Improve Your Life #17: Stop Watching TV
Stop watching TV!
The time people spend watching TV is mindbogglingly vast. And that time is pretty much wasted. Even trying to make yourself feel better by arguing that you only watch Discovery and educational stuff doesn’t really count.
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 one BBC documentary that I have to watch to get some information. I have put that for a while now in favor of Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory.
So, just today don’t switch on the TV and don’t go to news websites to for the latest information about things that mostly have no effect on your life. The time you spend on TV is staggering. Average American watches more than 5 hours of TV every single day. This means that average person will spend 9 years of their life watching TV (non-stop 24h per day).
To put that in perspective take a look at the following chart.
200 billion hours means that people spend as much time behind 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.
Always on TV
In many homes and offices, the TV is always on. From the time people wake up in the morning until the time 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 show or movie.
There are several techniques you can use to remind yourself that you have decided to not have the TV on for no good reason:
- Take the batteries out of the remote. Extra points for storing the batteries in the other room, preferably on another floor.
- Unplug the TV. The plugs are usually inconvenient to access ant this should deter you from a mindless TV binge. Of course, you can combine it with the batteries out tactic.
- 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 a little bit 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 at that time.
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 to replace daily TV watching.
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.
Start a Hobby
Start a hobby. What are you interested in? 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 you might want to try one of these:
- musical instruments,
- jewelry making,
- creative writing,
- basket weaving,
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 decide to go on a more academic route. Learn a language, take an online psychology class, take an astronomy course. You will get education equivalent to a college degree in a few years if you spend half of the average TV 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.
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? Find a way to turn that knowledge into an online course.
Another way to create a new career for yourself is to start learning a new skill and documenting it by blogging and/or Youtube. There are always people below your level, and you can turn this process into business.
Talk to people
Amazing things happen when you turn off the TV and are forced 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. 12 Great Willpower Books, Motivation, and How We Think.
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).
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.
When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships. ~~Andy Warhol
A little bit of TV is OK. I like to watch TV-series, and I’m a great movie lover. Set aside some time for that. One episode every weeknight and movies on weekends. But set aside 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.
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.
Now just go and turn that damn thing off and take the batteries out of the remote!
Read more why news is bad for you.
Image: Old broken TV by Schmilblick
Image: Cognitive Surplus visualized by David McCandless
Image: Medzilaborce – Andy Warhol Museum by P. Matel
Also published on Medium.