This experiment started on December 1st and lasted for the whole month, through New Year’s Eve. I gave it the (arguably, fairly terrible) name of “Make TV Watching Hard.” The plan was simple: move my TV down into the basement so it would be harder to watch and I could avoid binge-watching. I’d then be more inclined to use my time productively.
What follows is a somewhat-day-by-day review of my experiences. You can skip down to the bottom for some summary thoughts.
Day 1: Super easy to not have the TV, since I was home for all of 30 minutes post-work to play with the dog before heading out for the night.
Day 2: Definitely much harder today. I’ve been home all day, hungover and feeling sorry for myself and binge-watching would have been a nice indulgence. Instead, I ended up wasting time on video games, which is not really the sort of shift I was hoping for in this experiment, but I’m giving myself a bit of a pass because I felt awful and legitimately tried to do productive things before giving in and indulging. I’m expecting results to improve for tomorrow where I’ll be home a lot, but not feeling like a bag of garbage.
Day 3: So, we actually brought the TV upstairs to watch a single episode of a show. I know this sounds like a ridiculous failure very early on, but I don’t think it is. It was a conscious decision, we stuck to only the one episode, and only really brought it up because it would be warmer than the basement. Other than that, there has been no TV watching at all and I’ve been pretty productive with the day. So, as far as I’m concerned the experiment is still in success mode.
Day 4: The TV remained upstairs, but we succeeded in ignoring it, which is the whole goal. Watched a single episode with dinner to finish off a season we had been watching. Was also fairly productive with the time before and after dinner.
Day 5 – 8: I’ve been a bit lax with writing down thoughts, but the experiment has persisted through this work week. There have been a couple days with zero TV and a couple days where we watched an episode with dinner to wind down into the evening. Both have been nice and both have been in keeping with the spirit of this challenge. On the other hand, the TV has remained not in the basement for this entire time, which is the opposite of the plan. I think what I’m discovering is that it wasn’t so much about making it harder to watch TV, it was really about making a commitment to ourselves to control how much we watch it. This has really been more of an issue for me in the past and not my wife, so I’ve got to thank her for indulging me in this experiment to begin with. Hopefully she’s getting something out of it, too.
Day 9-13: A weekend with plenty of activities, along with the need to use my free time to study for an exam has made this pretty much a breeze this week. My wife is back to watching TV while doing cooking on the weekend, but she never wanted to give that up in the first place, she just got dragged into this experiment (love you!). Fortunately for me, I’ve been successful in not getting sucked in to watching it. We also had the power cut out on the night of the 12th just as we were starting an episode, maybe that was the universe telling me to be more dedicated to not watching? Who knows.
Day 14-15: Was pretty much out of the house both evenings, so, fortunately TV watching was not a concern.
Day 16: Another weekend, bringing with it the added time and temptation to watch television. The TV is still in the living room, despite pretty much the whole design of this experiment, but I’ve come to be okay with it. I spent 4 hours in the morning doing a practice exam in preparation for a test I have to take on Thursday, so I rewarded myself at lunch time with a little bit of TV, but I didn’t get sucked in or anything. We watched another episode in the evening, but again stopped it at one. Which for me is the biggest goal.
Day 17: Went to the gym in the morning and then watched an episode with lunch, but then turned it back off and got to work with productive things like cleaning, writing, and studying.
Day 18-22: Got a little off track with keeping this updated because I had my major exam on Day 21 which I had been studying for over the course of literally months. I definitely ended up watching a lot more television on Day 20 as a distraction and then on Days 21 and 22 as a bit of a reward (I passed!). Totally not ashamed about the binge-ing because it was a nice way to celebrate and also do it in a way that didn’t involve throwing a bunch of money away.
Day 23-26: I’m gonna go ahead and not count these because we went to my parents’ house for Christmas. There was definitely a good bit of television watching, but I didn’t have a lot of control over it and I think it was kind of outside the scope of this experiment.
Day 27: Back in the swing of things after the outliers of exam and Christmas. Went to the gym, made dinner, did some writing, and generally avoided TV. So, feeling good.
Day 28-31: This was the one weekend out of four in a row where I’d actually be home, so I took it very easy and that involved a whole bunch of TV and movie watching. Sad to go out on a bit of a low note with this whole experiment, but I think it’s clear I had already kind of lost…
So, ultimately, I was going to label this a failure, but in re-reading the log I’m going to go with “not quite a failure.” The TV was only actually in the basement for the first couple of days; so right off the bat we were off to a rocky start. I justified this to myself that I could still limit the watching, and that was true to some extent, but it clearly made it easy to “reward” myself with TV. I should have known better…
I’m not too bummed, though, because I did accomplish the main side benefit I was looking for: I studied well and passed the certification exam. I think I was ultimately motivated enough regardless of this experiment and it may have even made it easier on some days to skip the TV and go study, since I knew I needed to.
I think the main lesson was that I can avoid TV if I want to, by just making a conscious effort, but many times I honestly just don’t feel like it and would enjoy sitting down to watch some shows. That’s okay.
Realistically, we’ll probably continue the way we’ve been. My wife and I like to wind down with a little TV in the evenings and will keep doing that. I was already aware of the slippery slope of binge watching and tried to make sure I was using my time for productive things whenever possible. That’ll continue, too. Most likely, TV watching will remain just as easy as it always has been, but I will continue to try live a life of intentionality which means choosing how I spend my time and not taking the path of least resistance.
Also, check out my last experiment here.