Is Your Desire to Learn Turning You Into a Saturated Sponge?

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“You’re like an information sponge!” You’ve likely heard this phrase if you’re a self-identified lifelong learner like me. But sponges can only take in so much water before they start sloshing dirty water around instead of cleaning the counter. Similarly, we can only take in so much information before experiencing information overload.

If you’re hungry for knowledge, today’s episode will help you make sure you can digest all the info you take in without becoming creatively constipated.

Tune in for these highlights:

💋🎙 Why passive consumption can set us on the path to overwhelm

💋🎙 How our thirst for knowledge can lead to creative constipation (and what to do instead)

💋🎙 2 tips to avoid becoming a saturated sponge

💋🎙 How to digest new information more efficiently

Avoid becoming a saturated sponge by hopping over to the comments and letting me know something you’ve recently learned. 

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Alyssa Patmos 0:04

This is Make It Mentionable. I’m Alyssa Patmos and this is the show about being human in a world that encourages us to be robots. I invite you to join me as we journey through the mess, the magic and the mania in between. Because what we can talk about, we can manage. This honest conversation extravaganza includes free flowing conversations and high doses of vulnerability to remind you that you aren’t alone. No topic is off limits, and episodes are designed to leave you smarter, aka more self aware than when you came. I am so glad you’re here.

Hello, Hello. And welcome back to another episode of Make It Mentionable. I’m your host, Alyssa Patmos. And today we’re talking about one of my favorite things that I what I’m talking about, which is knowledge and learning and the process of learning. And the reason I’m fascinated by this is because I have entered, I’ve been a saturated sponge numerous times in my life. And if you think about the purpose of a sponge, its intention is you know, to help you clean dishes or to clean off the counters like Jeff loves the sponge he used he loves to use it for everything like he’ll wipe off the cabinets with it will wipe off the countertops and then go use it on the dishes. I’m like more multipurpose or multiple sponges, I would like a smell. That’s for dirty dishes, and then one that’s for like cleaner things. So so it is now officially my responsibility to make sure that our sponge is swapped out enough in our household. Because the thing is, is that like as the sponge gets used more and more over time, like it’s it, it gets useless, it doesn’t clean as well. So you can think about it. And on the macro scale, like, okay, you’ve used this bunch for three months, and you can’t wring everything out of it all the time. And it’s just getting dirtier and battery’s growing. So okay, might be time for a new sponge. But even like on a day to day basis, if you know you got it really wet, and then you go clean up a spill, or you wring it out, and then you go clean up a spill and it gets really wet in that process, it becomes saturated, and then it doesn’t do its job. It’s just flinging dirty water on things. And and a lot of times we can become like saturated sponges, especially when it comes to knowledge and how much information we consume. I mean, we live in an age where there’s so much information thrown at us all the time. Social media, blog posts, articles, email, and then just the conversations we’re having like we can find any amount of information that we want and consume it for hours, and hours and hours. And so then we we become very passive in that process. And over time, we can get saturated with other people’s thoughts. And if we’re not wringing ourselves out, we can become useless in sharing our own gifts and in sharing our own creativity. And so is there a time? Or do you feel like a saturated sponge right now? Are you consuming so much that you aren’t actually unleashing your own creativity on the world. And by creativity, I don’t mean you know that you’re going out in your painting or you’re sculpting creativity is whatever makes you feel creative. I had a conversation about this with my dad once he was like, I don’t really feel like I’m that creative. And he’s telling you this as he’s like grilling a pineapple and is going to go put ice cream on it. And I’m like, well, that’s a creative thing to grill. For Jeff, you know, he’s really creative in spreadsheets, which is not how my brain works at all. And so it’s creativity can be whatever it is, that is your creative gift, something that you have a different lens on that that other people other people don’t. And, and if we are constantly consuming though other people’s thoughts,

