Did that get your attention? I hope so I believe that the title is true, and will soon explain why. But before anyone gets defensive, let me clarify the point of this post…
My goal is to provide an eye-opening and helpful perspective. My goal is NOT to condemn those who watch TV, but merely point out how it can hinder success and personal development. I also understand that not everybody wants those things, and they are free to live as they’d like. In this post, I will point out the time-consuming nature of watching television, the associated costs, and will suggest alternatives to do in its place.
One final note: I admit that TV can be a great luxury and a wonderful resource for those who use it judiciously, or to learn something directly relevant to their business or lives that provides some major benefit. However, I think these are the minority of cases. I think the majority of television watching is just meaningless bubble gum for the mind, often viewed in lieu of other, more important activities that we should be doing (and that we would probably agree are more important). So here is my stance: If watching television is directly beneficial to helping you become the person you want to become, watch it. If not, do so only after all of your more important stuff is done first.
Now let’s begin!
I consider it a waste of time for three main reasons. First, it takes up too much time and is often hard to use in moderation. Second, it keeps us from making money while actually costing us money. Third, we give up too many amazing things, including realizing our potential, because of the addictive nature of TV. Without it, I believe we’d have much more productive, efficient, and fulfilled lives. To make my point, let’s talk a little more about these three issues.
Television robs millions, literally millions, of people from time, money, and their potential. Here is why:
1) Time: The average person in this country watches 4 hours of television per day, or 1,460 hours per year. Shockingly, 438 of those hours are commercials. That is equivalent to 11 40-hour work weeks, or almost 3 full months of working full-time, of just commercials! And let’s be honest, the other 1,022 hours aren’t superlative, either. Sure, there are some good shows, but more often than not – they’re just entertainment. Let’s recognize the fact that TV which does not educate or benefit us is just leisure. I understand that we all need some leisure, and for some people it’s TV. Rock on! But 4 hours a day? We don’t need 4 hours of TV a day, just like we don’t need 16 hours of sleep. Think about it, if somebody told you they were sleeping 16 hours a day, wouldn’t you suggest something like “Hey, did you know that if you cut it down to 10 hours a day you would still be well-rested? And then you’d have 6 bonus hours to do anything you wanted! Maybe even something productive!” That is my advice to TV watchers: keep it to the bare minimum and use the time you save to do something productive.
College students, on average, watch 2.5 hours of TV daily, or 17.5 hours weekly. Over the course of a 15 week semester, this equates to 262.5 hours, or 525 for the whole year. Ironically, 18 credits of classes is 225 hours a semester and 450 hours a year (much less). As far as commercials go, students watch 78.75 hours per semester and 157.5 hours per year. Ironically, the most common excuse I hear in college is “I didn’t have time”. This genuinely confuses me. Not to mention, an extra 78.75 hours of study time each semester would probably help grades (which students seem to be concerned about)!
2) Money: We pay for television, but that’s just part of it. Out of the thousands of commercials we watch each year, many of them are asking for money or begging us to buy a product. We’re never allowed to be content with the vacuum or car we have, we’re just told to buy buy buy! Now, I agree, we need to be smart and disciplined with our money, but the fact is, these commercials get thousands of people to spend unnecessarily, out of their budget, and often times, frivolously.
In addition, think of it according to the expression “time is money”. For example, take all the time you watch TV a week, and multiply that by your hourly rate (14 hours a week x $8 an hour = $112 a week). That’s how much extra money you could have made if you worked during those hours. That might not sound like a lot, but what if you make $20, $30, or $40 an hour? Multiply your weekly number by 52 weeks and that’s how much it’s costing you over the course of the year (this is at least several thousand dollars for most people). In his video “Doing your best“, Jeffrey Gitomer suggests we “watch little or no television” to bring out our best. Then he goes on to say “Ever see a billionaire on television? Yea, how did he tell you that he got the money? By watching re-runs or by watching the news? No. So what are you doing it for?”
3) Potential: Everything we do has an opportunity cost. In order to do one thing, we pass up the opportunity to do other things. For example, spending time with the wife might mean passing up a round of golf. Hanging out with friends might mean getting less sleep. Going to a party might mean less time to study. Similarly, watching television means there is something else you are not doing. That is totally fine, but only if the things you are missing out on are not more important than watching TV. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. There is usually something better you could be doing, like reading, spending time with friends, exercising, studying, preparing, learning a new skill, catching up on sleep, organizing your papers, making extra money, calling people you care about, etc. Think about it, if the average person cut their TV time in half, they would have an extra 2 hours a day for an entire year. That’s an extra 730 hours a year! Think of all the cool things you could do in 730 hours, all the new things you could try, and all the places you could go. You could master so many new skills, develop great habits, take a few classes, improve your health, revive your relationships, and so on. There is life to be lived, exciting life! Don’t spend it in front of the box. Don’t watch other people live: go out there and live yourself!
Phew! Now that we’ve cleared the air, here are some suggestions to turn things around:
Solution 1: Buy a Tivo, DVR, or some other device that allows you to skip commercials. Figure out the hours you save per week by not watching them (.3 x hours of tv). Now, make sure those same hours get put toward something productive over the week. This could be time with the family, kids, at work (making money), reading, exercising, volunteering, etc. As long as you put these hours toward something productive and beneficial, you can make major improvements in your life, just by eliminating commercials.
Solution 2: Decide to try something new. You see, many times we use TV as a filler, just something to do when we’re bored or want to unwind. If you have nothing else to do, TV sounds like a wonderful option. I suggest finding something else to do in TV’s place, something that you’re excited about. That way, you’re investing your time and not just spending it.
Solution 3: Remove the TV from your room, dorm, house, etc. If you can’t stop watching it, fine, just get rid of it! This past summer, when I came home from college, one of the first things I did was put my TV in the shed. With no TV in the room, I had to find other things to do. I ended up reading a lot more, hanging out with friends, and spending time with my family. Even if I was in the living room watching TV, at least I was with someone else in the family, not alone in my room.
We should all be aware of how our time is spent. Time is more valuable than money, and people seem to get rather uptight when they don’t know where their money goes. Don’t let this happen with your time! If you find that certain activities are not worth the amount of time you give them, adjust your habits and reinvest that time. Consider doing this with TV as well. Just think about how prevalent it is in your life and think about the things you give up to watch it. Maybe even go without it a few days and see what comes of it. You might feel a sense of freedom. Of course, I’m not suggesting that zero TV is the best way to go. But I am saying that we should think about what it really costs us to watch TV, and just think about how we should really be spending our time.
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Here are some quotes to send you on your way…complements to my thoughts above
I wish there was a knob on the TV so you could turn up the intelligence. They got one marked “brightness” but it don’t work, does it? ~Leo Anthony Gallagher
I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book. ~Groucho Marx
If you came home and you found a strange man… teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you’d kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don’t think twice about it. ~Jerome Singer
Photo by MJimages