Reflections on a no content January 2020 experiment

In January 2020 I did a zero content life. This was partly justified by the book “the info diet” but mostly based on a philosophy that proposes,

in a lifetime with limited hours, there is a choice to either consume or create. And I’d rather create than consume.

To be honest, the idea for me was born in response to a meme complaining that if you think art should be free, try going without art for a month. This sounded like a fun and interesting idea.

My main sources of content were:

  • Facebook feed

  • Books (paper and TTS audiobook)

  • Some music

  • Youtube videos

I decided to not get fussy about content that I was actively reciprocal in creating. For example a dance form and a conversation are two different types of content that I am engaged in. The difference would be between playing sport and watching sport (I’m allowed to play sport but not watch sport). I wanted to make an exception for live music but I would not usually see live music anyway.

So how did I go?

On the 1st of January I rearranged my phone screen to make my content less accessible than my creation pathways. I don’t think I recorded anything, but in the first week I wrote 5000 words with all that time I had. In the silence I noticed my mind go quieter. In the time that I spent not reading, I did thinking. I drove places in silence. I started having phone calls with my friends. I just let myself go with whatever I wanted to go towards.

Without music coming in I started to get earworms appearing in my mind. Without content ideas coming from books I had to start generating my own, or applying my existing methods. Even making my own.

I didn’t realise how badly an entrenched habit of reading (134 books in 2019) could limit my growth. I was doing a good thing adding more information to the parts of me that needed more information and also, now that I’ve slowed down, I’m more balanced.

I probably only needed to do book free for a day to get the benefit but I committed and I wasn’t sure if there was a deepening after more time. There wasn’t but one of the major benefits I retained was that I freely chose to think or read a book or call a friend. This was previously a more compulsive choice to urgently read books.

I spend a lot more time having phone calls and exploring relationally now. For the handful of people that I am talking with, we are growing therapeutically together and healing each other as we reflect on our stuff together.

Moving forward

I read less, I talk more, I write more. I consider this experiment a success.