Career Relationships

Happier relationships, more productivity, the secrets of the universe … all from asking one question

Can it really be so simple?

Asking yourself this simple question might change your life. No, it isn’t a unified theory of everything, like in a quantum physics sense – but more of a thought exercise to help understand all your actions, and interactions.

Bear with me for a moment, and just recall your daily routine. What you routinely do. From when you woke up, your daily motions, your meals, your activities, and then finally, when you went to sleep.

Got it?

You probably went through in your mind, like I did, a lot of minutiae and little tasks. Some more forgettable than others, like what you browsed on your phone, or what specifically you ate for lunch on a particular day. Nevertheless, you have a pretty good sense of all these little activities – like watching TV over dinner, or chatting with friends – that make up your daily routine.

Now comes the simple question.

I’d like you to categorise each activity into one of two categories. Only two categories:

Did you consume something, or did you produce something?

For every action in the day – sort them into either net consumption – that is, did you take more than you gave; or net production – where you produced more than you took.

Probably sounds simplistic on the surface, but it’s actually a very fundamental equation that drives what we do, who we are in this world, and how we view ourselves – that a lot of us have lost touch with.

Let’s look at how reconnecting with this simple concept can make you more productive, more driven, and more conscientious as a person.

Net consumption versus net production

This categorization suddenly draws a spotlight on to the value of your activities, and to whom that value belongs.

In life, being a net consumer or net producer means that you are either, on balance, taking in more than you produce, or are putting out more than you receive.

Net ConsumptionNet Production
status quoinvention
passive or reactiveactive
Characteristics of net consumption v. production

So every action, even the obvious, like eating – can be looked at from a net consumption v. production perspective.

For example, getting a takeaway meal is exchanging your money for food, but your production is minimal here. The food is made for you. Your money goes towards the business, which produces the food for you.

But if you are cooking more, and preparing more meals yourself, that balance shifts away from consumption, towards production. Yes you still need to consume by purchasing the raw ingredients, but you are the one producing as you learn and hone a craft, and transform raw ingredients into a polished meal. You may share photos, or recipes of your meal – a small step towards going on to create a future fantastic foodie blog.

Net ConsumptionNet Production
watching TV, Netflix, Prime, etc.learning a trade or skill or hobby
reading a bookwriting a blog, a post, a book, etc.
browsing social mediadeveloping content for social media
eating takeout or deliverycooking a meal (then eating it)
listening to musicplaying an instrument, writing a song
watching YouTubevlogging
Examples of net consumption v. production

The net consumption activities are passive, where others provide the value to you; the net production activities are active, where you provide the value to others.

Being more productive: aim for an overall net production value

Aim for a net productive value – that is, make more than you consume.

If you are real with yourself, and tally the amount of time you spend consuming, you may surprise yourself. You may be spending an inordinate number of minutes, or even hours, in a day outside of sleeping, digesting other people’s production, whilst not producing enough yourself.

You might still enjoy a TV program or Netflix show, but you’ll do less binging and get back to writing that fire screenplay that’s been in your head for years. You might still scroll through your phone for the latest memes and amazing Instagram posts, but you might also start posting more exciting content, or make some memes yourself.

Make it mathematical even – if 20 minutes of TV, then 21 minutes of writing – whatever balance works to even the equation for you.

And with time, you’ll see that you’re not only making more, but you’ll be more satisfied with how you spend what little free time you may have. You’ll be chasing down your dream alternative job or project, one spare hour at a time, instead of wishfully thinking as you ingest another NetFlix binge.

Relationships are at the heart of everything we do

We can’t escape them: family, friends, strangers all – everything we do in life comes back to human interaction. And how we interact with people can be a major source of pleasure, or grief, in our lives.

The great thing about our little thought exercise is that we can extend it to our relationships, as well.

As you interact with family, or loved ones, or even strangers, this interplay of net consumption v. net production is playing out, whether we’re conscious of it or not. Often times, we are not, because of our ingrained history with that person, or with ourselves.

This is how I handle… x, this is how I react to …y.

How often do we fall into the same routines? Brushing off strangers, or loved ones? Are we rude? Or receptive?

Are you generous, and kind, and positive, to another person’s life? Or are you in fact consuming, by considering your needs only, whilst not empowering someone else?

Are you adding value to peoples’ lives? Or are you a drain?

And in difficult relationships – are you bearing too much of the brunt of another’s excessive consumption? Do they consume you, unfairly and excessively?

If we think about this from our net consumption v. net production point of view, we can seek to improve our interactions with people, and bring happiness and joy to ourselves and others.

Give, more than you take.


In totum, it’s a simple idea, but perhaps one that we have underestimated by not applying widely enough, or perhaps one that we’ve lost a bit of touch with.

You can trace roots of this kind of thought process across spiritual foundations and in native or indigenous cultures as well, where perhaps there is still a connection, past the smartphones, blogs, office work, and social media, to something more visceral and earthly.

This simple idea, of finding the balance between what you take versus what you give in all parts of your life, even from the seemingly most simple parts, can improve relationships in your life, work, and ultimately, make you a more productive, balanced person.

You become more conscious, and more mindful, of your impact in this world. Of your presence, and your interaction with your environment, your family, and your peers.

It is not easy, of course – because by sheer definition, consuming is being reactive, or passive, which is far easier to do than to be productive, or active. By definition it means that we’ll opt to sit back on our laurels, do as we’ve done, and watch the world go by.

But if you try to be more of a net producer, you’ll find, as I have, your time better spent, and you’ll most definitely reap great benefits (mental, social, and financial).

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