The Trade: How to Watch TV and Still Get Things Done

Let’s make a trade.

For every hour of television you watch during the week, set aside an equal number of hours away from the screen. Too many times, I think, lifestyle blogger gurus (bloggurus?) advocate an all or nothing approach. It’s tempting to break it down in black or white — you’re using your time wisely, or you’re watching TV. You’re spending time with your family, or you’re playing a video game. You’re studying your ex-boyfriend on Facebook, or you’re reading this blog. (Sorry. I had to.)

But here’s the thing: we do need to emphasize the latter way more than the former. We do need to swap out some mindless entertainment for something with a lot more value, and we do need to take a good, long look at those areas in our life that offer shining, sparkling lights but not much else in the way of experience or education.

Mostly, though, we need to shift our time from one side to the other. And the best way to do that?

We need to be mindful.

Awareness is Key

We need to be aware of how much media we consume in the first place, and then we need to make a pretty personal decision about how much we want to keep eating. We need to be aware, to keep up the TV angle, of how many hours we’re spending in front of the big box, and then we need to adjust our schedules accordingly — not to add more mindless hours, but to use the rest in a more meaningful way instead.

You might already be familiar with how much TV you’re consuming. (If so, kudos!) I’d argue that you’re not the norm, however, an observation I’ve gleaned from eavesdropping on lunchtime chat around the water cooler.

Your average office worker, having exited the building, tends to do one thing: vegetate. They tend to plop down, prop the feet up, and flick idly through the channels while dinner rotates on a plastic platter in the microwave. In some cases, too, this is understandable. High-stress jobs are typical in the modern world, so I’d argue it’s pretty common for your average worker (and not just the office variety, honestly) to need a few hours in the evening to shut things down and recharge.

That’s fine. Ideally, sure, this wouldn’t happen on a daily basis, and ideally you’d be spending most evenings in the pursuit of fine wine, fine art, and blah, blah, blah.

Look. You can still unwind.

Know What You’re Doing

You just need to do it mindfully. You need to be aware that after a long, hard day of working for someone else, you’re using your free time in the pursuit of idle, often useless entertainment. You need to be aware of what you’re doing.

Mostly, though, you need to choose. Want to watch TV when you get home? That’s fine! But do so knowing that you’re going to compensate with hours away from the screen either the next day, the day after that, or sometime over the weekend.

Make yourself a promise. For every hour I spend this week on TV/video games/movies/the Internet, I’ll set aside one hour away from the screen.

It’s a simple switch, all things considered.

If you choose to watch a lot of television during the week, that’s fine — you chose it, for one, which is an excellent step away from the mindless way we typically watch. You do so with full knowledge that you have to trade, too, and spend an equal amount of hours throughout the week with the TV turned off.

If you choose to watch less TV in light of the trade, well, even better. You might find yourself sitting with a lot of extra hours during the week. Feel free to use them like this:

  • Board games!
  • Read a good book.
  • Read another good book.
  • Take a short walk around the neighborhood now that Spring is in the air.
  • Call up an old friend and spend thirty minutes catching up.
  • Try that new recipe you’ve always wanted to attempt.
  • Meet up with friends or family for a coffee date.
  • Strap on your hardcore hat and take a really, really cold shower.
  • Practice your drawing skills.

The list goes on.

So here’s your homework: make a trade. We’re halfway through the week, now, but that’s no reason to delay. When 5 o’clock rolls around and you hoof it back home tonight, stop and think about what you’re going to do. Want to watch TV? Go for it! Just keep track of how many hours you spend in front of the screen and start thinking about what you’re going to do with the same amount of hours away from it.

You might even realize that those TV-free hours sound far more tempting. Funny how that works, right?

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1 Comment

  1. Kyle says:

    lol, I was going to write an article on this exact topic! Was going to be something along the lines of watch as much tv as you want, but for every hour you watch, you have to do something productive. Great minds think alike I suppose! Only thing bad with tv is the ads which truly brainwash us at a subconscious level. If you can record shows and skip the ads would be the ideal situation. :)