Life’s Too Short For TV

In my post 16 Tips To Simply Your Life (and Increase Your Productivity) tip no 12 was to stop watching or cut back on TV. And I was amazed by how many people commented that they had cut out TV from their lives and how it had created so much more freedom for them. But I was also surprised by how many people battle with this whole idea. So I thought I’d expand some of my thoughts on this…

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy watching TV. My wife and I have a very nice TV. We just don’t have any TV signal or aerial or satellite attached to it.

The only thing connected to our TV is a DVD player and a hard drive. We watch a few series and movies, but even that is pretty limited. And the truth is, besides from the odd bit of sports, we really don’t miss it. When you don’t have it, you don’t miss it.

According to recent studies, the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. That means that in a 65-year life, a person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube! Can you imagine all the things you could do with that time?

Life is just too short for TV.

There are too many books I want to read in this life. Too many people I want to hang out with. Too many beautiful places to visit and adventures to be had, to waste my time sitting in front of a TV watching other people’s lives and stories.

I want to live my own stories. To tell my own tales. To experience life!

Please don’t misunderstand me – there is nothing wrong with TV! And sometimes sitting down to a good movie can be a real treat and a chance to escape the pressures of everyday life. I just don’t want to be consumed by hours of TV everyday and miss out on so much more.

So, if TV is robbing you of a full and abundant life, I dare you to get up off that couch, go out there, and make some memorable scenes of your own!


73 Comments on “Life’s Too Short For TV

  1. nice post.
    i’ve watched tv about 5 hours per day few years ago. when i go to university, I don’t have time for it. And so amazing, I realize that I have more time for friends, for others activities and it made me happier (of course i still watch tv but not regulary). So I think we shouldn’t watch tv too much, let spend more time for others “active” activities ^^

  2. I stopped watching TV about three years ago (at age 19) – I’ve watched about 2 hours worth of TV and about 10 movies in that time. I’ve replaced TV with lots of reading, writing, spending time with family and friends, trying new things, and pursuing personal goals. It’s such a freeing and empowering feeling and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Life’s too short to waste on mindless “entertainment.” Shows and advertising lead to social comparisons, which lead to feelings of lack and inadequacy.

  3. Great post Tom. I turn the news on as background noise while getting ready for work in the am. I watch the NY Giants & Newcastle United games and Extreme Home Makeover. That’s about it. I could in no way fit four hours of TV watching into my schedule.
    Dave Baldwin

  4. We are similar in our set up. Technically we have a TV, but no cable, no antennae, no satellite. Zero reception. But a DVD is hooked to it, and our computer also. We watch occasional movies with the DVD, or pull a show off of hulu. So, the option is there, but it seems to naturally self-limit how much we watch. Whenever we stay at a hotel it confirms for us that not having traditional TV is the right decision. Why? We will flip through the dozens and dozens of stations and find NOTHING we want to watch!

    I agree: life is too short for TV! We’d rather “do” than “sit and watch”. Great post.

  5. Thanks to downloadable series, I’ve almost totally quit TV in my life too.

    Sometimes the news is good background noise, but that’s pretty much it.

  6. Great post, thanks! I’ve given up TV for Lent twice now, and I’m always amazed at how my life opens up when I’m not stuck in front of the tube all evening. I’ve never been able to make it permanent because a large portion of friends and family define “hanging out” as “watching tv together and discussing afterward,” which does add a social aspect to it, so I don’t feel so very guilty. But it has become much easier to keep it off when I’m by myself.

  7. Tom,

    I cut my cable a few months ago. I got Netflix for my movie urges and documentaries. I love documentaries “). Most of my time is spent journaling, fitness, reading, bonding with my daughter and honing my gifts. TV for me was a uneccessary distraction. There are days I don’t even turn it on & like you and the Miss’s, mines is nice too, but I control it now. Productivity is the word! Thanks again for the write.

  8. Thanks Tom for this challenge. I have been following Donald Miller and this reminds me of his writings about living a good story. It seems so easy to turn off the tv and get off my bum, but I so easily fall back into my old habits and back into the fear that keeps me watching a good story instead of participating in one. However, today after work I did not turn on the tv because I remembered the post you wrote last week. I will take it one step at a time and hopefully I will be able to look back at this time next year and see how the small steps added together to create momentum.

  9. Great post Tom! I find that if I limit myself to only watching planned things, it is kept in control quite nicely. For example, I love the shows Parks & Recreation and Psych. But that’s it. So I know when the season is and what time/day they’re on and that’s when I watch TV, which is like an hour and a half a week, for about six months of the year. That’s still more than some people, but I find it works for me and I enjoy it that much more. I also find myself going to the TV less when I’m bored and I no longer flip through channels and watch things that don’t interest me and aren’t worthy of my time.

