Watch less TV

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Remember: Nobody ever lay on their deathbed thinking "gee, I wish I had spent more time watching TV/reading blogs/at the office."


[edit] Dealing with channel surfing

It can be guaranteed that if you give up channel surfing, you will watch less TV.

  • Never just turn on the TV and watch whatever is on.
  • Only ever turn it on if you have first looked at the TV Guide and specifically decided to watch a particular program.
  • When that program is over, turn the TV off. If your TV has sleep timer, set it for the length of the program.
  • If you still want to watch TV, consult the Guide again and choose a specific program.
  • If nothing grabs you, go do something else.

[edit] TV placement

Televisions can often dominate a room, and transform a casual step into the living room into a massive time-suck (especially if you live with others).

  • Tallus suggests you store it in a cupboard or someplace else where you have to go through the physical effort of getting it out and setting it up. That way it stops becoming the default, easy/lazy option.
  • Get the smallest TV you can comfortably watch. This works best if you a) aren't a sports fan or film geek, and b) can afford a projector--when it's time to sit down and watch a movie or a game, dim the lights, turn on the projector and enjoy it--make it an event. There's no reason the nightly news needs to be huge.
  • Always set the TV as close to the floor as possible. If it's on a high perch, it tends to dominate the room; if it's lower and closer to the ground, it has less of a presence.
  • Move your television to a less-trafficked area like a spare bedroom. You'll be less tempted to watch when you don't have the TV staring back at you when you sit on the couch.

[edit] Killing it

Of course, an even more extreme solution is to get rid of your TV altogether.

  • Mu5ti reports that canceling one's cable TV subscription is particularly effective in freeing up one's time. kaufmajm agrees completely. Sean Bonner does as well - going on three years with no cable (or broadcast) and it's the best thing ever.
  • Don't watch TV; watch movies. Use your computer and save yourself some space. Catch up on the classics, and get a good film education. Join Netflix or something similar. Watch quality TV shows, on DVD, without missing an episode and without having to wait a week to see what happens next. (This is also an excellent way to reduce the amount of time you waste watching ads.) It's best not to overdo it, though, so spread out your viewings over several sessions for maximum enjoyment.
  • If you're not willing to cancel your cable completely, start by subscribing to fewer channels.
  • Use your cable remote's or TV's Favorite function to skip over channels that you don't watch very often. Gradually pare it down to a few favorites.
    • If you wind up with zero favorite channels, maybe it's time to rethink canceling cable. ;)
    • Sometimes there will be nothing you want to watch on any of your favorite channels.
  • Sakurina reports that losing your remote is also effective.
  • If you have access to weaponry or power tools, televisions make great targets, since they're big and don't try to get away.
  • Just smash it! It's fun!
  • Read Jerry Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1977)

[edit] Speedwatching

  • with closed captions or subtitles, watching a video stream at upto 5x normal speed is easily possible with a little practice. 3x speed if one doesn't want to have to concentrate all attention to the screen.
  • without subtitles, proper time scale modification (time scaling/pitch correction) is required enabling one to watch at speeds of anywhere between 0.5x and 2.5x with everything sounding mostly normal. At 2x speed one can still eat a nice fattening TV dinner while at 1.5x (the max for Gilmore Girls) one can skim through the days newspapers.

