How to Stop Watching TV? [and Improve Your Life]

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Stop watching TV!

The time people spend watching TV is mindbogglingly vast.

All that time is pretty much wasted.

Even trying to make yourself feel better by arguing you only watch Discovery and educational stuff doesn’t really count.

Documentaries are a TV trap for smart people.

stop watching tv

The only time you can say that you are doing productive TV watching is when you set yourself a task or goal you accomplish by watching and gathering information.

For example, I have a BBC documentary that I have to watch to get some information about how travel industry works. I have watched that for a while now, in favor of Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory.

So, just for today, don’t switch on the TV and don’t go to news websites for the latest information about things that mostly do not affect your life.

I’m talking about TV, but you can expand that to all media and news consumption. Here’s where the average adults spend their time (nielsen.com):

wasting time tv media habits

The time you spend on TV and other media. Average American watches over 4 hours of TV every single day. 4 hours means that the average person will spend almost 9 years of their life watching TV (non-stop 24h per day).

To put that in perspective, look at the following chart.

cognitive-surplus

200 billion hours means that people spend as much time behind the TV as they do in their jobs. It means that one-third of the average person’s life has a TV in it. Just imagine what you could accomplish if you would use that time for something more meaningful.

News is entertainment

Almost all news is entertainment.

There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. Just stop lying to yourself that you are watching or reading news to get some valuable information. You are not getting it from the news.

TV is entertainment.

News is entertainment. In every form, not just TV.

Youtube is TV.

Documentaries are entertainment to trick smart people to spend their time on media.

The news is mental chewing gum!

Yes, in some cases, weather reports may be helpful.

I live in a country where the temperature differences from one day to the other can be almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t need a weather report for that. You look at the thermometer outside your window before you leave home.

Yes, the coronavirus updates are important. But you don’t have to watch it for four hours every day.

Nothing will happen when you miss all those “Breaking reports” and “Ongoing developments.” Even with emergency, like a virus outbreak.

News is junk, designed to keep you glued to the screen.

Next step: Start a TV and news media diet.

The only problem you will have is to figure out what to do with the hours you have left every day.

TV quotes Wright

Television is chewing gum for the eyes. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Always on TV

In many homes and offices, the TV is always on. From the time people wake up in the morning until they go to sleep.

Don’t do that!

Always on TV is a huge distraction that messes with your attention and focus.

If you really have to watch something on TV, then switch it on only for that specific program.

There are several techniques you can use to remind yourself that you have decided to not have the TV on for no good reason:

  1. Take the batteries out of the remote. Extra points for storing the batteries in the other room, preferably on another floor.
  2. Unplug the TV. The plugs are usually inconvenient to access, and this should deter you from a mindless TV binge. Of course, you can combine it with the batteries out tactic.
  3. And this is for extra hardcore people: unplug the TV and store it in a closet.

The point of these techniques is to make it inconvenient to turn on the TV. The time it takes to overcome the obstacles you have set up for yourself should be enough that your conscious self can evaluate the situation and decide if you really need to watch the TV.

Next step: Go on! Unplug the TV and give the cable to a friend for a week.

News is negativity

You should read why you need to change your negative self-talk. A good first step in that direction is to turn off the TV. Newsworthy items are usually something bad happening. Reality shows, advertising, and soap make you question your self-image.

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Don’t torture yourself!

We are hooked on news and entertainment because thousands of years ago, they were scarce. Gossip was important, so we could understand what’s happening in our social group of a couple of dozens of people.

It was scarce.

Now, gossip is everywhere, but our brain doesn’t know it’s not important.

There was not much entertainment when we were hunting and gathering. We were glued to every story other people told.

It was scarce.

Now it’s abundant. We have a torrent of entertainment, just a touch of a button away. Our brain still wants it.

You don’t need it!

Just stop the gluttony of information.

News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether. Giving it up will make you happier ~ theguardian.com.

Too tired to do anything?

I have heard the argument that people are too tired to do anything after work and TV is the only thing they can muster. I have been in this situation myself. After 10 hours of physical labor or focusing on tough mental tasks, you don’t have enough energy to do anything.

But TV is not the answer!

If you are so tired, sleep!

In case you still have some energy left, there’s one thing that is better than TV.

Go for a walk!

I have compiled a list of things you might want to consider replacing daily TV watching.

TV quotes Williamson

It doesn’t take money to turn off the television and cultivate real bonding time. ~ Marianne Williamson

Here are some ideas on how to stop watching TV and do something more productive with your life.

But before we start, make it hard to watch TV. The easiest way to make watching TV hard is to take away the power cord and put it somewhere where it’s very inconvenient to get. The garage or attic are excellent places. If you live in an apartment building, you can put int in your mailbox downstairs.

Go for a Walk

Walking doesn’t require much effort on your part. Just go out there and do it. If you can take your kids or partner with you, and spend an hour just enjoying being outside. Go to a park nearby, but just walking on a city street will give you more than watching TV. Find out all the ways walking is good for you.

