Yesterday, someone asked me a question I get asked a lot, which is basically “Where do you find the time to do all the things you do!?”
Because I do a lot of things, a fact of which I am, to be honest, rather proud. I don’t do everything I want to do or should do — my front yard and porch look like a family of hoarding raccoons live in my house, and I don’t get nearly as much exercise as I should — but I do find the time to do things like volunteer at a local refugee shelter, run a refugee advocacy group and fundraising initiative, take care of seven pets, raise butterflies, make my own yogurt, hummus, and body products in order to maintain a lower waste lifestyle, and visit my aging parents twice a week – on top of the normal stuff like working a full time job for a company I co-own, keeping a kid alive, and cooking meals with healthy, unprocessed foods.
And yes, I know there are people reading this like “Pfffft! Lightweight. I do all that and I have seven kids and run a marathon a month.” And if you are that person, I BOW DOWN TO YOU. But I think it’s more than many people manage because I get asked that question a lot: Where do I find the time? So, I’m going to tell you where I find the time: I don’t watch TV.
I know! Incredible, right?
I used to watch TV* and now I don’t. I haven’t watched TV in about five years. I don’t binge watch Netflix, I don’t watch movies. I don’t watch YouTube. I watch no TV or movies unless I’m trying to get in some quality time with my daughter and we’re watching The Little Mermaid or something (because she is six and has shit taste in movie heroines**). And I have way more time than I once did.
People watch a lot of TV.
How much more time do I have? I don’t know exactly, but according to one study, the average North American watches about three hours of TV a day. That’s 21 hours a week, or nearly three workdays. Imagine what you could do with that time if you got it back! I don’t know if I ever watched that much, except when my daughter was a newborn (at which time all primary caregivers can watch all the TV they want because they’re stuck at home in a sleepless daze, looking after a weird crying, pooping creature). But even if I watched only one hour a day at other times, that’s still seven hours, or a full workday per week.
You kind of have to be honest with yourself when you talk about how to spend your time, if you want to have more of it.
My friend who asked me the question said he had no time, then admitted to regularly binge watching Netflix. And don’t we all know people who say they wish they could do this or that but they “don’t have time” who are then asking on social media for suggestions on what to watch next because they’ve already binge watched all the shows?
Of course we do.
I get it. TV is amazing.
You know why that is? Because TV is awesome. I’m not one of those people who thinks TV is stupid or a waste of time. A lot of what’s on TV is incredible. Today’s content creators are brilliant and talented, and their output is truly awe inspiring. But I have to make choices in life and watching this amazing content is not a top priority at the moment. Work, family, cooking great food, volunteering and fundraising, and creating cool experiences are my priorities. I figure that when my daughter is older and no longer needs me as much as she does now, if I am lucky enough to still be around, I might have some time to catch up. But for now, it’s something that has to go.
In 2012 Laura Vanderkam wrote in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels,” pointing out that changing our language reminds us that time is a choice and that if we don’t like how we’re spending it, we can choose differently.
On your death bed, you’re probably not going to be wishing you watched more TV.
TV watching is linked to depression and bad health
I’m also intrigued by study findings linking high levels of TV watching to depression and suggesting that unhappier people watch more TV (which might have something to do with the fact that after spending 21 hours a week watching TV, one might feel a little like they’re wasting their life). As well as findings correlating TV watching to increased markers for heart disease and other illnesses. But that’s not the reason I don’t watch it.
I do it to have more time. And it works.
Watch as much TV as you want. I’m not telling you what to do.
Here’s the thing: if you watch TV and you love it, and you enjoy your life and feel that you have plenty of time in a day, then that is perfect for you. But if you claim you don’t have time to do the things you want to do, and are sitting in front of the TV for several hours a day, you might want to consider turning it off and seeing what this amazing, magical life hack does for you.
If you’re not willing to do that, that’s great, you do you. But your problem might not be a lack of time.
*When I say TV, I mean all the watching media like Netflix, YouTube, etc. So, if I forgot something, it’s not a loophole.
** This is a bit disingenuous of me. She also likes Harry Potter and we have watched all of those together as well as other things, but damn I HATE The Little Mermaid’s message, which is basically that if you’re a 16 year old girl it’s OK to leave your entire family behind for a boy you think is cute. It infuriates me. I do like the music, though.