Want More Time? Stop Watching TV. Now.

Countless articles, studies, polls, books, and documentaries have been created for the study on the negative effect of watching numerous hours of television. It is a national and world craze, an addiction to the world you can lose yourself in when engaged in televised dramas, sitcoms, and late-night shows. Granted, there are a lot of arguments for the positive sides of TV, such as:

  1. Educational programs for young children that promote learning and growth (e.g. Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, etc.);
  2. National and international documentaries on myriad facets of our world, culture, and society (e.g. PBS, The History Channel, etc.);
  3. Immediate notification of news happenings across our country and on international soil (e.g. any news channels, BBC, etc.); and
  4. Ability to watch a world-televised event in real time (e.g. The Olympics, The Winter Olympics, etc.).

But, this post is not to argue for the favor of watching more and more TV. This post is about the negative effects of TV and how we are literally sitting on our butts and wasting away precious life energy away. Life energy that could have gone towards: cultivating great relationships, traveling to new destinations, learning a new activity/craft, learning a new language, enjoying nature … as you can see, many, many options are there. You just have to get out of the funk TV has on you and look around to what the world has to offer. And it’s certainly more than what TV has to.

Allow me to illustrate several facts on the destructiveness of one of the most beloved pastimes in history:

  1. By the time a person is 65 years old, he/she will have spent 9 years watching TV.
  2. Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
  3. Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
  4. Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54%

This is sad. Really sad. When many of us complain about not having enough time (and who doesn’t, realistically speaking?), I ask, well, how about cutting your hours watching TV? Their responses sadden me. People cannot possibly miss the next episode of Lost, 24, or the new season of American Idol. Heaven forbid! Yet, does watching those shows actually add value to your life? Truly? I believe the answer is no, for most.

If you want more time, you’re going to have to cut the cord. It will seem hard and there will be a withdrawal period where you may feel antsy and unsure of what to do with yourself. This is normal. TV is an addiction, just like computer games, Internet surfing, drugs, or alcohol. You can do it cold turkey, and it will be painful. However, it must be done, in order to save yourself.

Here are 4 steps on how to stop watching TV and start having a life again:

  1. Cut back. If you’re used to watching 3 hours of TV every night after work, start cutting it back to 2 hours. Use that extra hour towards something useful and productive. Perhaps you can organize your closet. Unclutter an area of your home. Read a book. Do the laundry. Wash the dishes. Go for a walk outside. Play with your kids. Pay your bills. Call a friend. Sleep early. When you realize that yes, time is yours to have and do what you will with it, cut down to only 1 hour of TV. Finally, none at all.
  2. Get rid of your TV. Just like that. Sell it at a garage sale. Give it away to charity. Get your life back.
  3. Remove rewards until the job is done. Eliminate watching TV until you have a certain goal or project of yours completed. Removing rewards is a great motivation to getting things done. This works time and time again. But only if you have the discipline and focus. Just like a child must complete his or her homework until he/she can play outside, so must you enforce this rule upon yourself. Have that looming paper deadline you must complete for a class? Don’t watch TV until you have your paper complete. Unplug it and move it away from you if you must. Have a goal of doing a major spring cleaning that will take days? Don’t watch TV until every single room has been cleared, cleaned, uncluttered, and organized. Try it. You might be surprised by the effect.
  4. Enlist the help of your partner or friend. Just like exercising can be more fun with a work out buddy, slowly removing yourself of your addiction to TV when doing it with a friend can be encouraging. Be positive. Think positive. When you’ve saved 15 hours a week from watching mindless TV, celebrate. Go out for a nice meal. Treat yourself to a little something. But do it together.

So, how did I go from 5-6 hours every night when I was in high school to no TV at all now since 2004 (6 years!!!)?

  1. I didn’t keep or get a TV whenever I moved to a new place. Not bringing one with you is liberating. Just like having less than 100 things. More on that to come.
  2. I desired to have more time and freedom to do what I wanted. This did not include TV.
  3. I was disgusted and tired of all the commercialization and advertisements. Everything seemed so fake to me. It still does.
  4. I love reading and karate, my 2 core activities. How can I make time for that when I’m stuck to the tube?

As a longer post, I hope this brings you much value and realistic steps towards freeing yourself of television and actually having a life. Change can happen. Just believe it and do it.

  • Jonathan

    Totally agreed!!! =)

    Great suggestions/steps about how to stop watching TV. In fact, your points can apply to any kind of addiction.

    #1 and #2 – so true that if we want to get out of any kind of addiction or bad habits, we need to take drastic actions… and deal with it seriously!

    #3 – Delay gratification is SO important in all aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to getting the things that we want (but not necessary what we need).

    #4 – Accountability partner! It’s so important to have someone keep us accountable for our commitment and actions. For example, if a smoker decided to quit smoking, it’ll be very helpful if someone can keep him accountable and help him stay on the right track.

    One statistics that’s also related to your other post:

    Number of videos rented daily in the U.S.: 6 million
    Number of public library items checked out daily: 3 million

    … this is sad.

    Another statistics:

    A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey released in October 1995 found 4.7 million children between the ages of 6-17 (11% of this age group) to be severely overweight, more than twice the rate during the 1960′s.

    The main culprits? Inactivity (these same children average more than 22 hours of television-viewing a week) and a high-calorie diet!!!

    So… watching TV is directly related to our health!

  • http://castlesita.wordpress.com Castles in the Air

    It is no accident that after I gave up watching TV in 2004 that I started to become more and more active, lost weight (mainly fat), and had a better self-image.

    It’s a no brainer in my book: lose weight and be healthy while saving tons of time? Who wouldn’t choose this route? …. a lot of folks apparently.

  • http://www.jan.com Jan

    Hi, my name is Jan, and I am a TV-aholic. I need an intervention.

    I have a perfectly good bicycle in my living room, situated next to my Bowflex and my Ab-Lounge. My baseball bag is sitting on top of my bowling balls next to my golf bag, by my dog who always wants to go for a walk.

    I just can’t put down the remote, especially when baseball/golf/America’s Next Top Models seasons are just getting in full swing. Not to mention I’m improving exponentially in my Call of Duty online multiplayer game.

    But, after reading your column, you’ve inspired me to make some changes even if they are minute at first. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?? Knowing that I have logged in 3 years worth of television to date is enough to make even the laziest person make a 180.

    In retrospect, getting that 60 inch plasma TV was probably not a good idea. Shame on you, Best Buy and your reward points!!!

  • http://castlesita.wordpress.com Castles in the Air

    The mere fact that you want to take steps towards a liberation of the hold television has on you is a positive step towards change. Change for yourself and your family.

    Don’t give in to clever marketing ploys and tactics! They are there to encourage you to buy what you don’t need and to highlight a product’s aesthetic appeal and make you feel bad if you don’t have it in your possession. I would know, I’ve spent years studying Marketing. You can resist!

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  • JJ

    Good post! I had been planning to get rid of my TV by the end of this year, but totally forgot about it during the last few months. Thanks for reminding me and getting me back on track.

    Do you think that unplugging from the daily TV drama was a major ally in approaching your goal of being free?

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