You can combine your 20 to 40-minute walk with listening to audiobooks. You can use non-fiction books to learn something new. If you don’t have the energy for that, listen to Harry Potter or other entertaining works of fiction. Yes, that’s still entertainment, but the main activity is walking.

Start a Hobby

Start a hobby. What are your interests? Make a list of stuff that excites you and dive into it. For some, it may be stamps, for others building a project car. Or try one of these:

  1. painting,
  2. knitting,
  3. sculpting,
  4. musical instruments,
  5. fishkeeping,
  6. baking,
  7. woodworking,
  8. origami,
  9. jewelry making,
  10. sewing,
  11. scrapbooking,
  12. creative writing,
  13. basket weaving,
  14. genealogy,
  15. drawing,
  16. dancing.

Whatever bakes your noodle.

Learn Something New

Learn something that may become a part of your life or a new career. Although the previous activities all include learning something, you may also go on a more academic route.

  • Learn a language,
  • take an online psychology class,
  • take an astronomy course,
  • become a programmer.

You will get an education equivalent to a college degree in a few years if you spend half of the average media time on learning.

You can learn anything on your own. Youtube is a great source of endless how-to videos.

Warning: don’t replace your TV-habit with mindless Youtube surfing. To avoid the danger that you get sucked into Youtube, take a low-cost online course.

tv-quotes Paul

I don’t think I miss anything by not watching television. ~ Alexandra Paul

Work

Start a side business.

Maybe you can turn one of your hobbies into a business. Think about the things you know, what is your specialty on your day job? Turn that knowledge into an online course.

Read next:  The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything, Josh Kaufman [VIDEO]

Another way to create a new career for yourself is to learn a new skill and document it by blogging and/or Youtube. There are always people below your level, and you can turn this process into a business.

For example, I created a blog that was among the top websites in its category. It took me 1 to 2 hours per day on average. Most people spend at least twice as much on TV.

Talk to people

Amazing things happen when you turn off the TV. You have to communicate with other members of the household. Yes, I know it’s frightening, but do it anyway, and you’ll find out that talking is great if you do just for killing time without the pressure of solving problems. Or you might talk to people and solve your problems.

Digital devices and social media are making us less social. At least in the physical sense. Prioritize face-to-face interactions with your friends and family.

Put it in your calendar!

Read a book

Reading is part of most of the activities described above, but you can take up reading just to read all the books considered the pinnacle of human civilization.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Read 20-30 pages per day, and you will go through 25-30 books in a year. 25 books a year is about 5 times more than average. But don’t hold back. If you read fast and spend half of your TV time reading, you’ll devour more than 150 books per year. 16 Great Willpower Books, Motivation, and How We Think.

I have stopped reading paper books lately.

I’m not happy about it.

I decided that from now on, I’ll read at least one paragraph every evening.

If I feel like reading 10 pages, that’s OK, but one paragraph is enough.

Play

Play with your kids.

Play with your partner.

Play with your friends.

Board games, card games, lawn games, party games, etc. But don’t limit yourself, you can build Lego cities and pillow castles. You can play home and doctor and cops and robbers. Avoid games with screens (console, PC, tablet).

Play with your pet if you have one.

Sleep more

As many people point out, they are too tired to do anything but watch TV. Maybe the logical thing to do would be to get to bed early and get more sleep? Go to bed early and wake up earlier, rested ready to do the things you like first thing in the morning before the activities of the day take a toll on you.

I understand how TV or Youtube can suck you in. They will take hours of your time.

Don’t do that!

Go to bed earlier, sleep more, AND wake up earlier!

tv quotes Warhol

When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships. ~ Andy Warhol

You don’t have to be Amish

A little bit of TV is OK.

I like to watch TV-series, and I love movies. Set aside some time for that. One episode every weeknight and movies on weekends. But set aside a specific time to watch TV or recorded material. Do not use the TV for the background.

Do it for just one day, but if you can do it again tomorrow and the day after that. And then after a month, you will be amazed.

30-day Challenge

You can test what happens if you don’t watch TV at all with a 30-day challenge. After you have powered through a month of no-TV, then you make a more informed decision on how you want to continue. You can take on a 30-day writing challenge.

Now just turn that damn thing off and take the batteries out of the remote!

And don’t switch from one type of media so another. Say “no” to all media channels for a month. Facebook too… and Instagram.

_____________________________
Image: Old broken TV by Schmilblick
Image: Cognitive Surplus visualized by David McCandless
Image: Medzilaborce – Andy Warhol Museum by P. Matel

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nik

    Thanks! I am going to take your advice and watch only one episode every week night. It will be hard but I’m tired of being a slave to my television.

    1. Priit Kallas

      Great idea! I hope you can keep it up.

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Priit Kallas

Founder of FixWillpower.com. I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower
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