Our lives are an ever-changing balance between creation and consumption. Mindful and intentional consumption is important and essential–consuming food, resources, and ideas, when done with intention, contributes meaningfully to our lives and helps us contribute meaningfully to the lives of others.

Unfortunately, though, our culture is largely one of mindless consumption. When we’re bored (or just not overstimulated), we scroll through Facebook, flip on the TV, or surf Buzzfeed. We play mobile games while we’re waiting in line. We listen to the news in the morning and the radio in the car, and spend the rest of our day with several tabs of email open and social media sending us notifications every five minutes.

On the other hand, how much time do we spend every day creating value? How much time do we spend on creative hobbies or passion projects or actively contributing to our health? If you’re anything like me, that amount is much, much lower. Some days, it might be non-existent.

One of the more interesting productivity/life design ideas I’ve seen is the importance of balancing these two areas of your life. They present the idea of ensuring that you create before you consume, create more than you consume, and/or consume from the perspective of a creator. And one thing I’ve noticed in my life is that mindless consumption has become a dominant force, taking away time for my creativity.

The Challenge

My reaction to most problems of this kind is to make it a game and create a challenge. In this case, my challenge to you (and myself!) for the next week is threefold: eliminate mindless consumption, create more, and when you do consume, do so from the perspective of a creator.

1. Eliminate mindless consumption.

Just for this week, let’s see what would happen if we totally eliminated mindless consumption. For me, that entails:

  • No social media for the week. If I need to post, I’ll do so on Hootsuite.
  • No blog reading or directionless internet surfing. Both can definitely be inspirational and positive, but right now, they’re just a rabbit hole for me. I’ll save articles from emails on a read-it-later service (I like Pocket).
  • No mobile games. Because there’s pretty much nothing creative about that, at least the ones I play.

What are your time wasters? What do you engage in consuming without much thought? Whether it’s random junk food or channel surfing, see what happens if you go without it for a week.

2. Create more.

This one’s fairly self-explanatory, but my focuses will be the following:

  • Work on my blog
  • Work on my novel
  • Focus on my health
  • Contribute value to others

What do you want to create? What kind of contribution have you been putting off or having a hard time finding time for? Focus on that this week.

3. Consume like a creator.

To me, consuming like a creator means consuming mindfully, really concentrating on what you’re consuming and appreciating it for what it is. This means savoring meals as you eat them instead of rushing through, really listening to music rather than having it droning in the background, and only reading with a purpose of how you’re going to use/create with what you get out of it. For me, as a novelist, this includes reading novels in my genre (and enjoying them!) to improve my own craft. Something I also enjoy doing is breaking down movies to their plot beats as I watch them.

This also entails taking control of my email rather than letting it control me. I’ll only check my personal email a maximum of three times per day: once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. That way, I’m using it for a purpose, not just for the tiny dopamine rush I get every time I get a new notification.

This week, how can you act more like a creator when you do consume?

But Creating is Exhausting!

All this talk of creating without mindless consumption may sound draining, but it doesn’t have to be. You might need to expand your definition of creating! Here are some ideas for creating when all you want to do is plop down in front of the TV:

  • Bake cookies.
  • Create space for your mind and meditate.
  • Journal.
  • Take a walk outside without your phone (this is technically consumption, but I think of consuming nature as inherently creative).
  • Create relationship and spend time with a friend or loved one.
  • Work on a low-pressure project with your hands, just for fun: knit or crochet something, make a collage, or just pick up a tub of PlayDoh.
  • Do something small to make your home more beautiful, like hanging up a photo you love, rearranging furniture, or finally getting rid of that ugly lamp you never really liked.
  • Take a nap.

It’s Not Forever

You can go without (or mostly without) social media for a week. I promise. For seven days, you can live your life apart from your favorite mindless consumables. I’m not advocating living like this for the rest of your life (though maybe that would be ideal). But a week focusing on creating instead of consuming will show you how much that kind of consumption can hijack your life–and how much you can create when you save your attention for that.

What about you? What consumption would you subtract, and what creation would you add? Let me know in the comments.