How to Plan for Better Down Time

"American Adults watch an average of five hours and four minutes of tv a day". As I read that sentence, my heart aches a little.

It's not that I don't love a good Netflix binge or movie night. As a natural homebody, I am as inclined as anyone else to snuggle up on the couch and stream. But I know that tv time is not really helping me relax.

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Despite an average of 5 hours a day in front of the tv, Americans feel like they're not getting any downtime.

Because they're not.

Humans need time to recover from their hectic, over-scheduled lives.  People think they're relaxing in front of the tv, but they're just passing time.

Here's why I'm reducing my tv intake this year:

1) It's Passive Time NOT Leisure Time. Basically, it's wasted time. You'll never get those hours back and most of what we watch is not touching us on some personal level.

Let's define what Leisure Time IS. It has two main components:

  • It is something you undertake for its own sake.

  • It is active, requiring our full skill and attention.

Learning French or playing basketball are leisure activities. To get better at them, you have to actively engage in the activity. And that immersion is what causes you to truly relax and let go of your other worries. Challenging hobbies recharge us and reduce our levels of exhaustion.

2) It's bad for your relationships. You can't bond and connect with other humans when everyone is staring at the tube. This is not quality time. Instead of zoning out in front of the tv, try playing a board game or having a 10-minute chat before bed.

Look for ways for you and your partner to learn together, converse and laugh together. Don't waste precious hours with those you love staring at the tv. Have a weekly martini-making contest or take a class together. Instead of sitting down after dinner, tackle the dishes together and then walk the dog.

Consider lingering over the table after a meal with a nightcap. Stay a while. Enjoy each other's company.

3) Watching TV doesn't help me achieve any of my goals. I want to do many things in my lifetime, and watching television is not in service of any of them. My time is valuable and my goals are my number one priority. Letting go of what distracts from my big dreams can be freeing.

4) There are actually other things you can do in your off time besides watch tv. Just THINK about all the stuff you would do if you had an extra 5 hours a day. Replace your tv time with THAT.

It may sound counter-intuitive coming from a productivity expert, but downtime is key. You need to rest and recharge. Embracing the lost art of leisure actually allows us to live more purposefully.

This is an investment in your quality of life. You'll do better work because you're actually re-charging and you'll add peace to your day.

How?

Start to savor the moment. Schedule your leisure activities with intention and then fully immerse yourself in them. Whether it's reading a book for 30 minutes before bed, or savoring a screen-free cup of coffee in the morning. Take a quiet stroll after dinner. It's important to live in the moment and unwind with purpose.

Also, stop over-booking your social engagements. If you're always running to the next dinner or party, when are you savoring the simple things? When are you getting your downtime?

I know this can be a difficult shift to make because it's not our natural inclination to seek leisure. But limiting our hours wasted (in front of the tv, or otherwise) will increase our happiness.

And increasing happiness is a very good use of your time.

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