Content 101: Create More and Consume Less
The article Content 101: Create More and Consume Less was originally published on my friend Carolyn Chen’s blog Art of Getting Shit Done in 2019. It was chosen as the top Business Article of 2019 by The PTDC. I’ve republished it here in it’s original form.
“It’s such a dangerous trap to fall into because you feel like you’re actually accomplishing something…If you’re not actually practicing applying that knowledge and moving forward, what good is it actually doing you?” – Jordan Syatt on endless content consumption.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
- “I don’t feel like I know enough yet”
- “I don’t have enough time”
- “I’m afraid I’ll be judged”
Have you buried your writing for any of these reasons? Are you afraid of being exposed as unqualified in that podcast or YouTube channel you’ve always dreamed of starting?
The good news is you’re far from alone. Thousands of fitness professionals share those same fears and they also share your excuses for not acting on their goals. The truth is, no matter how elaborate the mental gymnastics of your reasoning are, they’re still just excuses to avoid creating content.
So instead of quitting before you even begin, remember this: the people who now lead our industry were once unknowns. Many of these industry leaders are coaches who simply dared to put their face in front of a camera or pen to paper, and start something.
Almost all of them began with very few followers and plenty of fear. But each of them chose to set aside their fears and began creating. Here’s a great example: I’m currently reading Bret Contreras’ Glute Lab which details his earliest days of experimenting with new ideas for training glutes. At first, very few people took him seriously. Regardless, he fought to get his ideas in front of influential people. He awkwardly approached Eric Cressey with his early glute training manifesto before becoming a regular T-Nation writer and one of the most sought after and respected fitness professionals alive. After more than two decades into his prolific effort to share his work and far from his humble beginnings, Bret is rapidly approaching a million Instagram followers. Today, the hip thrust and other glute training exercises he popularized are found in every gym across North America. This wouldn’t have been possible if he had allowed his self doubt (and others’) to prevent him from taking those first steps.
Every epic journey starts with a single step
Frodo left the Shire and Harry boarded a train to Hogwarts. How will you begin your epic journey?
The first step sounds easy in theory, but not so much in practice. In his essential book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield exposes how our mind will relentlessly interfere with our efforts to Do the Work (the title of another of his similarly themed books). The resistance as he calls it, fights you, while inspiring fear and procrastination at every turn. To prevent it from sabotaging your progress, you need to recognize it as a destructive force and press onward with your work.
How Do You Keep Moving Forward?
Quick dopamine hits from email and social media will disrupt your work flow. Despite our intentions to ‘get shit done’, we seek distractions that enable us to procrastinate making us feel safe. People are afraid of putting themselves (and their content) out there because they’re scared of being judged. Consciously or not, procrastination is safety.
It helps to remember how everyone else is being held back by this same fear and anyone passing judgement is resentful of your effort and reminding them of their own failure to work and create. Allow those relative few who would enjoy your failure serve as fuel for your efforts to succeed. Success is slowly built upon bricks of effort you lay in your path.
Any successful fitness professional can share stories of how they felt unqualified to coach clients or share their knowledge. We consciously compare ourselves to the legion of highlight reel success stories we choose to follow. We tune out the far larger number of hard working emerging and equality uncertain people and feel like we are alone in unworthiness. Imposter syndrome is pervasive and has afflicted the people who make it all look so easy. Recognizing imposter syndrome for what it is and understanding you aren’t alone goes a long way to taking the first steps to put yourself out there. Beginning to trust your own worthiness to contribute to helping not only the clients in front of you but a broader audience as you earn access to it. Remember, just like you, everyone else is worried about being judged and aren’t concerned with casting judgement on your worthiness.
Fear of approval from peers and the most successful members of our industry is both real and downright foolish. Trainers often try to write to impress the PhD’s of our world. This isn’t their audience and such attempts will fail to gain traction with the ultimate consumer who is your potential customer. Even if you manage to craft work which could stand toe to toe with that of the established intellectual elite of our industry, they would be more impressed if you reached and spoke to those potential customers. Think about how Jordan Syatt and Sohee Lee deliver their videos. It’s all developed with an everyday consumer in mind, not other fitness professionals. Scared your work will suck? Ask Jordan how bad his earliest YouTube videos are. You’ll get better with time and practice.
Theres no shortcut to mastery and you’ll pay your dues just as everyone who came before you did.
How to fight procrastination
“The most insidious procrastination hides in the benevolence of endless content consumption”
We’re neutralized by the comforting lie that reading more books, watching more YouTube, and taking more seminars will eventually leave us ready and qualified to share our ideas. Endless learning satiates the desire to feel productive. It’s better than Netflix or video games, but did it really move the needle forward. You’ll never feel ready so better get started anyway.
The answer is striking a balance between surgically choosing the most relevant education to our needs, while allotting dedicated time to documenting your ideas.
Several strategies will help you develop a plan forward:
1)Time block for content creation. Set dedicated time, daily if possible, to write and record. I reserve Thursday mornings to record podcast episodes and schedule writing in gaps in my client schedule. Turn off device notifications and constantly work on the discipline to stay on task and avoid distractions. Find uninterrupted space if possible.
