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Life with No Television: Our Reasons Why & What has Changed

Over the past couple of years, the amount of time we spend each evening watching TV has reduced. We both love watching TV, George loves a good TV series & movie, I love any reality TV show that exposes talent like American Idol, Britain’s got Talent, Dancing with the Stars & The Voice. TV can be a great distraction after a stressful day, it can fill in time when you are bored & can be used to switch off the mind and just veg out. However, watching it every day and using it as a form of procrastination and avoidance is where it turns into a health issue.

There were days we would both come home from work, eat dinner and put on a good show and watch about 3 episodes and go to bed. Our evenings were spent watching TV. We were both with each other but not really connecting. There was very little conversation and we were falling into a routine of our evenings been taken over by the TV screen.

When I look back now, I cannot believe we were like that because we are the total opposite now. How did this change come about? I don’t believe it was one incident but many different things happening over a period of about 2-3 years.

A couple of years ago we watched a really cool documentary called “No Impact Man” about a couple in New York who made major live changes for 1 year to drastically reduce the amount of waste they produced & energy they consumed. This show had such a huge effect on us & is definitely one of the major reasons we decided to reduce our waste.

They recommended that we all should have at least 1 night a week with no electricity which would have a drastic effect on the amount of energy we would waste, they called it Eco night. We adopted Eco night and every Wednesday we do not use any power for the evening. We light candles, read books, play boardgames, have long baths and go to bed super early (Winter). We love them. As a result, no TV watching can happen on this night and this routine of not watching TV gradually extended over time.

Eco night in action

The above couple were very inspiring but we needed to figure out why we wanted to reduce the amount of TV we were watching. We had a conversation regarding where we wanted our lives to go over the next 5-10 years and it was pretty obvious; we needed all the time we could get to work on the areas that needed work.

I decided to go back to school & complete a project management course with UBC part-time in the evenings and weekends for 3 months, George wanted to write a book. Studying and writing need a lot of time & both of us had full time jobs. We got up earlier in the mornings to work on our projects but we also needed all the time we had in the evenings too. This was the first real eye opener for us as to how much time we were wasting in the evenings watching TV. We got so much accomplished with our projects because we had no time for television. We wanted to carry this insight forward and apply it to other personal projects that we always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time to do them.

For example, I started a cooking blog and challenged myself for 1 year to see if I could keep it up, could I commit to something for that long and would I be consistent. The blog itself was very basic and I had 2 followers (my sisters), I don’t even think I made it public it was a personal challenge to see if I could do it. Anyone who writes or blogs knows that a lot of time and effort needs to go into keeping a blog going. This is what I started doing in the evenings instead of watching TV. Of course, there were times I was not in the mood at all for any of my projects and I watched TV but I always felt bad after it.

We both started reading more books on productivity, both for work & personal use. Basically, all of these books advised against watching TV and outlined how much time is wasted watching TV when you could be using your time much more wisely to achieve something you always wanted to achieve.  We started listing the important daily activities that made us feel good. Examples we listed were; exercise, getting outdoors, cooking, reading, writing & self-care. We incorporated these feel good activities into our days and gradually overtime the TV melted into the background.

We basically banned watching TV from Monday to Thursday. Eventually we really didn’t see the point to having a 36” flat screen smart TV in our small apartment. It was the focal point of our living area but it no longer was the focal point of our lives. We set a date for when we would put the TV up for sale, after the last episode of Game of Thrones in June 2019. We posted the sale that evening on Facebook and the TV was picked up the next day.

What our dresser looks like now without the TV

I have to say I panicked a little bit when I came back up to the apartment and there was a huge empty gap on the TV stand. Doubts went through my head if we had made the right decision. We have a baby on the way, would we not need a TV to relax after a hard day or will the child miss out with not having a TV? By the next day I was over my fears and was determined more than ever that this was the best decision for our family. In truth we don’t want to go back to our old ways of mindlessly watching TV…. especially when we have a child. We don’t want to be watching TV when we should be in bed resting and catching up on lost sleep. If we want to see a movie, we will go to the theatre to see it. If we want to see a TV really badly, we have a Netflix account that we can use on our laptop. We don’t need a HUGE TV taking up space and tempting us to turn it on.

We have no TV for almost 2 months now, it’s been great. The best thing for me is that the huge black screen is not facing me when I sit on our couch, instead it has been replaced with plants which are so much nicer. I feel the atmosphere has changed in our living space, it seems brighter and more spacious.

In addition, when we watch a TV show (Ozark) or movie at the weekend it’s a treat & we really enjoy it. We don’t feel bad or guilty about it because we have worked on all our other projects during the week and this is like a reward for getting our shit done.

We would not be able to write blogs, write books, read, cook, exercise, draw, paint, connect with friends if we still were the TV watchers we once were. We are so much happier without the TV. I believe the root to why we got rid of the TV was the fact we decided we wanted more with our lives. We wanted to achieve more in our personal time, we wanted to work on dreams & goals of our own. With the advice & guidance from productivity books it was clear if we wanted to achieve our goals while working in full time jobs, we needed our free time after work & the weekends.

Sit and think about what you want to achieve in your life, how can you break that down into daily tasks. How many hours would you need to spend on those tasks? Where in your life can you make up that time? Look at your TV and ask yourself how much time I spend watching it…….is it time to make the change?

Thanks for reading everyone,

I hope you found this helpful.

As always, we would love to hear any comments or suggestions you may have.

Have a great week,

Theresa xxx

Humility Can Be The Path To A Meaningful Life

As a yoga teacher, humility is one of my core values, indeed it is a value that can guide us through life.

