How BuzzFeed Makes Me More Productive

No, this isn’t satire. And there’s no twist ending either.

I’ve been easily distracted for as long as I can remember. I have a nice habit of rabbit-holing – start on one article that’s relevant to the task at hand, click three more links on the side of the page and keep going until I have twenty-three tabs open and no recollection of what day of the week it is. This of course makes BuzzFeed, the easiest place to waste time on the internet, a sort of catnip for the mind. There’s a theory behind spending time each day hopping down the many rabbit holes the internet has on offer – waste time when your mind needs a break and you might find some unexpected inspiration along the way.  

The Process

I first realized there might be something to the idea of “well-planned distraction” in college. I majored in advertising, so a good deal of my classes were just on how to think – and how to think more efficiently. There was an oft-cited method for how to produce better ideas within my program, and it went like this:

  1. Find out your client or brand.
  2. Do all the research you can on your client, on their competitors, on what people are saying about them, what people want from them, and more.
  3. Think and think and think and think until you feel your brain refusing to listen to you anymore.
  4. Throw everything down and go do something else for two hours, for an evening, for a day. Do something you enjoy like seeing a movie or reading a book – and don’t feel guilty about it.
  5. Wait. Just wait for your mind to dance around the problem while you’re distracted. This is by far the hardest step.
  6. Enjoy the “A-Ha!” moment headed your way.

The first time this was described to me I had to make sure the professor was serious. After all, I’d spent my whole life up until then holding off on fun until work was completed. And then here was a well-respected industry professional telling me to procrastinate on purpose. It horrified and delighted me. While I loved the idea of planned distraction, it took a very long time to trust the process. 

The collection of distractions for Steps 4-5 that I keep on my desk.

The Insights

The first time I really felt this work I was desperately searching for an insight on GoPro that wasn’t “EXTREME SPORTS” or “UNDERWATER FISH FILM”. I ran myself ragged on research and ideating and I was terrified that the idea would never come, that I’d only find that nugget of insight by digging around so deep in the mine shafts of my mind I wouldn’t even know where I was anymore.

That turned out not to be the case, not by a long shot. Instead, I went and shot NERF guns with my friends. We passed by one of Savannah’s many creepy old buildings and I thought of how fun it’d be to explore it – and there was my inspiration. GoPro was perfect for urban exploring – people could film the adventures they went on and connect with others via an app to discover even better experiences. That spec campaign ultimately played an integral role in me getting my first post-college job. And it only happened because I took a break.

Even so, it was a struggle for most of my college career to trust that my mind would just figure it out as long as I gave it the room to breathe. But I continued doing it, and my best campaigns were always the ones where I did my research, made my sketches, and moved on with my life for a while – deadlines permitting, of course.

Now let’s fast forward a few years, work our way back around to how BuzzFeed specifically makes me more productive. In the working world, you can’t exactly go out to a movie in the middle of the day or wander around the city to provoke an insight – but you do have the internet and all its wonders. And there’s no better gateway to being on the pulse of the weird world that is internet culture than BuzzFeed.

Need to know what memes are taking over twitter? There’s a listicle for that.

Need to know what’s happening in pop culture? There’s a listicle for that.

Need to know how the internet feels about a certain topic? There’s a listicle for that.

You get the idea.

BuzzFeed isn’t just a great place to let your mind play – it’s a wonderful field of strange insights just waiting to be harvested. When you need a break, you read articles on cute kittens. When you need a wild card idea so bizarre it just might work, you read articles on Tumblr’s opinion of bagged milk. Things that don’t seem to correlate at all somehow come together in my subconscious when I’m reading their endless stream of lists and quizzes.

A typical pile of insights after a BuzzFeed binge.

While it may be easy to pin BuzzFeed as novel brain candy, the insights it provides can be integral to getting a largely unfiltered view of what is making the minds and hearts of its audience tick. There are things to be learned from the way BuzzFeed has gotten the web community to share their most shining moments and hardest lessons. You want to know what’s important to millennials on almost any given cultural topic? They can help you find it. Want to know why people aren’t getting married or what the new cult makeup brands are? You can find out on BuzzFeed. Sometimes, people even share their thoughts on ad campaigns with BuzzFeed – and any marketer would love to see what people are saying about their work. 

It’s all there, but it’s so often overlooked as a time-waster or the cure for being bored in line. While I make no claims that everything on BuzzFeed is a piece of golden inspiration, enough of it is that it’s worth making an argument for. So next time you’re wracking your brain for a niche insight, perhaps take a few moments to see if there’s a BuzzFeed article for it. It might not solve all your problems, but you’d be surprised what you can learn – besides, it’s fun to use. BuzzFeed is one rabbit hole that, when used correctly, is worth digging into.