reading things constantly, sometimes we can get creatively constipated because we’re saturated sponges. So in order to bring ourselves out, it can be good to to create a system around some active and active behavior after a passive consumption. So for me, I have been reading a ton lately on one I’ve talked about it digital minimalism um which led me down a rabbit hole of solitude, which, and then I was reading about digital Gardens, which digital gardens are really cool. I’m gonna go on a slight tangent about what they are. It’s kind of like this space. It’s kind of like a public notebook where it’s, it’s in between, like completely raw note. I mean, last week I had before I cleaned it out, I had 800 notes in my iPhones note app, and like a published blog post. And so it’s a way for, you know, to interact with thoughts and to link ideas together in a public way that people can read and see, but not have to have it be this like 800 word published article. So I’m creating a digital garden. And I’m not quite ready to share it, but I will be sharing it soon. I’m super excited about it, I put some really fun quick stories in there that don’t warrant an entire blog post or an entire episode, but have these like fun little nuggets. And so So digital gardens were actually one way that I started being more active in consumption. So I’ve been reading about digital minimalism, I’ve been reading about solitude, digital gardens, I’ve been reading about education, I’m fascinated with the way people learn with the way that we learn, and the differences between like learning, and education and teaching and what role each of those play together, because learning, nobody can really decide if I learned something, I set the intention out that with each episode here, there’s you learn something about yourself and increases self awareness. But I can’t guarantee that you’re gonna learn something, because learning is our responsibility. It’s much more of like an intrinsic thing. Teaching now is like, prescribed information in a lot of ways. And so my thoughts are have baked on this. And this isn’t an episode about this, but fascinated by the differences. And it’s an ongoing conversation that I’m having in my notes app with myself.