2)Triage the most essential educational needs while avoiding needless time sinks. Professional skill development should be an endless pursuit, just not to the point of choking off efforts to build your own brand content. We have time for both.
3)Time block for content consumption. No one would ever tell you to stop reading books and articles. Set some weekly time to strategically learn coaching, exercise physiology, fitness business, sales, and nutrition. Be patient. You don’t have to get it all now. Set priorities and focus on your most immediate needs. Struggling to sell new clients? Learn sales and marketing but avoid your 15th article on coaching a hip hinge.
4)Shift consumption to times you can’t use for content creation. There’s been a recent spike in complaining about audio books in our industry. Ignore it. If you absorb audio learning well, enjoy audio books while cooking, driving, or any other routine task where you can’t otherwise read or write. And no, driving isn’t a good time to record videos. Use good judgement in your habit stacking efforts to create time. This isn’t an argument of physical reading vs audio learning either. Learn when you otherwise cannot create. Most businesses and personal development books are found on audio. I save my physical reading time for exercise physiology books or courses I can’t consume via audio. Audio books are additive if they work for you.
5)Learn to catch yourself when scrolling social media and bouncing between refreshing apps. We teach clients to catch themselves early in unrestrained binge behaviour with food. Social media binging can be just as emotionally harmful. Hours pass wasted. We’re proficient at telling ourselves the scrolling is valuable “research” as we are cultivate relationships. Dispense with the former lie while choosing to call or message individuals to better foster the latter. This one is a tough and relentless battle and you can take back a lot of time by making progress here.
6)Control your social media usage. Turn off notifications and develop more discipline to avoid mindless scrolling. Create your own social media content. Sohee Lee devotes her energy to posting thoughtful information then allots a limited time to engage and respond to her followers comments before returning to content creation, client work, and reading research, her high value activities. Sohee is dominating in the fitness space. When I’m working on creating more and controlling my social media time, I think about the successful people in our industry and how disciplined they are with their social media use. If they can, we all can.
7)You don’t need to be on all social media channels. Understand where you’re strongest and devote time there. I’m best writing and recording audio, so my time goes into podcast writing and recording, writing articles, and writing for my engaged audience on Facebook. I also understand the value in Instagram so I’m practicing here to build a larger following(note at the time of writing this article I had under 3000 instagram followers, and this consistent effort has now grown to over 110,000). Despite the buzz surrounding TikTok, it doesn’t fit my strengths so I’ve ignored it, as l’ve ignored Snapchat. Devote your energy where it best supports your goals.
8)Repurpose content across multiple platforms. Each platform has nuances and ways of creating strongest engagement from followers yet most content can be tweaked to each platform. The popular example stems from podcasting. Not only can the audio be shared through podcast platforms, you can record video and share on YouTube with minimal added effort. Then take shorter clips and repurpose to IG TV(IGTV no longer exists but shorter pieces can now be shared through IG Reels), story, and feed posts.
9)Act on impulse. If you find yourself caught in activities not serving your goals fight to open up a program to write. Try Mel Robbins’s 5 Second Rule. Count down from 5 and launch yourself into action. Once there you’ll find yourself putting in the work. Some of my most productive writing sessions came from opening a writing program and starting before I talked myself out of it.
10)Create time to relax guilt free. Don’t get lost in the hustle to create more, only to stop setting aside time to enjoy entertainment and spend time with loved ones. Subscribing to endless hustle will leave you drained and unproductive in any pursuit.
Not to be forgotten in this discussion is paralysis by analysis. We can be ensnared into inaction by the overwhelming array of information and for that matter, misinformation in our world. It’s tempting to continue the search for more in the misguided effort to arrive at a singular truth before feeling ready to share your ideas. Such truths rarely exist. There comes a point where you need to trust in your accumulated knowledge and experience and get started.
Recognize endless content consumption as a morally acceptable and emotionally soothing form of procrastination
Prioritize what you need to learn to launch your skills and brand forward while blocking off time to create. Mercilessly eliminate distractions. Discard the convenient excuse of not having enough time and put pen to paper. When you carve out your time wasting distractions, you will find more time than you imagined to get work done.
You will never feel ready. Set aside fears of not being good enough to share your ideas. You will get better with practice. The most seemingly polished and successful people in our world have struggled with imposter syndrome. They’ve doubted themselves and feared judgement from their peers. Somewhere in their past they set aside those fears and started. Their supporters and fans vastly outweigh any detractors.
There comes a point where gathering more knowledge in your proficiencies yield such diminishing return you would be best served by acting on your accumulated knowledge. Not everyone wants to be a household industry name, but a library of your work in article, book, podcast, video, and or social media form may be exactly what’s needed to grow your brand and create a funnel of clients to provide a comfortable and fulfilling livelihood.
A final note of importance. You are 100% in control of your decisions and actions. To get to work and make time, or to procrastinate and give in to distractions. Only you are responsible for the choices you make going forward, and only you stand in your own way.