On January 1st, I began my first 31-day challenge of the year. The goal: to not watch TV for an entire month. On the first day, I quickly realized that the toughest habit to break would be watching TV while I ate, so I decided I would allow myself to watch one TED Talk during dinner. Five or six days into the challenge, I realized why I’d been able to get through so many seasons of TV on Netflix last year: it wasn’t that I actually wanted to watch it all, I just wanted some noise to fill the silence. So, on top of watching my one TED Talk, I started listening to a lot of podcasts, in an attempt to break the silence.
For the first 10 or 12 days, I was going strong. In that time, I read two books – Yes, Please (hilarious) and Nudge (a must-read) – watched some fantastic TED Talks (this one continues to be my favourite) and listened to entire seasons of old podcasts. I also wrote two chapters for my book and mapped out more, and had a great breakfast meeting with a friend about a couple projects we’re going to work on this year. Oh, and I started helping out another friend with one of his side projects. I was doing great, and my productivity was through the roof! But I began to waver mid-month, and eventually caved…
One evening, after coming back from the gym, I found myself in the kitchen doing a bunch of food prep before dinner. In the past, whenever I’ve cooked big meals or baked, I’ve put my laptop on the counter and turned on Netflix to keep me company. (Something I wondered many times this month is: is this just what single people who live alone do, or does everyone turn TV on to fill the silence?) On this evening, I brought my laptop into the kitchen, with the intention of listening to a podcast… but I signed into Netflix, instead. Ban be damned, I thought. I was tired and I didn’t want to think anymore.
I only watched one episode of a show; that was all I needed. But then things got tricky, when I went to Toronto. I stayed with Roomie (my old roommate) and she has cable. When we lived together, our weekend ritual was to wake up, make coffee and watch whatever movie was playing on W Network. What was I going to do this trip – say I couldn’t watch TV, then go hide upstairs in my room? No. The ban was only meant to boost my productivity, not kill my social life. So we sipped our coffees, watched TV and I just let it go. (But I didn’t watch anything on my flights, which was a major win.)
When I returned to Vancouver, I told myself the ban was back on – and it was. In the next 10 days, I read another two books – The Art of Asking (meh) and On Writing (every writer must read this) – watched more TED Talks, discovered a few new podcasts (I’m loving Invisibilia so far and am excited to see what they do with it) and got some writing done. And then, for some reason, I was just over it. A few nights ago, I was laying on the couch and all I could think was: It’s been long enough. My brain is tired. I don’t want to read or listen or do anything. I just want to zone out. And zone out I did – to TV.
Overall, I guess I have to wave my white flag and label this as a failed experiment. However, it did make me question how much TV I watch, which shows (some have been axed) and why. I can also tell you that I’m happy to leave it off more often than not now, as a result. In fact, sometimes I think about turning my TV on, then realize I don’t want the distraction. I don’t want to hear all the background noise and chatter. I’m finally comfortable with the silence. With that being said, I do still have a few shows I love, and I’m not going to feel guilty about watching them. I just won’t binge all weekend.
There are too many other things I want to accomplish.