5 Steps to Change Your Default Consumption Behavior

Learning to be mindful of your consumption starts with understanding when you are consuming and when you are creating. By understanding this, you can set goals to help focus on what matters most.

Written by Adam on 2017-06-27. Blog, Mindfulness, Minimalism, Canonical. 2 comments. Find out how I make money.

Have you ever closed a website, or app, only to reopen it immediately after without thinking? Chances are that experience has worked its way into your subconscious to the point where you could consider yourself addicted. This could be Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, a game — or just about anything.

person using phone

This is your default consumption behavior. It’s likely this is something you go to when you’re standing around waiting, or when you’re laying in bed, or arrive early and are waiting for a friend to show up. Having this as your goto behavior when you only have a few minutes is one thing, but what happens when this becomes your whole night?

Consumption vs Creation

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on what the experience is. Apps and sites today are using a variety of techniques to build habit-forming products — and it’s working. For me personally, some of these sites have become default behavior, and I spend entirely too much time on them.

Ken (a talented coworker of mine from Pluralsight) has a great post highlighting some positive and negative consumption behaviors, as well as some examples of creative endeavors.

Unfortunately, creation behaviors take much more time to become addictive, making them much harder to stick. Getting into the flow of a new creative endeavor is rewarding, but how do you get out of a rut and change up your routine?

How to Change Your Default Consumption Behavior

Here are a few steps (which I am trying myself) to changing this behavior to something more beneficial.

Step 1: Understand and Write down Your Default Consumption Behavior
For a few days, keep a list of the sites, apps and other experiences that you consume the most. Try not to judge yourself too harshly during this time — it’s good to know these before making a plan. I’ve often tried to change too many things at once and failed. Just understanding the problem is a good start.

For me, this list looked like this:

  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • TV/Netflix
  • Alcohol

Once you have a list, sort them by the ones that you’d most like to change and pick the top one. Start there.

Step 2: Make a “When…” List
Knowing now what you want to change, and with a clear head, make a list of positive things you should do when a certain trigger happens.

When I’m stuck in front of the TV, I should…

  • Grab a book to read while I watch
  • Write an article here on minafi.com
  • Set daily or weekly goals for myself
  • Say out loud to whoever I’m with “After this episode, I will…”
  • Work on a side project
  • Go for a run

When I’m stuck on Reddit/Facebook, I should…

  • Remind myself that this isn’t making me any better
  • Look at my todo list and pick something simple to get done
  • Ask Marilyn if she would like to play a game
  • Play with Lily (our dog)
  • Go for a run
  • Read some articles on React
  • Watch other courses on React on PS
  • Read articles about Product Management
  • Read articles about qualitative analysis

Both of these are in the form “stuck on…” rather than simply “on”, because I’m not attempting to prevent all enjoyment from these. I’m more concerned with the situations where I’m spending an entire evening consuming when I could be happier if I got out of my comfort zone and did something else.

Step 3: Make an Agreement With Yourself
Having this plan is one thing, but making an agreement with yourself to stick with is what hold you accountable… to yourself. If this is just a list, it’s not going to help, but if it’s an agreement then you have something to work towards.

Set a timeframe to try this out for. If you hit the “When…” condition, open up the list and read through the list of things you wrote. If none of them sound like something you want to do, see if there’s something else you can think of and add it to the list. Maybe there’s something weighing on your mind you’re putting off you could tackle?

Step 4: Talk Through Your “When…” List With Who Can Help
If there’s someone in your life who might recognize when your “When..” conditions are met, talk with them! They can be an accountabilabuddy in your cause. By letting them know what you’re trying to do, they’ll be much more likely to help. They’ll also be less surprised when you randomly make requests from them (talking from experience on this one ????).

Step 5: Set a Date to Re-Evaluate
When setting the timeframe for when to try this out for, also set a date to re-evaluate this setup. Be honest with yourself on how it went. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I recognize when the “When..” conditions were met?
  • Did I read over the list?
  • Did the list work? Did I change to something more productive?
  • Am I doing better at this, or worse?

Next Steps

After step 5, you can choose to start over at whichever step you need. You may not have taken the agreement seriously — which is the most important step if you want this to succeed. Maybe you didn’t recognize the “When…” conditions, in which case that’s something to actively work on being mindful of the next time, and you might be able to start Step 3.

Please Share!

What Are Your “When…” conditions, or your action items when they’re met? If you decide to make a list, please share in the comments below so others can be inspired by you.


Hi, I'm Adam! I help millennials invest to reach financial independence sooner than they ever thought possible. Want to see what you could do to reach FI sooner? You're in the right place!


Why not add to the conversation below? Your voice is welcome!


September 6, 2017

It’s funny you should mention waiting: I started playing a game with myself a few years ago where I deliberately don’t get out my phone when waiting for something/someone. It was shockingly hard at first, but now I enjoy watching everyone around me automatically pull out their phones and take a minute to appreciate that I broke the habit! (I don’t have anything against it; just prefer knowing I’m doing it mindfully)

Oh I know I do this (pull out my phone when waiting). Usually, when I’m waiting I’m listening to an audiobook AND checking my phone though. I have a feeling I’m not the most approachable looking guy in the room.

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