The Challenge – Balancing Creation with Consumption.

Today is the first day of ‘The Challenge‘, formerly known as ‘The Thirty Day Challenge’. It’s a free 7 module online business course that is run once a year by Ed Dale and his team. The goal is to earn your first online dollar and in the process learn vital skills to get you started making money on the Internet. I’ve participated in the previous 3 Challenge’s and even helped the team out one year with photography and video.

This year promises to be the best installment yet – with a totally new format. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a total internet marketing newbie or a seasoned veteran, there will be plenty to learn.

After realizing I am adding yet another content stream to my already massive appetite for information, it prompted me to think about my content consumption in relation to my content creation. So I’ve decided to do something different and put some thoughts down in writing. You see, normally each morning I feel obligated to start consuming right away. With my trusty iPad usually beside my bed, it’s the first thing I reach for each morning to catch up with my many feeds and subscriptions. I’m well aware that if I miss doing this for a few days, I’ll find it impossible to catch up with the flood of information I feed into my various clients and readers.

The problem is, lately I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to keep up, and I think I know why. I’m doing well to keep abreast of so much information as I’m using all the right tools but I’m focusing too broadly and not niching down to more specific topics. Here is a sample of what I consume.

Facebook – I have about 170 friends, some are very active and a few post links to very interesting news and articles which of course cant be ignored. It can take me anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes or so to read through the latest posts and get to where I was the day before. I’ve hidden a lot of applications as I’m not really interested in how well my friends are doing in Mafia Wars or Bejewelled Blitz. The only thing is these ignored feeds still show up on the Facebook app on my iPhone so unless I’m looking at the full Facebook site, I still get all the extra noise.

Twitter – I follow 66 feeds on Twitter, it’s a mixture of people and companies. I use Twitter to keep up to date with whats happening in the technology, photography and internet marketing space and less for social interaction. I find Facebook suits me better far that. A lot of Twitter posts are links to longer articles, my Twitter client luckily allows me to save to Instapaper so I can read them later. Usually 15 to 20 minutes will be long enough to get me up to date without missing a post from anyone I’m following.

Google Reader – I subscribe to over 20 feeds and it’s great way to keep up to date with multiple blogs all from the one place. A couple of my feeds are actually searches. You can do a search on a particular subject and subscribe to the results as a feed. This is very helpful when you’re trying to keep up with the latest on a particular subject and just want to see what’s happening across the web in places outside of your normal subscriptions. I use an app called ‘Reeder’, a Google Reader client which allows me to save to to Instapaper if I need to save an article for later reading. I’d estimate about 15 minutes is needed daily to peruse these feeds and mark them as read or save to Instapaper.

Email – I couldn’t even tell you how many newsletters and mailing lists I’m subscribed to by email. Currently there are just under 50 emails waiting to be dealt with in my inbox and about 30-50 fresh ones come in every day. Like most people, email can take any amount of time to deal with. If you work online, chances are it can take all day as some will be queries or requests for support.

Podcasts – my favorite! They allow me to consume audio even while I’m busy doing something else. I find podcasts a good way to make my walking or driving time more productive and spend maybe 5-10 hours a week consuming that way.

Audiobooks – although audiobooks are not something you feel compelled to keep up to date with, like your news feeds or weekly podcast episodes, they are still best consumed while they are relevant and of interest to you. I very rarely actually read paper books anymore. I know some people really enjoy the downtime but I find it a waste of precious time to be sitting still holding a book. I can absorb just as much listening to an audiobook while out walking and getting fresh air and exercise. Actually, I listen to podcasts and audio books at double speed on my iPhone!

I didn’t even mention TV and movies on DVD or at the Cinema. Media is flooding in from all directions and if your not able to sift through it and locate the pieces that are relevant to you, you’ll end up drowning in a sea of content.

A staggering fact is that on YouTube alone, every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded. There is no chance of keeping up with all the information available, even if you only consumed what was relevant to you. The trick is managing the information flow and learning how to best utilize it.

I’m starting to view creating as exercising and consumption of good content to be like eating nutritious food. The consumption is an important part of the balance but on it’s own doesn’t allow you to reap the full rewards.

The Challenge teaches you how to do both, but let’s face it, some of us won’t continue to produce content regularly. it will be very similar to our failed new year’s resolutions. If we take a while before we get into the swing of things and just learn to consume a lot more intelligently, is that such a bad thing?

I’ve learned many techniques to help manage the huge stream of content available on the Internet, from previous Challenges. This year, I’m more determined than ever to put into practice what is taught about selectively consuming and then creating great content that can earn you a dollar or two.






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