Sometimes this blog is about learning or doing something new. Sometimes it’s about challenging yourself to change your behavior and learn a new habit. When I realized last month that I watch television for at least 30 minutes each and every day, I knew it was time to try something new. I don’t have cable TV, or even bunny ears to get regular channels. I have Hulu and Netflix on a Roku devices that streams instantly. This means I can watch The Daily Show or stream the entire series of 30 Rock anytime I want. So that’s what I was doing. And “anytime I want” turned out to be a lot. I know I don’t sit in front of the television as much as some Americans, but for me, it was a lot.
Nielsen reported in 2009 that Americans watch television for an average of 5 hours per day?!? Now, the results are a little harder to track because of the newest ways to watch. The older generation is watching a lot of broadcast TV and the younger folks are watching on the internet, whether it be TV shows, webisodes, or silly cat videos on YouTube. The newest approximations average 39 hours of your average week are spent watching something. That’s another full time job! What can you do with an extra 39 hours per week?
I wanted to find out. No television meant I might do the dishes as soon as they are used. Or I might get around to putting the laundry away as soon as the dryer buzzes. Or I might read more. Who knows?
As it turns out, you can find a lot of ways to relax when you are avoiding television. I was playing Sudoku on my phone or reading Wild before bed. I read fashion magazines and news articles in the morning. I listened to a lot of music on Spotify and discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) some new music including but not limited to Ivan and Alyosha, Nick Drake, The Last Bison, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, and Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps. (Of which, I most definitely recommend watching the Thao video.) I kept my house clean and even mowed the lawn. I worked a lot too, staying late or taking work home.
I also gave in to my TV watching urges and cheated 5 times. When Mr. Adventure came back from Asia, we watched TV all day (re: I watched TV all day while he slept.) The day before a huge presentation at work when I needed to clear my head and I’d already visited the treadmill, I watched a whole weeks worth of The Daily Show. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever hit a goal I’ve set for this little project and I think that’s the point. The goal is to challenge yourself, but also do what you want in the moment. Keep making lofty goals for yourself even when you know they might be unattainable. Don’t punish yourself for not completing as planned and keep positive as you move forward into your new challenge.
In retrospect of No TV Month, I’d like to say it’s a challenge that everyone should do. Maybe you need to take baby steps and limit TV first. Watching TV can be relaxing and educational but it can also be disingenuous and has a tendency to glorify stupidity, violence, and conflict. There are much better ways to spend your idle time.