Even things as small as a conversation with your friend, or phone call to your mother, will resonate in your subconscious for a short amount of time and influence your current train of thought.
Allowing yourself time to step away from an idea, or revisit an old one, will serve to wipe away these precepts and reduce the amount of implicit bias you have.
I say reduce because it's never going to go away, and tricking yourself into thinking your thoughts are objective is flat-out wrong.
However when we allow ourselves time to analyze things from different levels of granularity, oftentimes we discover details and variables we were previously oblivious to. This digestion time doesn't need to be in the form of rest, however it does need to be removed from whatever your current outputs are.
If you're a music producer, taking a weekend off to deconstruct your favorite albums isn't going to revitalize your brain. Get out in the woods, watch a movie, or do anything that shuts down your output engine for a little while.
Step 3: Work on new projects
Once you get good at something, it's easy to just work on that particular thing. You're good at it already, so practicing more will only make you better, right?
It may seem counterintuitive, but trying to only progress at what you're good at leads to stagnancy, not efficiency. We can see a great example of this in physical fitness: working the same body part too consistently will cause a plateau in results, while engaging your whole body leads to more constant growth.
Similarly, you need to exercise your whole mind in order to achieve your goals.
Get out of your comfort zone. Engage in challenging ideas. Talk to people who have completely different skill/knowledge bases than you, and exchange thoughts. Take on a new responsibility - bonus points if there's a chance you could fail.
Branching out and taking risks is the only method in which we can achieve results. Don't just stick to what you're good at.
Keeping a true balance of your inputs and outputs is next to impossible, however simply being aware of your consumption/creation ratio can quickly lead to serious results.
On that note - congratulations! You've successfully dropped something into your input. Thanks for the read.
Now get out there and make something beautiful.