Post written by Sherri Kruger. Follow me on Twitter.
This post is part of the “31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010″ series at Organizing Your Way. Today, Mandi and I share our thoughts on limiting screen time.
We’re all busy right? We all have too much stuff to do and not nearly enough time to do it.
But wait. Aren’t we the same people who after a long day at work plop down in front of the TV because we need to unwind and just chill out for a bit?
The problem with chilling out “for a bit” is that “for a bit” usually turns into an hour, maybe two sometimes four or five.
I was a victim of this totally unproductive time suck. In fact, it wasn’t until our 70 pound yellow lab knocked the TV from the stand that we did away with TV all together.
I should add that it wasn’t entirely her fault. She managed to topple the TV with a little help from my husband who was the one holding the laser pointer and who shone the tiny red dot down the hall, through the living room but neglected to shut it off in time for the dear “little” Maddie to put on the breaks and avoid hip checking the TV stand … but that’s another story :).
So that was it, the TV landed face down on the living room floor. Maddie escaped unharmed but the TV was not so lucky. We were at a loss.
In hind sight it was the best thing that could have happened. We easily gained 4-5 hours each night during which time we were able to actually be productive. Imagine! We were able to take stock of what we wanted to do, what needed to get done and get working on it. We were also able to slow down and just enjoy each others company – just be quiet without the distraction.
It’s been 5 years since that day and we have gone through various phases of watching and not watching TV. When do I feel the best and most productive? When the TV is off. If you haven’t tried it yet I would recommend you at least give it a shot. Maybe not turning it off completely but at least reduce the amount you watch each day.
Before you go at this cold turkey there are a few things you should know:
1. You will be bored. An evening is pretty easy to get through when you sit in front of the TV. It makes all the decisions for you. It shows you a particular show when it says it’s going to, it interrupts you with ads every 10-15 minutes and when the shows you want to watch are spaced out far enough it even fills in the time with something else. When you first turn off the TV it’s tough to fill an entire evening. It’s boring. There’s nothing to do. Now what?
Suggestion: Make a list of things you want to accomplish. Maybe it’s little things around the house, maybe it’s a big project you’ve been putting off for when you have the time. Spend one of your TV free nights just brainstorming what you can do to fill the time. Try:
- playing boardgames, or learn a new card game
- plan your summer vacation
- talk with your spouse
- simplify and organize your home
- build something
- take up a new hobby
2. You may suffer from withdrawal. This may sound strange but it’s true. For us we had been watching TV for so long that the characters in the shows were like members of the family. We get addicted to series and the cliffhangers that end each episode keep you coming back for more.
Suggestion: Fill your time with productive activities or at least make the time count. You don’t always have to be doing something active try going to bed earlier, meditating or soaking in a hot bath. All of these things will help you feel rejuvenated and a little less wired.
3. You will be a tad out of touch. A particular TV show may be all you have in common with someone else. It gives you something to talk about around the proverbial water cooler. When you cut out TV or even reduce it you suddenly don’t have that bit of small talk to fall back on. When you’re in a group of 5-10 people and they are all talking about a particular show you can feel uncomfortable.
Suggestion: Think of other things to talk about apart from what happened on this or that show last night. You can stay up to date on current affairs without tuning in nightly by finding recent stories online. Talk about the weather, rumblings in the company, sports or hobbies you may have started since cutting out TV. Get to know people. Also, remember all that you got accomplished the night before when you may have otherwise been watching TV, that should make you feel a bit better.
4. You don’t have to make it an all or nothing effort. It’s tough to make a lifestyle change as drastic as cutting out TV, all in one go. The first couple of weeks can be quite frustrating until you find a benefit and a rhythm in life without TV.
Suggestion: Start small and make the change gradually. Maybe start with limiting the time you will sit in front of the TV to an hour each night. Limit yourself to watching only your favorite shows, no re-runs. You can even start with one or two nights a week when the TV is off completely. PVRs and TiVos are pretty common pieces of equipment in homes these days so use them. Record the shows you want to watch and watch them when it suits you.
5. You should know why you’re doing it. Like anything if you don’t have the right motivation this TV-less habit won’t last. Doing something because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing is not the right motivation.
Suggestion: Get a clear understanding as to why you are choosing to do this. Some reasons I choose to go without TV are:
- to get more stuff done that I actually need to get done
- spend more quality time with my kids and my husband instead of staring blankly at the TV
- teach my kids that they don’t need TV to be entertained they make up their own fun
- I have time to dream a little about the future
- I have a lot more time to learn new things which is a passion of mine
- I get outside more
Giving up TV is not for everyone but it works really well for us. If you’re up for a bit of an experiment I think you may be pleasantly surprised at what you gain by reducing your screen time. You’re young, you’re healthy reconsider giving up these years by being glued to the TV. Too soon you’ll be old, you may even lose your health – save the TV watching for then.
What do you think? Will you give this a try? Have you done this? If so, what advice would you give to those considering the switch?