A few of the inputs I've been inputting

A few of the inputs I’ve been inputting

This is a challenge to take back your productivity.

(The initial challenge is over but a ton of people are starting again this week – DO IT!)

Hi. My name is Kyle and I have a problem:
I’m addicted to information. 

The above photo is of books that I am either currently reading or recently finished (missing: Antifragile, The Impact Equation, and Antifragile). It’s a whole bunch of input.

I love digging into one book and then another and another. There is so much fascinating information out there. Brilliant people wrapping up their brilliant ideas in a couple hundred pages. How can one resist?

It’s even worse when I go into Google Reader or my inbox and I see the headlines of a million bloggers with life-changing things to say. They have the key to life! They have the final answer to getting all the traffic in the world to this blog! They have the best business lessons we can learn from ancient civilizations! All the answers are there every time.

Some information is good to miss out on.

Some information is good to miss out on.

So I click. I click and I read and I find interesting information. Sometimes I even use that information. Recently, though, it’s just been a binge. Hours of shoveling ideas into my head. If you try really hard, you can know everything (read: 0%) there is to know.

My head is so full of their ideas that my own are drowning. My own idea muscle is atrophying.

It’s time to reboot and remember that the most important ideas are the ones you act on.

I’m challenging myself and you to do an information reset. Below are the rules:

For one week:

  • No reading books.
  • No reading blogs.
  • No reading newspapers.
  • No going on Facebook (even just to post).
  • No watching TV (shows, sports, news, anything).
  • No watching movies.
  • No listening to talk radio.
  • No going on Reddit.
  • No going on Twitter.
  • No information input – only output!

I know this sounds absurd but believe me, this week (starting Monday!) could help establish your relationship to information input and output for the rest of the year.

Keep in mind that I’m not hating on learning by reading. Reading holds a near-sacred place in my life. The idea here is to reset our relationship with reading and watching and consuming. Mindless consumption can kill our creativity.

Take a step back and look at your information intake

Take a step back and look at your information intake

The Case for Input Deprivation Week


You’ll take more action. When you take out all the time in the day that you spend on reading and looking at pictures of kittens online you suddenly find yourself with a ton of free time. You’ll realize how much time you spend being lazy! I understand that looking at mindless pictures online and reading a business book are two different types of inputs – obviously the cats are much more useful – but both of them drain you of opportunities to move forward on things you know you need to be.

It’s much easier to start in on the next item on your action list when you can’t distract yourself with whatever people are deciding to yell about on their Facebook walls. I am finding that it’s actually much easier to be productive because I’m not thinking of that book I want to be reading or going on reddit.

Get Zen!

Get Zen!

Increased mindfulness. While writing this post I have hit CMND+”T”+”FAC” about 5 times. Those are my keyboard shortcuts to get to Facebook. It’s my reflex every time there’s a pause in work. I do the same thing if a page is taking a while to load.

I deleted the Facebook and Pulse (app for reading blogs) off my phone because my reflex was to go on and read Seth Godin’s genius blog every time I was in line or stinking up a bathroom.

It’s amazing how much like crack addicts we information addicts actually are. We think we have to be getting new information and staying on top of the news or we’re falling behind. We think that if we go one minute without putting something new into our brains that we’ll become outdated or something. When you aren’t allowed to quench these info-cravings you are forced to notice your relationship to information. Very rarely do we go to a blog or book looking specifically for an answer to a problem. It’s a guiltless way of entertaining ourselves. We can call it education even though it’s almost always just an excuse to procrastinate.

You become aware of what you post to social networks. There have been three distinct times today that I’ve had an urge to post to Facebook and Twitter. It’s brutal. I had the wittiest things to say! They would have gotten a million “Likes”, it would have been great. If only I didn’t have a stupid rule stopping me… Posting on Facebook takes much more than just making the post. It’s the time I’d spend looking at how many likes it had and wondering if people would comment on it.

You have more ideas. It’s common for people to report that they get their best ideas in the shower, walking, or something similarly relaxing. Albert Einstein said that he found solutions to the most difficult problems while playing the violin. By taking away your reflexive consumption of information you open yourself up to way more opportunities to sit in that silence. When you’re not busy looking at other people’s ideas it’s easier to hear your own.



You realize what you’re looking for. When you have the urge to read a book and can’t it’s easy to see why you’re trying to read it. We often go to read about a problem that we already know how to solve. The solution is usually better found by sitting and actually trying to think about it ourselves.

For instance, reading a 10th book on health won’t make you more healthy. We all know the basics – just stop eating shitty food and go work out. That will take most of us farther than any book.

Reading another post on writing well won’t help me nearly as much as continuing to write will. Reading the newest business acquisition almost definitely won’t help me grow my own business. When I have the urge to read about something I now have to ask myself, “How can I best solve this problem myself?” Often, the answer I needed is waiting right behind that question.

