How To Control How Much TV You Watch

Television, the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.

– Michael Franti, Spearhead

Cats watching TVThe other night I was lying on the couch watching TV. There was nothing on so I would watch something for a bit then move on to something else, watch that for a short while and then move on again. I did this repeatedly for quite some time without really watching anything properly. Eventually I realised how ridiculous it was and turned the TV off. What a relief!

One of my old school principals said: “Alcohol is a good servant, but a poor master”, and I think it could equally be said: “TV is a good servant, but a poor master.”

Watching a good movie, sports etc can be a great way to relax and unwind, but like all things, it is good in moderation, not in excess. How many times have you found yourself doing what I mentioned I was doing the other night? If you haven’t ever done this then you’re either unusual or a liar!

If you watch too much TV you’re not alone. Check out the graph below which is a survey of Americans from 2007 (and probably true of many other countries too). Over 50% of their leisure time is spent watching TV!

How much time do you spend watching TV?

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

It could be even worse this year as a study by the University of Maryland found that people watch more TV during bad economic times. Interestingly they also found that unhappy people watch around 20% more TV than happy people. Do they watch TV because they’re unhappy or does watching TV make them unhappy? Unfortunately the research didn’t answer that question.

I probably don’t really need to convince you of any of this though (if you’re not convinced then check out so here are some tips to help you control your TV watching:

1. Record how much you watch – Keep a notepad beside the couch for a week and keep a record of how much TV you watch. At the end of the week tally up the amount of time. It seems a bit overly geeky but you’ll probably be surprised at how much time you actually watch for. Think about all the things you could have done in that time…

2. Throw away, give away or sell your TV – Drastic? Perhaps. But would it work? Yes.

3. Define TV time – Set yourself specific times when you can watch TV and only turn on the TV during those times.

4. Record TV – Use your recorder more effectively. Lookup programmes you want to watch in advance and record them. Then you can watch them at a time when it is convenient for you.

5. One TV – Only have one TV in the house. Do you really need a TV in the dining room, bedroom, your kids’ rooms etc?

6. Alternatives – Write down a list of alternatives to TV: read a book, play a game, exercise or even…have a conversation.

7. Hide your remote – Then the only way to change channel is to get up off the couch. Channel surfing doesn’t seem to happen as much this way.

8. Turn the TV off as soon as your programme has finished – The TV people are clever and they start the next programme straight away. That way you are watching it and hooked into the plot before you’ve had a chance to get up. Don’t fall for it, turn it off straight after your programme has finished.

9. Cancel your subscription channels – Even with lots of subscription channels some days you still can’t find anything decent to watch.

10. Try it for a week – If the idea of no TV forever sounds a bit daunting then just try having a No TV Week and see how you like it. You could even put the TV away in a cupboard or the garage for the week. You’ll probably enjoy it more than you think.

If you have any other ideas please share them in the comments.

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