Monday, June 14, 2010

140 extra hours a month -- what would you do with the extra time?

Cindy Brumm, the chief of staff at Stinson Brand Innovation, provides today’s blog on how to find more time in your day.

Ever wonder why you can’t seem to find time to accomplish your growing stack of “to do” projects, or why you can’t find time to get together with friends, cook healthy meals, or get to the gym?  If you’re an average American, perhaps it’s because you have a “video habit.”

140 hours a month.  That’s how many hours the average American viewer watches television each month, according to the Nielson Company in their 3Q09 “3 screen” report (TV, internet, mobile devices).  That monthly figure doesn’t include an additional 27 hours of internet and 3 hours of video-watching via mobile devices.  Break that down and that’s about 37 hours a week or a little more than 5 hours a day.

Wow! We complain about being overscheduled, stressed to the max, and sleep deprived, but we still manage to glue ourselves to video screens at an accelerating rate.

Yes, TV (and internet and mobile video) can be entertaining - who doesn’t love a good “Real Housewives…” marathon, or SNL shorts on YouTube? But let’s face it, what it offers is usually pretty mindless, often negative, and without much real value. When we’re vegging out on something mindless, we’re watching other’s lives and aren’t engaged with our own. That’s okay once in awhile, but over time it has the nasty ability to disconnect and distract us from real life.  And think about it: a lot of what’s broadcast is sensationalized, mean-spirited, and depressing, which only adds to our already high stress levels.

Not everything we see on television and the internet is in our own best interest.  There’s a lot of misleading information and stereotypes out there, contained not only in television program content but also in commercials and product placement.  Just think of all the messaging you’re bombarded with – not always 100% truthful – during a typical TV or online session.  Advertisers wouldn’t spend huge amounts if they didn’t expect their messages – truthful or not - would influence you, the consumer.

37 hours a week sitting and watching.  Not moving, not engaging.  Life is short and that’s a lot of time that could be spent on more enjoyable things – playing a sport or going for a walk, reading a good book, learning a new skill or craft, engaging in a fun, leisurely activity, spending time with friends and family, getting rid of the dreaded “to do” list.  Most importantly, this is valuable time that could be used to help you accomplish the goals that are important to you and allow you to experience and build a more rewarding life.

You have a responsibility to yourself to live the fullest life possible and cut out unnecessary distractions.  So what’s stopping you?

Take control of your video devices and manage your viewing time wisely.  Curbing your TV and video habit can be relatively painless.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Turn off the TV/computer after 8pm.  By reducing video stimulation, you may find that you sleep much better
  • Designate one night a week as a “no TV” night. You can add an additional “no TV” night each week.
  • Don’t record any programs or movies for a whole week. You’ll be surprised at what you don’t miss.
  • If you tend to come home and turn the TV on to avoid silence in the house, put on music instead.  Music has been shown to increase focus and feelings of well-being in contrast to the distraction TV can cause.
Notice how you feel overall at the beginning of your “reduction.”  Do you find that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you’d like to do?  Are you easily distracted? 

After a couple of weeks of reduced video consumption, do another pulse check.  Are you enjoying life and accomplishing more?  Do you feel more positive and relaxed? 

There’s a good chance you will.  You just have to try it.

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