A lack of humility can lead to a wanting and yearning for more, more money, more power, more style, more cars, more food. This craving comes from our survival instinct, the desire for self preservation and the need to protect and provide for those we love. There does however, come a time when we have enough and any yearning is for more than we need (see here for recent gratitude blog on having enough).

It is ok to want more, to want to be comfortable and to indulge ourselves, I am not speaking of abstinence or a life of stoicism but we must understand why we want something. Is it for the right reasons? Are we seeking treasures to adorn ourselves with from a standpoint of competitive behaviour, to take someone else down a level?

This is where we need to check ourselves and get in touch with humility.

“Work for a cause, not for applause.”

Think on the violent history of our race, the most recent wars in history. Where did they stem from? Did Hitler invade Europe for the betterment of his people? Yes, but from a self serving point of view.

Compare leaders of the world and famous figures – Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Mahatma Ghandi, Conor McGregor. What are their qualities and how do they serve themselves, and in turn serve the world? Do you see humility in them?

Who do you root for? The underdog or the one who talks himself up all the time?

A lack of humility leads to violence. Take the caste system in India, the civil rights movement in the US, slavery, the expansion of the British Empire. All of the above has lead to strife, pain and hardship in the name of one group being perceived as being better than the other. Perception is the key word here and that is where humility comes into play. The most humble of us will not, by definition, think herself greater than others nor will she strive to be greater.

“Never look down on somebody unless you’re helping him up.”

Putting ourselves first is important, indeed I have written about it before (link here) but when we put ourselves first and surpass others by wanting what is beyond our needs, that is where the ego and greed come into play. Humility can teach us the value of both having enough and being enough. There is plenty to go around, we do not need all of the accessories to place ourselves above others in the pecking order.

That does not mean a humble person will not strive for greatness, do not mistake humility for a lack of ambition. It means that the humble person will not look down on others, will not seek to oppress others and will not seek to take from others for their own betterment.

Nor am I saying that competition is not good. It is part of our nature and without it we would roll over and die, never defending ourselves and never standing up for what is right. We can keep our competitive streak and remain humble, the two are not exclusive.

Humility can cure the wanting and craving in our hearts and in turn quash the over indulgence that is suffocating our planet and tame the aggressive nature of the beast that resides within us as we mature as a race.

Let us look inside our selves and search for that humility. Can we give everybody a chance and not judge. Question our motives. Why do we want something, is it for the right reasons? When we strive to better ourselves, is it at the expense of others and to what end? Do we push to get ahead or to contribute to a greater good? What path are we on?

If we stop and think and really consider our motives and our state of mind we can start looking at things from a more humble perspective.

“Be like the bamboo, the higher you grow, the deeper you bow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep Work, By Cal Newport: A Book Review

“Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”

What is deep work? Cal Newport, in his book, Deep Work, provides the example of a blacksmith who hammers away at a metal ingot for endless hours until it eventually takes the shape of a beautiful sword. This man takes immense satisfaction in his work, using old fashioned techniques and, as he toils, he enters a hypnotic state of concentration. He does not mindlessly hammer on the metal but picks out the exact spot he must modify, working his mind as much as his arms.

This is deep work and this is what Newport talks about. He offers advice on how to get to such a state telling us that it is harder and harder to get there in today’s world with so many distractions.

Newport discusses the importance of working without interruption. We are now reachable at almost any time. Many authors and productivity gurus have spoken about distractions and the impossibility of multi-tasking. I have written a previous blog about it myself. We do not multi task, we simply switch from one task to another and when we do this, we lose concentration and efficiency. We lose the depth which Newport is talking about. He references Sophie Leroy, a business professor at the University of Minnesota, who demonstrates that when switching from task A to task B, our attention stays attached to the first activity, which means we can only half-focus on the second.

“Maybe social media tools are at the core of your existence. You won’t know either way until you sample life without them.”

He encourages breaks from social media for up to a month or so to see if you really need it as part of your life. From my own point of view, I use social media to promote the blog you are reading and I really feel the distracting pull of it. If I am working on something and my phone is nearby, I feel the need to jump on the social and check the stats, which in turn leads to a loss in concentration and a waste of time.

To combat this, I like to use screen time on the I phone, you can set time limits on the applications you use and set downtime periods for your phone. Generally, most apps are locked out of my phone from 8:30pm to 7am the next day. I can make calls, listen to audiobooks but I cannot read text messages, check emails or use social media outside of these hours. I set a password and save it elsewhere and the password is forgotten. This may not work for everybody but I find it useful. Refer to the below video.

Newport recommends to turn off all notifications, with a constant stream of information, it is impossible to get into a state of deep, productive work. I like to put my outlook into offline mode when I am working one something that needs concentration as the constant incoming emails grab me like a moth to a flame and I can’t help but check them.

“If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative.”

He recommends planning your evenings and weekends by blocking out time for everything, including downtime. I don’t like the idea of living a scheduled life but in the work environment I have to block out time for what I am working on, otherwise it either won’t get done or I will spend too much time on it and ignore my other requirements.

Watch your internet usage. Plan your evenings and downtime around activities which don’t involve the internet. From a blogger’s perspective, this is difficult but that’s where the screen time feature and being deliberate about when I work online comes in. It is very easy to get sucked into the screen and stay there. I make time to go and read a book, get to yoga or get out for a run and I take these activities as seriously as I take my professional life or our blogging work.

To wrap up, this is a short, easy read. I listened to the audiobook in about a week. It has useful advice for professionals, students or anybody who’s work revolves around sitting at a desk or computer. If I was to sum up Newports advice in one sentence I would say cut the screen distractions from your life as much as is practical and remember that you don’t need to be accessible or responsive to people at all times.

I hope you enjoyed the blog.

Peace,

George