  10. I couldn’t agree more! But I guess we are just so get used to it and it has become part of life (seriously!!) Thanks for telling us this:

    “I want to live my own stories. To tell my own tales. To experience life!”

  11. Nice!!!

    I discovered that the more time i spent glued to the screen or fantasizing about the next episode in a series, the more paranoid I became 🙂

    I love TV, but i just made sure i have no time for it, it got replaced with reading. Boy do I have a stack of books I need to go through.

    TV is now mainly for Master Chef, Jaime Oliver and the occasional Sponge Bob 😉

  12. Back home, I’d sit and watch the evening news with my father. I considered it a time for us to talk and an opportunity for me to learn from him. I’d also watch CSI with my siblings since they enjoyed it; so it was a time for us to bond. Other than that, I didn’t watch too much TV. I preferred listening to the radio and/while reading.

    Now that I’m out on my own, between early morning runs/training, work, meals, commute, interactions with people and reading/writing, there’s simply no time for TV. So I totally agree with this post, Tom. Nice work!

  13. Great hearing from people who have “switched off” to incessant TV watching. Here’s a comment from someone who watches too much TV. I think it becomes a thoughtless habit, which automatically counts out the developing of those rewarding “other” things you all find yourselves doing instead. So, it’s catch 22 – you decide to watch less, but have nothing to do in place of watching TV, so you collapse back on the couch telling yourself that you’ve had a hard day and need to unwind, you proceed to flip through a couple hundred channels, can’t find anything worth watching but watch anyway. A mild form of insanity… Did you all go “cold turkey” at first?

    • I went cold turkey at first. Growing up, my parents really limited TV, so when I went away to college it was this fun new freedom. One day someone made a comment that everytime they came to visit I was watching TV, which really bothered me, so I sat down and made a list of things I enjoyed when I was a kid and in high school – reading, writing, crafts, baking, talking to friends – and whenever I was tempted to turn on the TV I would choose something from my list instead. Now it’s habit for me to pick up a book or blog and TV isn’t even a consideration (although Facebook is still a temptation). My basic advice would be not to look at it as “giving up” TV, but instead “taking up” activities that are going to be more fulfilling. Good luck if you decide to take on the challange!

  14. Lovely post Tom! I fear I’m one of those people in the trappings of television. It’s just so easy to turn it on, and leave it on in the background. I’ve realised I’ve sacrificed a lot of time that I could have used reading books, which I used to do much more when I was younger! Don’t get me wrong, I love films, and gaming especially; I’m a bit of a nerd that way! I think now as I’m getting older, I’m starting to realise there’s a lot more that I’d rather do with my time. Writing, especially, has become a very therapeutic, enjoyable experience for me over these last few months. I feel like I’m ready to leave my reading and writing hiatus behind, and dig into the more creative side of me once more.

  15. Like many of the things on your list, it’s a matter of habit. Sitting down in front of the tv every night after dinner is a habit more than a love of television. Break the bad habits and drive the good and you will be richly rewarded.

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  17. Wow, this really makes this TV-aholic think rethink some things! I’ll be starting a blog soon, and I’m going to open with a story I wrote about TV watching and marriage. I’m presenting it to my Sunday School class in a couple of weeks. When I get it up live, I’d love to get your feedback! Meanwhile, I’m going to keep reading your stuff! You’re very talented.

  18. it is a difficult thing you dare. and i think dvr is a nice compromise; i have certain shows set to record, and when it comes time to relax they are at my fingertips, commercial free. i don’t foresee myself giving up cable anytime soon, however, i commend you for discipline.

    much love,

  19. Thanks for another great post Tom. I agree with a lot of the points you made here. By the time I get home from work, I rarely turn my TV. I do always have music on though, lol. But I understand about you just watching the DVD’s. At one point I went without cable for close to a year and had plenty of movies to watch if I got bored. It’s true that you can’t miss what you don’t have after a certain period. I do notice that I’m more productive when the TV is off too. And just like you mentioned, I have a list of books I need to get through myself.

  20. Thank you for this post. I read your 16 tips to simplify your life and have been trying to work those into my life over the past week. Television has been the biggest challenge for me. I don’t have a TV but i watch shows on hulu. It’s easy to just keep on watching episode after episode. I am working to have more balance in all things in my life. Thanks again for your posts.

  21. 9 years!! Wow, that’s like enough time to get a bachelor’s degree, take piano lessons, start a business, remodel your home, learn spanish, read 100’s of books, get in shape, build a garden, and on and on and on… when you put it that way, it really makes you think!

  22. What’s ironic is that there was an Xfinity ad under your post when I read this. I actually use TV to take a break from doing other things such as work, reading, writing, and art. Mostly it’s just background noise when I’m tired of listening to music.

