In Chapter 7, “Stiumuli: What Goes In Must Come Out,” he discusses how we’re bombarded everyday with all kinds of stimuli from ads, music, conversations, television, and the Internet. Well, what wrong with that?
The problem with all that cultural noise is it drags us down or changes our focus in ways that aren’t helpful.
We’ve all had this happen. We’re going through the day trying to focus on relationships, goals, and dreams that are important to us and everything seems perfect. Good for us! We have a mission in life!
Then for some reason, we’re suddenly watching a funny cat video. Oops.
Or even worse, we don’t have a clear purpose for our life and we use the cultural noise to fill the gaps in our days. Instead of actively thinking about what we really want out of life, we spend our free moments trapped in Yahoo News. “Oh, look! A fascinating story about the 10 best cruise ship water slides!”
Todd recommends adding a study plan to each day to make more conscious decisions about what we allow in our life. A study plan isn’t meant to turn us into a non-stop machine of productivity without any downtime for entertainment or relaxation. Instead it’s designed to consciously shift a portion of our day in a way that’s helpful to our life’s purpose.
He suggests three parts to the study plan:
1) Where are you lacking information at work that you will need in the next three months? It may be a book, article or possible you need a discussion with an expert.
2) What are you curious about right now? Todd recommends keeping a list of topics you want to learn more about. These topics don’t have to be work related and can be a chance to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
A good idea is to keep a list of what you’re interested in learning so you can focus on what’s meaningful to you instead of the usual distractions. Want to learn why the earth has a magnetic field? Or who invented the skateboard? Or how did your favorite actor learn their craft? Put them on your list.
3) What would be good for you? This category should include topics where you have a gap in your education or where you could grow in new ways you feel would be helpful.
Another point he makes is to pick a certain time each day for a study plan of about an hour. Some people like to read or study first thing in the morning while others prefer a mental change of pace at the end of the workday. You could even break it up into two smaller sessions on different topics depending on your schedule and energy. Whatever works.
A study plan is not supposed to be the total of all information you let into your life. Instead it’s a way of creating a structure where we can consciously choose what we want to learn so we balance out the random stimulation coming from such inputs as television or surfing the web.
This idea is only one of many useful concepts Todd includes in his book. Check out The Accidental Creative if you want more ways to avoid the distractions that keep you from what’s really important in your own life.