The Amazing Effects of a Weekend Without Television

Something strange happened this weekend. My roommates both went to the beach, leaving me with the apartment entirely to myself for the first time all year. After dinner I settled into the couch and turned on the television. A depressed, lethargic feeling came over me as I prepared to sacrifice the next couple hours to the plasma screen gods.

At that moment I decided to do a little experiment: no television for the entire weekend. I did this because I plan to live alone when our lease expires in July. I don’t own a television and I don’t plan to buy one (in fact I never plan to buy one) so living alone will mean many solitary hours without television for entertainment. I needed to know if I could handle it. Part of me was worried that the hours of isolation would drive me insane with boredom.

It did — for the first fifteen minutes. Out of necessity I found alternative ways to keep myself busy. These are some of the things I accomplished that I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

  1. Overhauled Site Design – Most of you regular readers have probably noticed that the PickTheBrain design has seen some major improvements. I changed the top right subscribe box, create a new favicon, pimped out the sidebar headings, created new styles for the sidebar links, blockquotes, and footer, and fixed a dozen other little things that had been bothering me. I also created an entirely new home page and an introductory video.
  2. Got a VA Driver’s License – This is something I’ve needed to do for months. I finally bit the bullet and went to the DMV first thing Saturday morning.
  3. Entered the Next Internet Millionaire Contest – This is something that I’d planned on doing before, but I could’ve easily been persuaded to put it off. In addition to making the video (vote for me!) I also wrote a blog post explaining why I decided to do it.
  4. Optimized Site Monetization – I spent a few hours tweaking the color and position of the GoogleAds running on this site, added a new unit to the sidebar, and switched out the unit at the bottom of each post to a couple of book recommendations from Amazon. It remains to be seen how well the changes will work, but experimentation is the key to optimization.
  5. Read – I finally finished reading Animal Farm by George Orwell which took me an embarrassing amount of time considering the size of the book. I also started Barak Obama’s first book, Dreams from My Father. By the way, Obama is a tremendous writer and it’s likely I’ll write a post about him in the future.
  6. Wrote – In addition to this post and the post on Next Internet Millionaire, I also wrote guest posts for Tim Ferriss’ blog and for Daily Blog Tips that will hopefully be published next week. Usually I’m fortunate to muster one post on Sunday evening.
  7. Relaxed – I spent several hours at the pool and also took a few long walks around the neighborhood. Although I would have gone to the pool regardless, it’s likely much of that time would have been lost to TV.

I could keep going but you get the point. These are all things I’ve wanted to do but could never find the time for. This experiment shows that television consumes an amazing amount time. Eliminating it probably increased my productivity 1000%.

The most amazing part is that I haven’t missed television at all. After I built some momentum I haven’t felt the slightest temptation to regress. I’m more energetic, I’ve been in a great mood, and getting things done has left me with a feeling of accomplishment. I look forward to making this a permanent change.

Unfortunately, that will have to wait a few weeks. Once my roommates come back the TV will once again be perpetually turned on and I doubt I’ll be able to avoid it. We’re so used to living with television that we don’t realize the impact it has on our lives. For many people, turning on the TV is the default action after sitting down. It’s a constant presence — during meals and even when we aren’t paying attention it’s still there in the background. A weekend without television made me realize the impact it has on my behavior, mood, and outlook on life.

I recommend a weekend without television to everyone. You’ll be amazed what you’re capable of when you stop being a passive observer and become the star of your own life. We’ve been the victims of the most ruthless thief of time for far too long.