Because we end up so often, defaulting to thinking that having more knowledge is going to solve our problems. And I think a lot of the ways that the school system, especially in the US brings us up, we’re taught to prioritize learning from someone else being taught something and then like, going out and being able to execute on that, but but the school system encourages so much memorization, that it doesn’t encourage integration, in a lot of ways. And so as kids, you know, we’re in fourth grade, learning about history. And we know a test is coming up, and we’re gonna have to memorize the information. I don’t remember anything from fourth grade history at all. Because past that past, like studying for the test, and memorizing it needing to start there, like I didn’t use it in a creative way, I didn’t teach it back to someone, there wasn’t a lot of discussion, we end up learning something consuming it, we either consume it or we’re being taught it. But it’s in a way where it doesn’t foster like that next level integration, that’s how many of us were brought up in, in the school system. And so now as adults, like there becomes this pattern of wanting to absorb a bunch of information, because we live in a society that completely prioritizes logic and the intellect over other ways of knowing. And we end up we end up going down research rabbit holes, which I have talked about numerous times, but but we end up going down these holes and just like consuming, consuming, consuming. And we can get obsessed with gathering new information and researching, instead of actually acting on that nudge that we had in the first place that sent us down that rabbit hole. And so to avoid and that and that is the result that is when you end up being a saturated sponge. So I really have to watch myself because this is a pattern for me. It’s a pattern for me where I’ll go down a research rabbit hole and want to know everything about the topic because you know, then there’s this magical endpoint of certainty where it’ll all of a sudden feel safe to put your idea out there, which is completely not true. It’s an illusion. But I ended up going down research rabbit holes at times and then and then I just feel gross because I’ve reached saturation point with content and then I don’t have the energy to go out and produce my own ideas. And that is a horrible place to be especially when you’re in touch with your creativity because it’s painful then you have trapped creativity. Just like we can experience trap joy we can experience It’s trapped creativity where we’re not sharing ourselves and our gifts. And, and that is that sucks. It’s painful place to be so. So to avoid being a saturated sponge and just feeling like numb from the weight of everybody else’s thoughts. One thing that I’ve started practicing that I’ve noticed is really helpful is when I read something, just making one connection to something else I’ve read or to something else I’ve been thinking about in a note. So when I was in this deep dive of digital gardens, a lot of people who talk about them were saying, like, never have an orphan note, like never have a note in your notes app that isn’t connected to some other note or some other thought. Because it encourages networked thinking where we’re linking patterns together, and it actually helps us learn and come to know more. Partly because we’re not just absorbing a fact we’re integrating it and connecting it to other ideas. And that’s how we learn even better. So, so I’ve been doing this I’ve been every time I read an article now, I either highlight a section and then like make a quick note on it related to another thought, or, or I have, or I go put a quote from that article into another note that’s already been started like on that topic. And if I’m not doing that, even if I’m getting better at linking, it’s not perfect. So if I if I’m not doing that, I’m at least making sure that I’m translating something I read in there into a thought of my own. And as I’ve been doing this, it makes me feel way more active in the consumption process. So rather than just being a passive consumer, I’m actually like, taking the time to chew the food, I’m taking the time to chew the information and actually digest it. I mean, it’s really uncomfortable. If you take a big bite of food, and you get to at five bites and swallow like that, that’s uncomfortable, you got to chew more, I think there’s someone who said like we should be doing like 20 bites, with every every bite we take. And you know, that takes a lot of patience at times. But it allows us to digest better. And similarly, when we take the time to chew on a thought or to chew on an article. And, and I don’t even if I transform it into one sentence that I write that is like a summary, or is linking it to some thought I’ve had, it’s been so much easier for me to digest, and to produce things of my own. And it’s connecting thoughts in different ways that allow me to avoid the creative constipation cycle that can come in at so many times. I think a lot of times and Laura Bell gray of talking Trump talks about this a lot. A lot of times writer’s block isn’t not having anything to say it’s actually having too much to say, because we’ve consumed and consumed and consumed without taking these like micro moments to actively connect or to create one thing that is slightly new from the consumption process. And so we end up with writer’s block, because there’s then when we want to sit down and start it feels like there are so many things like so many things. And that is definitely something that I have struggled with. And so this is like massively transforming my creative process and my writing process, which is helping dramatically, and it’s helping me retain information better and cultivate viewpoints and cultivate opinions in a way that feel backed by not just reading one thing but but a trail of thoughts, and I’m better able to see that breadcrumb and it’s been really rewarding. So I’ve challenged you. I’d love to know like Where where is an area where you feel like you have a tendency to become a saturated sponge, for me is definitely going down research rabbit holes, like again reading digital minimalism. I haven’t been on social as much so that’s cut out a consumption channel. But like going down research rabbit holes is where my saturated sponge moments come out. So where do yours come out? And what’s one thing you could do to start to alleviate that? Again, some possibilities are committing to taking a note after you read something so that you’re linking it to your own thoughts. Another possibility is asking someone At around you, your partner a friend, if they’re willing to have a conversation about an article, because when we can discuss something or or explain it to someone else where we’re testing, our ability to understand it, we’re testing our ability to, to see where the holes are in what we’ve learned. And that only aides are learning even more. Being a saturated sponge doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t feel good at all, because it can lead to creative constipation. And so I encourage you, if you this resonates with you, if you’ve ever felt like a saturated sponge, to try one of these two things to try either linking thoughts after you read it or teaching it to someone or explaining it to someone so that it’s not blocking your Pathways because we need your we need your gifts in the world. And the last thing we need is it just getting gummed up by the ideas of of everyone else to the point where you’re not sharing it. And if you come up with your own creative ways to solve this problem, I’d love to hear from you because it’s something I’m fascinated by and constantly trying to understand and decipher more of so come head over to the comments if you have your own solutions. And I would love to know if you’ve ever felt like a saturated sponge, Alyssa forward slash show. And if you want to stay up to date in between episodes, sign up for the peel, which is my weekly newsletter that gives fresh perspectives that just instigate you to change your life. You can sign up at Alyssa forward slash the peel. Thank you so much for tuning in and I will catch you next week.

You’ve just finished listening to another episode of Make It Mentionable with me, your host, Alyssa Patmos. If you’re looking for more in between episodes, then sign up for The Peel. It’s my free newsletter that gives tips for how to navigate whatever life dishes and it’s also the place where I share the juiciest of stories. To check it out, head on over to Thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you next time.

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