The production ratio and the difference between information, knowledge, and wisdom
A way to keep your productivity in check.
4 min read
There's been this thought in the back of my head for a long time. I pondered over it on and off, but never really did much about it. It's about how much I consume vs how much I produce. Okay, this sounds very weird out of context, so let me explain.
Reading books, watching tutorials, binging YouTube videos, all of this comes under consumption. Anything that feeds your brain with new information and insights, anything that triggers ideas and thoughts is to be counted as consumption.
Writing blogs, developing software, creating video content, creating designs, painting, all count as production. Basically using your own experience, skillset, and ideas to bring something into the world that didn't exist before.
The production ratio
I've read 54 books in the past 18 months. I've watched countless YouTube videos and documentaries covering science, programming, art, philosophy, and whatnot. You might think I'm maybe bragging. You might think maybe all this made me a lot wiser. But no, in fact, I wish this number was a lot lesser. Don't get me wrong, most of the content I consumed was very informative and brilliantly produced. In fact, I still look at my bookshelf and drool over all the unread books. But truth be told, all this consumption has made me information-obese.
If I look back at all this information I collected, I hardly applied a fraction of it actively. I know a lot of stuff, but I don't know what to do with it. Rather, I never bothered to do anything with it. I wish I consumed less information but made more out of that information.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I didn't produce anything at all. I've been working hard at Sizzy. We made a completely new backend portal, redesigned the whole app, redid the landing page from scratch, and a lot more in the past 2 years. I'm happy with the work I did in that regard. But all of this was work. This had to be done. But outside of work, I hardly had any hunger to produce things, apart from some very sparse, scattered, and incomplete projects.
Information vs Knowledge vs Wisdom
I recently watched this video by James Hoffman (highly recommended channel if you're a coffee nerd) where he briefly went over this topic. It helped me add another dimension to this thought.
Any time you are consuming some content, you are gathering information. You are looking at other people's experiences, processes, and advice and registering them in your brain.
Processing the consumed information to make sense of it and fit it into your mental model outputs knowledge. You apply your existing insights, experiences, and judgments to the information you just gathered. Knowledge is customizing the information for yourself. This might include making notes or even deeply analyzing and pondering over the information.
Wisdom comes from the application of knowledge. Reading a lot of books about music doesn't make you wise. It just makes you knowledgeable. Actually using this knowledge to create a lot of music will make you wise. This is the last but the most important step. All your knowledge is pointless if you don't actually use it to its full potential.
Okay, I'm not going to give you a mathematical formula, because such a formula doesn't exist. I'll tell you what it should feel like though. Here is a series of questions you want to ask yourself.
Does my brain feel overwhelmed?
If yes, you have excess information in your brain that you need to process. Sit down and structure your thoughts. Use whatever technique helps you. Writing, meditating, discussing it with a friend, anything works.
Does my brain feel underwhelmed and bored?
You need to expand your horizon. Start gathering and processing more information. Learn a new skill, or expand on your existing skills. Maybe develop a new hobby.
Does my brain feel well-fed but still a bit hazy? Do I feel under-accomplished?
You have gained knowledge but not really put it to good use. You need to create more stuff. You need to take up projects that will utilize and challenge your knowledge.
I am planning to regularly ask myself these questions to keep my ratio balanced. For now, I want to maximize production. This post was the start of it and I have a few other things planned that I'll spend my time. Until the time being, I am going to reduce the amount of time I spend reading daily.
Do you think this post was helpful for you? Do you want to discuss this or anything else in general? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter.
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