Outside of the professional sphere of my life, I love to consume information. I am not saying I don’t consume information at work, because I most certainly do (otherwise I probably wouldn’t have a job), but the information I love to consume is the kind I get after work is over.
After I get home from work, I generally go for a walk or run. Probably half of the time I go do this, I do it without headphones so that I have time to clear my head and just think through everything going on in my life. It is a great time of digestion and if I take headphones with me, I am far too tempted to listen to music. However, the other half of the time I grab my headphones and dive into my exercise. Occasionally I will listen to music, but for the most part I plan to dive into a podcast. Most of them aren’t terribly long so I will listen to one or two or I will put my headphones away and continue the conversation about what I just heard inside my head.
After my run, I go home and read. I read a lot…I know I probably won’t read as much after I get married because I will be fostering my new marriage, but I love to get a good book and dive in. I gravitate towards books on the topics of photography, marriage, discipleship, focus, and personal growth to name a few. But far too often, I get to a point where I have consumed too much information without allowing myself time to digest.
During my runs, I do a great job of delegating my time between consuming and digesting information. But for some reason, I get home and just consume, consume, consume until I can’t take it anymore and I have to stop because my head is just filled with white noise.
So how do we decide when enough is enough?
Here are the 3 rules I have discovered that help me realize when I reach a point in my consumption that I need to stop and rest.
1. Hour of Consumption Rule
- If I have been at it for an hour, then it is time to stop and take a break and process what I’ve consumed
- Here I generally subscribe to a 2:1 ratio. If I have spent sixty minutes reading, then I should take at least thirty minutes to think through what I’ve read or do some other mindless task for that period of time while my brain processes.
2. The Finish Rule
- If I finish a book or podcast or anything else, then I cannot immediately jump into something else.
- I need to write, talk, or think through all of the information dumped into my mind. I usually just allow the mood to carry me into one of those three options and don’t have a formula where a certain material prompts a specific way to respond.
3. The Attention Span Rule
- When I get to the point where I can only read a page or two without getting distracted by my train of thought then I need to step back and let my brain catch up.
- Generally, when I get distracted easily, it means that my thoughts are fragmented and I need to find a quiet place to relax or go for a walk.
I do not always realize when I need to step away. I love to learn and consume new information, but because I haven’t allowed myself time to digest it in the past, I wasn’t getting the most out of my activities. By creating these three guidelines for consumption, I created a way to force myself to step away and process my thoughts. Without these rules, I would be (and was) a complete mess. I would have trouble listening to people in normal conversations and my general productivity as a human plummeted.
If you are an over-consumer, like me, then I would encourage you to give one or more of these rules a test run. See how it works for you and try to observe any differences. Come back here and let me know what did and did not work for you.
If you have other ways you keep yourself in check, I’d love to hear them! You can leave your comment below.