[edit] Making the time count

  • If you must have it on, find other things to do simultaneously.
  • Whenever you decide to watch TV, get out the ironing board and iron for that half-hour or hour. Then when the program is over, stop both watching and ironing.
  • Programming your shows using TiVO or BitTorrent can help optimise the time you do spend watching TV.
    • However, as Jeni pointed out, this will also give you another queue that must be cleaned out. It's nice to be able to watch TV on your schedule, but it can also be frustrating to see shows stack up and feel like you have to watch them. The whole idea is to free up time to do other things, not schedule even more time for TV-watching. If you want to get more stuff done other than watch TV, then don't treat TV like a commitment you've made (eg by setting up a TiVo backlog).
      • On the contrary, I find that setting up something in TiVo or BitTorrent at the beginning of a new fall television season can be very helpful - I tend to go through TV Guide or Entertainment Weekly and pick out the shows I think I would like, and let them all record. At first you will probably find yourself watching a bit more than you'd like, but as the season kicks up and all the shows are coming on at once, you will be forced to make priorities - which shows are really worth your time? You'll probably find that even if you found six or seven shows at the beginning of the season you thought you'd like, as you watch them more you may end up having only one or two. (Of course, I think I have much more time on my hands then many of you seem to, so this may not be a good option for a very pressed person.) -Josh R. Holloway
    • Wait to watch TV until later in the evening, when your mind is too tired to do anything else. I get all of my chores, reading, projects, etc. done before I even turn on the TV, and I don't usually turn on the TV until 10 PM or so.
    • Alter your Season Passes to only record "First Run" episodes of shows, or at least give reruns a very low priority when you choose to watch some television. This way, you will only be seeing things you haven't seen before.
  • Cancel the cable and join Netflix or Blockbuster Online. I can't vouch for Blockbuster, but if you are in a major city the Netflix turnaround is amazing and you can get television shows (albeit older episodes). This forces you to select only shows/movies you really want to watch. And depending on your membership, it drastically limits how many shows/movies you can watch at any given moment.
    • Canadians can check out for Netflix-ish service
  • TV time is excellent time for sit-ups and push-ups and any other excercise you can do. Get off the couch and buy a big round ball as your chair for TV. You'll find yourself doing core strengthening excercises while you watch without even meaning to.

[edit] Is it an addiction?

Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of Flow) have argued that TV watching is actually addictive. (Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor, Scientific American, Feb 23, 2002) They argue that TV stimulates a pre flight or fight reaction through the use of movement on screen by use of scene changes, jump cuts changes in camera angles etc (known as technical events). This put the mind into a passive state where it is wating to see if it needs to engage the flight or fight reaction. Since nothing ever does happen and this reaction is stimulated over and over again we become locked in this passive state, unable to break free. This can also explain the pull TV has even if we are not trying to watch it and engaged in other activities such as conversation. In can be an interesting exerciser to try and count the number and frequency of technical events. One thing that is immediately apparent is that the frequency jumps during adverts (it also tends to be less at the cinema).

In order to counteract this it might be useful to devise strategies that rely on an external source to remind you to stop watching, such as setting an alarm, rather than trying to do it yourself, internally. The overstimulation of the pre flight or fight reaction makes decison making, and active thinking, very difficult. (I finally gave up TV altogether after learning this. It makes for a plausible explanation for the times I sat down intending to watch only one program still to find myself locked hours later) --Tallus 19:32, 24 Apr 2005 (EDT)

[edit] Cultivate other interests

Cultivating other interests can help squeeze TV out of your day as well. What do you want more time for? Just start doing that more often, on a schedule if necessary. (I've never been able to "quit" anything. I'm a starter.) --Ookpik 14:43, 27 Apr 2005 (EDT)

[edit] Inspiration

Read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. It's a good book about the evils of TV. Although it can be a bit pedantic at times, it convinced me to pay attention the hours of my life that I was losing with very little reward or benefit. Now, I watch about 2 hours of TV a week and spend much more time reading and doing volunteer work. --Knavedave 13:18, 29 Apr 2005 (EDT)

For inspiration and amusement, I strongly recommend the classic cartoon Flowers For Trinitron by Ruben Bolling. --AlexC

[edit] Restrict by Genre

If these excellent suggestions haven't worked, consider cutting out an entire genre of viewing.

This is especially useful if based on ethics. TV trains us to be the way the programmers want us to be. (Why do you think they call it "programming"?)

In my case, my spouse and I decided to eliminate all TV that featured violence. It's amazing how little was left! We're left watching "West Wing" and re-runs of "Judging Amy"! --JanEcoReality 16:19, 17 January 2006 (EST)

[edit] The Bottom Line

Important note: Define what the time is for. There's nothing wrong with watching TV or reading blogs, as long as it doesn't become your obsession. If you set aside planned time for watching television or reading blogs, or you just need a break for an hour, that's perfectly fine. The important thing is to come back after that hour, don't just keep sitting there on the couch!

[edit] See Also

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