Hey new professionals, this article is specifically for you.
Working in mental health, I learn a lot about how technology affects us on a daily basis (it comes with being around counselors all day, not that I’m complaining). As a result, I have the fortunate/unfortunate pleasure of being inundated with information that has made me adjust my lifestyle in myriad ways.
One major way has to do with television. A few weeks ago, a colleague (who happens to be a licensed mental health professional) discussed the effects of television on our minds. What he told me was pretty troubling, but it made quite a bit of sense.
One of his major points was that television literally numbs your brain. It overloads your auditory and visual senses, effectively numbing the rest. Because most television is mindless (obviously there are exceptions), you’ll find yourself watching quite a bit of it without noticing.
If you’re like me, you’re initial response is, “What’s the big deal?”
Well, it’s pretty simple and I’m pretty sure I learned/forgot this in grade school. Watching too much television is really bad for you. Mind-blowing right?
Most of us get away with watching too much television in school because we did nothing but absorb information for tests. In the professional world, however, television inhibits you from being productive, which prevents you from accomplishing things and being successful.
Let’s say you watch television in the morning, as I used to do. This is the first thing you are doing that day, and you are essentially shutting your mind off. Then, you go to work and decide it’s time to turn your mind on again, but it’s already been set to focus on recreational activities. Do you see the dilemma?
When I go home, there are a lot of things I want to get done before it’s time to relax. I want to write blog articles, work on personal projects and exercise. I go straight to the TV, however, then I definitely won’t feel like doing any of those things until (maybe) midnight. My night is wasted.
If I still haven’t convinced you, let me impart my own personal experiment.
Starting last week, I decided to severely limit my TV usage. During the week, I haven’t watched any television when the sun is out, except for the news. I have only watched TV at night, when I’m relaxing or about to sleep. I’ve also limited that time set aside to just half an hour (or 40 minutes if it’s a longer program).
Before, I would watch a show in the morning, during my lunch break, and sometimes right after work. You’d think that changing things up would have made me feel uneasy, but it actually didn’t.
Instead of turning on the idiot box, I’ve been filling my time with better experiences. I’ve been reading more books, finding time to write articles like this one without feeling like it’s a chore, getting through my work week with significant ease and I’ve just had more time in general. Put simply, my life is much better with the TV turned off, and I think it would be for you, as well.
If you’ve already discovered this amazing truth that has eluded me for too long, please let me know what works for you and how you’ve found success in the wireless world.
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16 thoughts on “Want to Be Successful? Turn Off the TV”
I’m gonna try
I’m going to try this with YouTube in mind. That swallows up so much of my time.
For me, it’s mainly Netflix and Hulu Plus.
I stopped watching TV two years ago when I discovered South Korean shows on Netflix. Wow! No violence, no nudity, no “f” bombs, no gratuitous sex, and an incredible amount of respect between characters based on AGE. Not only that, the shows didn’t always have a happy ending. The main character DIED at the end… because that’s what happens sometimes when you have cancer, you know? I don’t mind reading subtitles, and even developed a craving for Kim Chee. After a few months I could knit while watching… it seemed like I could understand the language! It was impossible to go back to American TV after six months. It was an assault on my senses to go back to the racy, sexy, violent, trash-mouth TV that America is force-fed each evening. So I quit TV. I read books, and occasionally I’ll watch some Netflix, but I limit the instant download (Breaking Bad series) to weekends only because of my tendency to watch one episode after another. Yeah, this is a total turnaround of why I stopped watching TV, but I’m not subjecting myself to it every night (or every week). I have an inquisitive reason for watching… to try to figure out how and why my brother got mixed in with this culture. (He died at age 40 from a heart attack–cocaine related.) I love the quiet in my house. I can hear the high thrum of cicadas and the low rumbling of the Hogs traveling down the interstate in search of the next Oktoberfest. Reading blogs has opened a door to a new world, and now I blog, too. My computer is my door to the world since I closed the window to the television. I choose what goes in my brain, not Madison Avenue or the hollyweird crowd who churn out garbage by the truckload based on ratings. …well, you asked!
I have a feeling that if I neglected it for a few months, I would turn my back on it as well!
Jon, just curious… How would this affect someone like me who is pursuing a career in film and television production? My ‘excuse’ is that I need to be watching successful televison (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) to continue putting good writing into my mind. Same for movies. I guess I’m not watching them as soon as I start my day but you get the idea.
Right, it’s not necessary in my eyes to fully abstain from television. It’s when you choose to watch that matters. In production and broadcasting, you’ll do far more work in writing, reading and technical work than just sitting down and digesting a show. That type of entertainment is best for the end of the day when you can afford to shut your mind off. Also, you might find it useful to save the bulk of your TV usage, if you want to keep up with Mad Men and Walking Dead as I do, for the weekends. Hope that helps!
I need to do this, but with the INTERNET.
I agree with you. I don’t watch TV so often.
This is helpful. There are so many things about our modern existence that we fail to recognize the importance of and or take for granted. Often we become stuck in seemingly self-imposed daily routines that we are barely aware of, like cattle. Somehow we all still accept it as normal. Wierd.
I don’t watch much TV anyway because I don’t have time but I’m a big YouTube viewer. I think I’m going to try what you did and only watch before I go to sleep. Love your work Jon!
Great post – this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. My fiance and I haven’t watched any actual television since May, though we do watch Netflix. We haven’t had cable in probably five years or so, so that makes it easier to not watch TV – not as many options! In the mornings, we used to watch the Today Show. Now we have a long, leisurely breakfast together before heading off to work. Sometimes we sit with each other at our dining table with our laptops and get some personal work done. Giving up the morning television actually led naturally to not watching television at night either – it wasn’t a conscious decision. Somehow it just happened. We tell ourselves that Netflix doesn’t count, since we use it as background noise and pretty much limit ourselves to shows we’ve watched a bajillion times before. However, that points to other psychological issues – why do we even need television background noise? Shouldn’t we just be able to work without it? How much more productive would we be if we gave that up too?
You know, I’m not sure about the background noise thing and why we need it. I liken it to how calming the white noise of a busy coffee shop is for me (you’ll rarely catch me listening to music in a coffee shop). Glad you’re limited TV experiment has been working for you for a few months now, and you’re definitely a positive example of this!
You make TV sound almost medicinal – sometimes I need to be numbed after a day of teaching and reading and grading. But then, like any medicine, if you overdo it becomes a drug.
Jon, thanks for the reminder. There are a few shows that I like to watch but find myself zoning out and sitting through shows that would never be destination shows for me. This unintentional and mindless viewing is robbing me of time I need to accomplish my goals. Starting tonight I don’t sit in front of the TV unless I really want to watch something specific. And when it’s over, I move on to my next task.
Sounds great Nina! I have a feeling you’re going to fall in love with saving your TV watching for concentrated viewings. It’s amazing how much extra time we seem to find when we do this.