Quit Reading and Writing and Start Doing

You're very likely wasting your precious time on meaningless fluff when you should be working.

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By Steve Tobak


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Yet another tweet just flashed across my Twitter feed about famous CEOs who get up at some ungodly hour like 4 a.m. Never mind that successful executives work long hours to get their work done, not to read or write about nonsense like other people's habits and personal productivity revelations.

Here's a revelation for you: If you want to be successful, stop reading and writing and start doing. Better yet, get to work. And if you think generating and consuming mass quantities of content is your work, then you've got an even bigger problem. Instead of a career, you're a career slacker.

I know that flies in the face of today's popular wisdom, but it's true. If I had to pick just one piece of advice that would make the biggest difference in most of your careers, it would be to quit wasting your precious time on meaningless fluff when you should be working.

And don't think for a minute that I'm a hypocrite. After decades as a tech-industry senior executive and management consultant, I have a world of experience, observations, insights and lessons to share. That is my job, I'm uniquely qualified to do it, and I work my tail off, as I always have.

Related: 7 Ways to Manage Your Most Motivated and Talented Employees

I'm talking about something completely different. Let me give you some examples.

I recently came across a guy who actually seems to have potential as a writer but he's wasting his life away writing literally hundreds and hundreds of reviews on Amazon. Seriously. Besides crazy long and involved book reviews, he even manages to wax poetic for three or four paragraphs about shampoo and tape measures.

The guy is probably addicted to the attention and instant gratification he gets from online feedback. And wielding the mighty keyboard gives the illusion of power and control over others. That's attractive for those who feel their own life hasn't gone as they'd hoped. Unfortunately, the activity provides no real fulfillment or income, for that matter. It's truly sad.

Likewise, millions of people write personal blogs, post anything and everything on Facebook, create YouTube channels, publish on LinkedIn, post pictures on Pinterest and Instagram, and Tweet their hearts out while getting off on every follower and click in the vain hope that something meaningful will actually come of it.

And get this. They're consuming even more content than they generate, without realizing that it's all user-generated. In other words, the vast majority of it is generated and propagated by ordinary people with no more expertise than they have. But what's wrong with that? If everyone's tweeting and consuming it, it must be good stuff, right? Crowds are smart, right? Wrong and wrong.

The vast majority of that content is designed to accomplish just one thing: get like-minded people to click and follow. So it's mostly feel-good fluff that conforms to the popular fads of the day: entrepreneurship, leadership, personal branding, emotional intelligence, positive thinking, inspirational quotes, personal productivity, habits of the rich and famous, that sort of thing.

Related: Of Course Corporations Are People

Click, consume, generate, post. Feel good for an instant. Rinse and repeat. Round and round the content goes. And it never, ever stops. Nor does the constant need for instant gratification. The wisdom of social-media crowds is actually just groupthink on a massive global scale.

There are 1.4 billion active Facebook users posting anything and everything. We send 500 million tweets a day. A billion people watch 6 billion hours of YouTube videos every month. WordPress says 400 million people view 17 billion blog pages monthly, including 120 million new posts and comments.

If there was ever a perfect example of an undifferentiated commodity business, having anything to do with generating or consuming any of that content has got to be it. It's as dog-eat-dog as selling jellybeans. Unless of course you're in the ad business like Google and Facebook. They're the only ones who make money off all that content.

According to eMarketer, Americans now spend as much time online as we do watching TV – five hours a day, on average. It's reasonable to assume we spend at least half that time generating and consuming content. So here's my question for you: What could you do with all that time? More important, what real business or career opportunities are you missing when you're otherwise distracted by all that nonsense?

Think about it.

Related: Why Honesty and Integrity Really Do Matter

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.

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