Makes you more social. The first thing I do when I get in line at the coffee shop is get my phone out. God forbid somebody make eye contact with me. I don’t want to talk to you people, I wonder if anybody liked that very purposeful status I just made? Maybe you won’t talk to a bunch of people in line – I know I won’t – but at least I’m not avoiding standing with some fellow human beings.

You realize what news matters. You will hear about any news that impacts you from a friend. People talk about the things that matter. A meteor hit Russia yesterday and did a ton of damage. It’s crazy! That’s news! And I heard about it immediately because people talked about it. I didn’t hear about anything else. Apparently it wasn’t all that exciting. One of my good friends loves tech – he tells me everything I should know about the tech world. If I looked at a newspaper today I would probably get excited or upset about tons of headlines and then do exactly zero about them.

Thanks Amy!

Thanks Amy!

You gain respect for your own ideas. When you spend too much time reading other authors it’s easy to get lost in all the things you should be doing. You begin to see all the things that you’re not doing and all the things that others are doing better than you. You miss all the things you’re doing right. Reading an article about building a relationship with an audience doesn’t help me build an audience with you. I need to spend time testing ideas and writing about them for you. I need to spend more time emailing and meeting with you. That can’t be done be reading, only engaging.

 You gain perspective on information intake. When the week is over and you return to your information intakes, you will have a better relationship with them. You’ll catch yourself when you run to reddit to procrastinate. You’ll realize that you’re not actually on Facebook for anything productive most of the time. You’ll be more likely to take action on the information you read because of the self-discipline you’ve developed.

You’re forced to be original. When you can’t look for another person’s ideas on something you’re forced to come up with something yourself. When you can’t go looking online for inspiration you have to find it around (and inside) yourself.


Sometimes it's a matter of setting up your environment

Sometimes it’s a matter of setting up your environment

How To Stay Strong

It can take a lot of willpower to stop yourself from so many habits at once. Most of us can barely fix one bad habit at a time. I’ve found some tricks to make it easy though. The secret is to set up your environment so it’s more annoying to fall back into your bad habit than it is to maintain your input deprivation. Take 15 minutes to guarantee that you won’t be tempted to give up on Day 1.

  • Install StayFocusd or its equivalent and put all your time-sucking websites on there. ALL of them! Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (??), reddit, Digg (??), Chive, EVERYTHING!
  • Delete your consumption apps. I deleted Facebook, Pulse, and Twitter off my phone. Delete the apps that you reflexively go to when you have a minute of free time.
  • Move your books and magazines. They will just taunt you if they’re sitting on your bedstand or at your desk. Make a stack and put it out of site.
  • Carry a notebook with you. You’re going to begin having ideas pop up in your head, make notes of them. I like notepads more than phones because we associate them with creating instead of consuming. It’s risky to take notes on a smartphone if you’re trying to avoid inputs.
  • Take the batteries out of your remote. When you have the urge to flick on the TV you’ll have to go get batteries for the remote. This is a barrier to TV that will save your willpower pool from draining as you stare down the remote thinking about all the Jersey Shore and MadMen you’re missing.

If you did these 5 things you’re good to go.



Let’s Do This!

This is going to be tough, but it will be easier if we do it together.

If you’re game – comment below. Let us know you’re doing it with us and check in throughout the week.

If you have a question about the challenge (or a challenge for the challenge), let me know in the comments!

As always, feel free to email me at kyle at startupbros dot com.


Are you ready to MAKE some shit this week?

I hope so.

Because it’s all starting.


(Or Monday… if you want to be a baby about it…)


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Avatar for Kyle Eschenroeder
Kyle Eschenroeder

Thanks for taking the time to read this! Let me know what you think - the good, the bad, the ugly - in the comments below.

I'm an entrepreneur (more in the StartupBros About Page) in St. Petersburg, FL

  • Avatar for Scott Mason Scott Mason says:

    Comment #100

    It’s time (came here from Art of Manliness)

  • Avatar for RYAN RYAN says:

    It’s 2018 but I needed this if not more than needing it in 2015.

  • Avatar for pratik pratik says:

    this is one of the great articles i have read…..i have some query regarding it….i am a student n have examination in around 2 month….does input deprivation means i am not allowed to read my textbook, my notes as well because by reading textbook also i am consuming information….

    Hoping to hear from u soon…i am planning to start the challenge in 1 or 2 days…i am really excited abt it….Thank u for such a wonderful article…

  • Avatar for April April says:

    Here it is, 2017, and I’m about to start this.

    UGH, this addiction. Books, Magazines, Netflix, PODCASTS! My beloved podcasts. This is my weakness. On strengthsfinder, my number one was “Input”. I’m like this dirty, gluttonous trough of information…it’s making me all fat and sluggish.

