Several months ago, my husband and I decided to cancel cable. To say I was a TV junkie is a bit of an understatement. Read: this was difficult for me. We still had Netflix and Hulu and a Roku with apps like Sling TV (which meant I could still watch HGTV live … thank goodness!)
I wanted to watch less TV, but I really didn’t at first. It has taken months of small changes, but now I’ve noticed a dramatic decrease in time spent watching it.
In addition to that, last week I challenged myself to turn off ALL notifications on my phone (with the exception of text messages) and avoid social media and mindless internet browsing until after 12 pm for at least 30 days.
I have benefited significantly from all this reduced screen time in several ways.
1. I have more time.
As I have been on a path to simplify my life, I’ve been taking a hard look at what I own, what I spend money on, what I think, and what I spend time doing. Nowhere on a list of things important to me would I include “watching TV” or “scrolling through social media and browsing the Internet.”
I realized I was wasting a lot of time, specifically in the morning, getting sucked into social media or article comments or debates, and a lot of time in the evening (or at lunch when I was working from home) watching TV. Now that I’ve limited those habits, I have a lot more time. I’ve learned habits can be changed.
2. I am more intentional.
Even after we canceled cable, I used to turn on live TV for background noise. If I ate a meal, I would usually eat in front of the TV. Now, my husband and I eat our meals at the table with no distractions. There are still some TV shows that I intentionally tune in for, but now it’s 1-2 per week rather than the 5 or more it used to be when we still had cable.
The decision to avoid all social media or mindless web browsing until after 12 pm also means I must intentionally decide when or if I want to look at a particular website in the morning. With no notifications beckoning me to break my 30 day challenge, I have found that I mostly stay off the internet altogether unless I’m looking for something specific. I am hopeful this habit of intentional internet usage will impact the latter half more and more.
3. I am doing more things that matter.
One of the biggest eye openers for me was being honest with myself about how much time I was spending in front of a screen. And I couldn’t truly notice the impact of it until I made a change. Now that I don’t get sucked into a social media rabbit hole in the mornings, I can spend extra time writing in my journal, reading during my quiet time, playing with my cats or taking my dog for a walk.
Without TV at lunch time, and limited after dinner, I am more productive as I write or paint or pursue work and events that are meaningful to me. I can enjoy coffee with a friend or a walk with my husband in the evening instead of watching TV or using my free time to watch all the recordings on the DVR.
4. I am more focused.
I truly didn’t realize how often I let phone notifications distract me until I turned them off. Oftentimes, I would mindlessly pick my phone up and a little red notification would beckon me away from whatever task I was working on. Honestly, they felt like a “to-do list” to me. I have yet to break the habit of mindlessly looking at my phone. But when I see no notifications, it’s easy to put it down without opening any apps or getting distracted.
Having the first half of the day to myself without distraction fosters peace and focus. Keeping the TV off means I hardly ever have to see TV advertisements. Now that there are less things screaming for my attention, I am free to be fully present and engaged in each moment. I can focus.
5. I am facing things instead of avoiding them.
I will admit that I used TV as a crutch for a lot of things in the past. It was soothing to me and felt like “relaxing” to sit down and watch a show after a long day. It was comforting to have the noise of the TV on the background if I was home alone. It distracted me from things like how much I was eating, or engaging with those around me.
In a world with myriad distractions, it’s easy to avoid things. Productivity, change, self-awareness, honesty … all can be diverted with the TV or social media. Now that I’m focused on being mindful, I pay more attention to things like how much I am eating and connecting with my husband in the evening.
I still have a long way to go. But making the decision to change is a huge step. When you have more time, you are free to be more intentional about how you’re living and do more things that actually matter to you. When you limit unimportant distractions, you free up space in your mind to focus and face things that perhaps you didn’t even know you needed to face.
How much time are you spending looking at screens? How much of that time is spent doing something truly important to you? How might you benefit from limiting your screen time?