  23. TV is a time wasting evil box that attaches you to itself like a leach or a magnet. I only watch the sports or favorite movies from time to time but nothing more. I used to watch tennis or football for hours and hours. Recently, I started playing tennis and realized that If I had practiced on the court instead of watching on TV, who knows, maybe other people would be watching me play tennis on TV. Beside, actual sport activity is much more fun and healthier than watching others play. Basically, everything has to be in balance whether it’s watching TV or anything else.

  24. As much as I agree with you, I believe that my life has been greatly improved by mega-series like ‘the Wire’, ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’, ‘Rescue Me’….I could go on. Some of these shows have been better than reading a great book, and have opened my eyes to worlds I never knew. And I’ve enjoyed them, I’ve loved characters in them! Me and my fella still quote characters we’ve not watch for years….dammit (Jack Bauer.)

    The problem is though, the trash that makes up the other 95% of viewing time. That stuff sucks away brain cells.

    • I agree with you. Certain series/documentaries/films have certainly opened my eyes to new realities and I have learnt from them. Some series are just downright hilarious and great for a laugh when you need one. But as you say so much other junk…

      That’s why I find having a hard drive with series I love makes more sense for us…

      Thanks for your comment.

  25. Good Post. Myself is battling against what to do with my cable box. For one side I don’t need 100channels, just watch 3 most…and I almost can live them also, but as I work mainly at home I need 30 min news, is like going to church ; P

    Then I just tought to keep a good tv at living room for mainly home cinema and one or other serie….that what u just mention! With that move i just spend less 30% and some good quality time.

    I’ll be happy if you have any good tip for the news!


    Take Care


  26. Tom, my mind and habita have cheated me a lot and I have cheated them as well..breaking ones bad habits are not as hard as writing down ones priority on a list…its very difficult to single out the worst habit that needs to go…nice post!
    Keep making our lives simpler!

  27. Tom, I haven’t had a t.v. for five years now. The main reason is that I’m addicted to the t.v. I used to feel very guilty after a 5 hour marathon, and the best way to avoid temptation is keeping it out of the house.

    However, I’m becoming addicted to the Internet. I can’t do the same thing I did with the t.v. because I need it for work. I surf mostly for news and articles, (and you can find really good news online) but honestly I’d rather read books and work on my writing projects.

    I’d love you to post on how to manage Internet addiction.

    Love your blog… thanks.

  28. My sister and I have stopped watching TV for 2 years now. We only have a subscription for when our little sister joins us on holidays. We figured that we get all the news we need through the internet and if we feel like watching something, we can always look up online. 🙂

    Its done wonders to our quality time together and ensures that the dishes and laundry get done….. and the reading? Never ending!

    Great posts. God Bless you!

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  30. I only watch the news, a few specific series and some documentaries, and sometimes I watch them online afterwards instead of on TV. I watch the occasional movie as well, but I’m glad the bulk of my leisure time isn’t watching TV as some peoppeople’s is!

  31. “There are too many books I want to read in this life. Too many people I want to hang out with. Too many beautiful places to visit and adventures to be had, to waste my time sitting in front of a TV watching other people’s lives and stories.”

    Well said, I’m always find myself watching reality TV shows and after a while I stop and ask myself, “Why am I wasting my life on junk?” It’s not making my brain any smarter…it’s just sucking me in into the crap/stress that I don’t need to add in my life. Life is too precious to waste away sitting in front of the television watching UNLESS junk. Maybe once in a while it’s okay. It’s hard to see other people do it more than I do.
    My boyfriend is addicted to ESPN! lol I guess it’s a “guy thing”.

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  33. We would keep the tv but leave the aerial in our house too if it were not for the evil BBC and its unlawful tax. The situation in the UK is very grey when it comes to TV ownership and not paying your BBC TV licence.

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  36. I completely agree! I love the the catch phrase, ‘Life’s too short for TV’, I’m gonna have to use that some time. I used to be a fan of The Real Housewives franchise on Bravo, but noticed how it was mostly numbing and polluting my brain. I decided to stop watching, I don’t delete them off of my DVR, incase one day I am so bored that I would rather watch The Housewives instead of pulling each toe nail off one at a time.

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  38. This is good post, but any tips on how to stop watching TV? I dont watch too much, per say but I enjoy what I do. I do, however, in some way feel ‘addicted’. I want to watch the whole of a series and am therefore forced to fit my schedule to the TV schedule. Is this weird? How do i change?

    • Start slow. DOn’t try dramatic changes overnight. Why not keep a log of how many hours you spend a week watching TV, and then slowly cut down by 1 or 2 hours per week. It helps to share what you are trying to do with someone else to, who can help you and encourage you. Thanks for sharing!

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