How to fight your inputs to increase your output


I read this tweet from James Clear last month. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but it’s been on repeat in my mind for the last few weeks.

Recently, I succumbed to the allure of a free e-book advertised within the e-book I was currently reading. When I gave my email address to receive the e-book, I was asked if I wanted to join a list to receive e-book deals.

Sure, why not?

Less than 24 hours later, I received this:


I unsubscribed immediately.

I already feel so far behind in my to-be-read pile—and those are books I’m legitimately interested in.

I don’t need 1,000 books to keep me busy. (Does anyone?)

To consume more and to create more

My reading choices are a microcosm for my input choices (to use Clear’s nomenclature).

I both want to read more and to read better.

I want to choose better and more varied inputs so that my output increases, both in quantity and quality.

Here’s the rub: I want to consume more and create more.

So a tradeoff has to happen: For every new input, I have to remove one.

Instead of adding (e.g., browsing e-book deals), I need to subtract (the unsubscribe button is your friend).

To that end, these are the inputs I need to put out to pasture:

  • Continuing to read any book that fails to compel me within 10% of its length
  • Mindlessly scrolling social media
  • Overpopulating my phone’s home screen instead of setting my Kindle app as the only readily available app (I’ve tried this before but can never stick with it!)
  • Aimlessly searching bookstores (online or brick-and-mortar) the same way I browse Netflix when I have no plan for what to watch
  • Allowing email to dictate my time instead of me becoming the dictator of my email (I’m decent at this but know I can do better.)

I hope to expand this list as the year progresses and see if these changes make a noticeable difference in my outputs.

Two questions for you

  • Do you wrestle with the inputs in your life? (Specifically, the content-consumption inputs)
  • What are the top 2 or 3 inputs you need to remove from your creative life?

Let me know below.


Shortly after publishing this post, I bought Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain. I’m just a few chapters in, but it’s already helping me think more thoroughly about the issues I raised above.