Improve Your Life #17: Stop Watching TV

stop watching tv
Image: Old broken TV by Schmilblick

Originally published at FixWillpower

Stop watching TV! The time people spend watching TV is mindbogglingly vast. And that time is pretty much wasted. Even trying to make yourself feel better by arguing that you only watch Discovery and educational stuff doesn’t really count.

The only time you can say that you are doing productive TV watching is when you set yourself a task or goal you accomplish by watching and gathering information. For example, I have one BBC documentary that I have to watch to get some information. I have put that for a while now in favor of Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory.

So, just today don’t switch on the TV and don’t go to news websites to for the latest information about things that mostly have no effect on your life. The time you spend on TV is staggering. Average American watches more than 5 hours of TV every single day. This means that average person will spend 9 years of their life watching TV (non-stop 24h per day). To put that in perspective take a look at the following chart.

Image: Cognitive Surplus visualized by David McCandless

200 billion hours means that people spend as much time behind TV as they do on their jobs. It means that one-third of the average person’s life has a TV in it. Just imagine what you could accomplish if you would use that time for something more meaningful.

I have heard the argument that people are too tired to do anything after work and TV is the only thing they can muster. Even in this situation, there’s one thing that is better than TV. Go for a walk.

I have compiled a list of things you might want to consider to replace daily TV watching.

Go for a Walk

Walking doesn’t require much effort on your part. Just go out there and do it. If you can take your kids or partner with you and spend an hour just enjoying being outside. Go to a park nearby but just walking on a city street will give you more than watching TV. Find out all the ways walking is good for you.

Start a Hobby

Start a hobby. What are you interested in? Make a list of stuff that excites you and dive into it. For some, it may be stamps, for others building a project car. Or you might want to one of these:

  1. painting,
  2. knitting,
  3. sculpting,
  4. musical instruments,
  5. fishkeeping,
  6. baking,
  7. woodworking,
  8. origami,
  9. jewelry making,
  10. sewing,
  11. scrapbooking,
  12. creative writing,
  13. basket weaving,
  14. genealogy,
  15. drawing,
  16. dancing.

Whatever bakes your noodle.

Learn Something New

Learn something that may become a part of your life or a new career. Although the previous activities all include learning something you may also decide to go on a more academic route. Learn a language, take an online psychology class, take an astronomy course. You will get education equivalent to a college degree in a few years if you spend half of the average TV time on learning.


Start a side business. Maybe you can turn one of your hobbies into a business. Think about the things you know, what is your specialty on your day job? Find a way to turn that knowledge into an online course.

Talk to people

Amazing things happen when you turn off the TV and are forced to communicate with other members of the household. Yes, I know it’s frightening, but do it anyway, and you’ll find out that talking is great if you do just for killing time without the pressure of solving problems. Or you might talk to people and solve your problems.

Read a book

Reading is part of most of the activities described above, but you can take up reading just to read all the books considered the pinnacle of human civilization. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Read 20–30 pages per day, and you will go through 25–30 books in a year. 25 books a year is about 5 times more than average. But don’t hold back, if you read fast and spend half of your TV time reading you’ll devour more than 150 books per year. 12 Great Willpower Books, Motivation, and How We Think.


Play with your kids. Play with your partner. Play with your friends. Board games, card games, lawn games, party games, etc. But don’t limit yourself you can build Lego cities and pillow castles. You can play home and doctor and cops and robbers. Avoid games with screens (console, PC, tablet).


As many people point out, they are too tired to do anything but watch TV. Maybe the logical thing to do would be to get to bed early and get more sleep? Go to bed early and wake up earlier, rested ready to do the things you like first thing in the morning before the activities of the day take a toll on you.

Image: Medzilaborce — Andy Warhol Museum by P. Matel
When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships. ~~Andy Warhol

A little bit of TV is OK. I like to watch TV-series, and I’m a great movie lover. Set aside some time for that. One episode every weeknight and movies on weekends. But set aside specific time to watch TV or recorded material. Do not use the TV for the background.

Do it for just one day, but if you can do it again tomorrow and the day after that. And then after a month, you will be amazed.

Now just go and turn that damn thing off!

Read more why news is bad for you.