Optimizing for synthesis and reflection over reading and listening

Our lives right now are built around consumption. Media companies have somehow convinced us that there are few things that matter more than staying up to date. So, we get free newsletters with stunning content and, generally, a link to subscribe to get more.

Media personalities (including venture capitalists and star entrepreneurs) all have podcasts and blogs for us to listen to. Many of this stuff is actually interesting.

There are more “summits” about various topics with lists of YouTube videos to watch than ever before.

So, naturally, we have more of us walking around wishing we had time to read, listen and watch all this content. And, aside from the fact that “catching up” is a fool’s errand (it is impossible), we are better served by doing less consumption and more creation. Creation contributes more to learning and happiness than consumption.

How do we that? Pick the best long article, podcast or video and, instead of moving to the next one, substitute that time with time for synthesis. Feel free to take notes during the process. However, these notes are only useful if we take the time to synthesize them afterward. Good synthesis, in turn, requires time to reflect.

And, if it is all too hard to resist the temptation of clicking on the next article or video, shut off the internet and get hold of a book on a topic you like. Then, repeat the above process.

We don’t learn effectively when we consume. We learn when we synthesize and reflect.

In the age of consumption, it is worth reminding ourselves that more is not better. Better is better.