One of the biggest traps that people fall into is a type of false productivity. It’s organizing their task lists and doing all the “little” things that make you feel good but don’t push forward any of your major projects in any way.

I’ve fallen into this regularly. Putting out YouTube videos and jumping between courses I could release without actually getting any courses done. But it feels so productive to get a single video out on Things 3 that could be in a course one day.

It feels rewarding to look at your note system and see that you have thousands of notes. You must be doing something worthwhile with your time if you have taken all these notes.

Remix and Share

The priority of any system should be to produce something. My YouTube production system should be around to help me get more courses done. More courses mean more content for members. More courses mean more income for me and the hope that one day I can devote 100% of my time to courses and reading and learning and remixing that content for courses and members.

Each step in your system should be pushing you towards some bigger goal. This chapter/post is a great example of that in action. I had an idea months ago to write a short manifesto around some of the core principles I’m trying to implement in my life but finding the time to do that is hard with a programming job, member newsletter, and YouTube stuff. Then I realized that writing a chapter every Friday morning as my member newsletter got the first draft done while also having the opportunity to get feedback from my members.

If you don’t have a set of people for a private newsletter, all is not lost. A personal site is meant for publishing your thoughts. In direct violation of how social media companies would like you to publish, you own the content on your site and can then benefit from it by building relationships with other people that enjoy your content.

Some people are never going to write though, but you should still be sharing what you learn. Talk to your children or friends about the topics that you’re struggling with. As my wife and I have wondered about church attendance in the midst of all the vileness that we see Christians show off in society we talked with our oldest daughter about those struggles. We talked with her about how men in the church have used “biblical principles” to put women down as subservient to men.

These conversations have helped shape our oldest daughter’s understanding of our lack of church attendance. When she looks around at places to go, she looks with a clearer vision about what type of faith community might be acceptable to the views our family holds.

Your learning can also be shared at work. I take extensive notes on each Github ticket I work on that are synced back to Github via Obsidian. It’s only been a few months, but I go back to them regularly to find some bit of information for work that informs a current problem. The other developers I work with have found notes there that have helped them with the issues they’re tackling as well.

Mere Storage is not Useful

Simply having a big stack of notes doesn’t mean you’ve learned anything. Good thinking doesn’t happen simply by the categorization of those notes. Thinking happens in writing and remixing. Be it personal notes in a notebook as you look at some of your digital notes. Be it through discussion with someone you find intellectually stimulating that you can trust to push your thinking.

When you’re looking at your note system make sure it focuses on some type of production. Make sure that as you change your thinking you keep track of how it changed. Make note of why you changed your thinking as you learn more.

Put time aside to investigate your notes and your thinking on them.

Production of good thought needs to come before consumption of what other people think. If you don’t have notes that deeply disagree with what you’re reading, then you need to think harder about the topics you’re bringing into your mental development.

2 responses to “Output Before Consumption”

  1. Robert Breen Avatar

    Such great insights here. The real work is hard, so it’s natural for us to focus on the easy stuff — futzing with plug-ins, making lists, arranging our desk just so — to keep us away from having to bear down on the hard part of creating something new and worthwhile.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Thanks, and you’re welcome.