    I’m so excited to actually have an excuse to completely detach.

  • Avatar for Josh Felton Mathews Josh Felton Mathews says:

    I love the idea of going entirely without information input and focusing on productivity but what if you run into a problem that requires a specific tool to use? For example, when designing iOS applications, Xcode provides a huge library of tools that would be impossible to memorize and they provide excellent documentation to get started with those tools. Is using that documentation cheating during the info abstinence week?

  • Avatar for Tamara Tamara says:

    Great post! Being a total information addict….I have been obsessively trolling the net looking for help on how to stop obsessively trolling the net! You have some great insights! Thanks for the article!

  • Avatar for Peter Guarraci Peter Guarraci says:

    I came to this post from Art of Manliness. I could not have come at a worse time for me- I have to catch up on Netflix, I have to finish the book I’m reading so I can get back to the other book I was reading. My head wants more content. BTW, I am a compulsive gambler who hasn’t gambled in 2.5 years, but I realize I consume content much like I played blackjack- the next card could not come fast enough. So, Im starting now(unless my girlfriend makes me go to the movies tonight, in which case Im starting tomorrow!) Il report back in a week. Thanks.

  • Avatar for Theresa Theresa says:

    OK, great post! Can relate to it and all the comments. Glad to know I’m not alone, and to give it a name. I’ve seen this in myself, and good to have the confirmations about just creating what I’m working on.

    You do know you wrote an article telling us to quit reading your article?

    • Yes Theresa, my general goal in writing anything is to make the thing I wrote useless… that’s the only way to write anything useful!

      BUT we always need to come back to center. So I hope that people come back here when they’re ready for another Input Deprivation Week ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Avatar for Henry P Henry P says:

    Starting right now! I’m excited to see how it goes.

  • Avatar for Fernando Fernando says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Kyle. I had read this a few months ago but didn’t have the guts to go through with it. I’ve been improving a lot in various aspects of my life lately, though (started working out, tackling lingering problems that needed/need solving, reevaluating my values in life), and I think I’m ready to try this now.

    I have a few questions, though: what about, say; I want to try a new cake recipe but don’t know how to do it? Or some workout technique I’m not sure how to perform? Is it ok to look it up online or should I look elsewhere?

    Also, what about checking e-mails? I do get a lot of silly useless stuff in my inbox, but there is some genuinely useful stuff in there (i.e. work related mail and some info about courses that I’m looking into).

    Again, thank you so much. Wish me luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Fernando,

      Congrats on all the huge shifts you’re making. I think this piece will be helpful for you!

      So the general rule is: don’t give yourself temptations.

      If you want to look for an *exact* cake recipe, then it’s fine to jump online and find it–but you have to explicitly tell yourself that you are getting online to do that ONE thing. It’s better if you just use the cake recipe on the back the cake mix for a week ๐Ÿ˜‰

      On emails: The idea of input deprivation isn’t that information isn’t genuinely useful–it absolutely is! It’s about shifting your relationship TO information. Unless you’re going to lose your job, don’t check your email. You can always go back next week and see what you missed. If you feel that you NEED to for work purposes, then give yourself one 20-minute period to do email a day. And be strict about it. This will focus you to ONLY deal with the emails that you actually need to.

      Good luck!

      Come back next week and let me know how it went ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Avatar for Josue Josue says:

    Starting right now..thanks for the motivation, see you next week.

  • Avatar for Abi Abi says:

    This is such an inspiring post, I have been hopping from post to post on this site after landing here in my desperation to quit my ‘self help’ addiction. I am unsubscribing from all my Gurus, so I shouldn’t really subscribe to you either .. I will endeavour to unplug and go into action.
    Thanks guys ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Avatar for Martin Martin says:

    Guys this is perfect for me. I quit what I did for 20 years 2 months ago and I have been stuck in a spiral of input (Blogs self help books etc) and procrastination since. I’m going to have a go at this. Many thanks I’m hoping for a breakthrough.

  • Avatar for David David says:

    I’m a proofreader, so I have to read tens of thousands of words a day – I guess I can’t take this challenge? I’d absolutely love to!

  • Avatar for shivam shivam says:

    Duh! Lost it. Couldn’t keep up to challenge. Back to reading ebooks, self helps like crazy.

  • Avatar for shivam shivam says:

    Insanely awesome advice. Let’s do it. Will also keep you posted on what i accomplished or at-least hoping too.

  • Avatar for Sam Sam says:

    This is good. I am totally suffering from the reading addiction. I will leave out facebook but eliminate everything else.

  • Avatar for Kid Corona Kid Corona says:

    Damn dude, you’re so right! Time to o this!! Although, Its tougher for me because my business is based on FB and Twitter and Online info…hahaha, but I’m in!

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