4 Extra Hours a Day: Television’s Impact on Our Time

by Thursday Bram · 11 comments

What would you do with an extra four hours a day? We all wish for a 28-hour day at some point or another — but what if we could really find an extra four hours to work or to play or to just do something outside of our normal routine?

For most of the American public, there are four hours a day to spare — according to the A.C. Nielsen Company’s research, the average American watches more than four hours of television every day. These are the same guys that study just about everything about how people watch television and they say that, assuming you live 65 years, you’ll probably spend nine of those years staring at the television.

David’s Note: WOW. 9 Years!?!?

No One Thinks He’s Average

I first heard the ‘four hours’ statistic more than a year ago. I thought to myself that I certainly wasn’t average, that I didn’t spend that much time on the couch. But then I started paying closer attention to how I truly consume media. I’ll have the TV on in the background when I’m working, or I’ll spend an entire weekend watching a television series or I’ll waste an afternoon watching Hulu on my computer. In reality, I’m not nearly as far off from watching four hours a day of television than I thought I was.

Unless you don’t actually have a television in your home — and owning a projector, rather than a TV doesn’t count — it’s worth taking a closer look at how much time you really are spending with that thing on. Even if it’s just running in the background, the television claims a sizable portion of your attention, slowing you down on whatever you’re working on if not entirely distracting you. Personally, I can’t even work out while watching TV.

Cutting Back on Television Consumption

There are a couple of series that I enjoy — that I even flat out love watching. I honestly have no problem with sitting down and watching those shows in terms of the time it takes, even occasionally watching through old series that I’ve seen before. I get a lot of entertainment value out of the time I spend that way.

But I don’t have a good reason to watch old reruns of game shows, soap operas or the other junk that makes up most of the 500 channels that seem to be mandatory if you get cable these days. I will watch them if the television is already on when they air, though, despite knowing that it’s just a waste of my time. I have to really think about getting up and turning off the television so I don’t lose four hours a day.

I’ve made a conscious choice that I do want to watch some television. I don’t think it’s evil or anything like that. But I do believe that I need to be in complete control of what I’m watching and if I’m not getting some benefit out of show — such as truly enjoying it — I shouldn’t have the television on at all.

What Can You Do with Four Extra Hours a Day?

When I compare the amount of time I spent watching television in high school and college, or ‘multitasking,’ as I called it, I’m more than a little sad. I could have started a business in that amount of time and I could have built something incredible.

There are certainly some people to whom I’m just preaching to the choir. I do know a few people who don’t have televisions these days, and even more who don’t have cable (although Hulu or Netflix seem to be gaining a lot of ground). But there’s just as much value, entertainment and potential for time-wasting in a lot of other media. Don’t be afraid to consider other habits in the context of what you could be doing with that time.

Four hours a day is a sixth of our lives. Bring your television consumption down to two or three favorite shows — watch just four hours of television a week — and you have enough time to do anything. Been trying to figure out when you were going to learn more about the stock market and invest in it? Been trying to start a new business? Been wanting to take a few classes to land a promotion? Time really is money and if you choose to spend it on something other than television, you’ll certainly benefit.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Priswell says:

    We went 7 years+ without a TV at all. There were times when we were bored, but mostly, we got a LOT of stuff done, and didn’t notice we didn’t have a TV. Now, we do have a TV and watch a little, but I think our years without one taught us to do things instead of just sit there mindlessly watching.

  • Randy Addison says:

    Balancing the time is one good way to make money out of time. Yes, watching tv is not evil, but the evil thing is what it gives you or the result of too much watching of tv. Just invest your time to something more productive.

  • debra says:

    I had an old box television until Jan 1 when I took it to the curb. I have enjoyed my time without it. I eat dinner at the table every night. I actually work out at the gym with a trainer instead of just thinking about it. I read 2-3 books a week. The real benefit is that I’m calmer and my life is more peaceful.
    I suspect that I will eventually succumb and buy a new television but for now life without is quite nice.

  • SavvyYoungMoney says:

    I do watch a lot of TV, but I guess I don’t see that much harm if you’re ACTUALLY multitasking. Sure I’m a little less efficient at whatever else I may be doing, but at least I feel that I’m getting a chance to “relax” after a day of work. So I guess if the TV’s on for 4 hrs, probably only 1 to 1.5 hrs are “wasted.” The TV only gets my full attention if it’s one of my must-see shows.

  • MB says:

    I watch about a half-hour of news and weather each day while I am working out and have little interest in anything else on TV.

    At times, I wonder if the the Internet might be a time waster. However, I am constantly learning from sites like MoneyNing, and the Internet is more interactive than TV. My hobby is learning more about languages and cultures. Without the Internet, and especially Skype, I wouldn’t be able to easily stay in touch with friends all over the world. I guess it’s just a matter of priorities.

  • KM says:

    I think if you count the episodes I watch on Hulu (without as many ads as tv), I watch “tv” for 3 hours a *week* max (depending on how many shows are running at the same time). I definitely don’t have the time or desire to sit on the couch and watch 4 hours a day…if I did, I would rather knit or something.

  • Jenna says:

    This post is too funny. I watched four hours to TV last night (three episodes of Dexter and one hour of Glee). Granted I was organizing and packing for my move this weekend, but I still feel like that is an insane amount of TV. Where do these American’s live? It would be interesting to see a state by state average.

  • Bargaineering says:

    There’s something to be said for keeping yourself entertained and “decompress.” Watching TV, like anything else, is best in moderation and 4 hours seems like too much TV. 🙂

    So while I woudln’t try to cut it out completely, trim it back and focus on a few other forms of entertainment to broader your “entertainment horizon.”

  • Squirrelers says:

    I do use my TV, as there are random things I might like to watch here and there. Netflix has really been a fun additions.

    Overall though, my TV use has declined dramatically over time. I think it’s a matter of how one uses TV. For me, an evening at home watching a movie is low-cost entertainment, compared to an alternative. That said, if I’m watching TV too much, I then think that I could be doing something more productive with my time.

    I think it’s a balance, and for me, that balance has meant keeping TV but watching much less of it than I have in the past.

  • marci357 says:

    I’m not connected to cable or antennae, etc…. just have a vcr/dvd player connected to it for occassional movie night with the grandkids….

    Even without wasting those 4 hours a day on TV, there are STILL not enough hours in the day for all my hobbies and pleasures 🙂 Maybe if I cut back on the internet??? LOL…. wonder what the figures are on that.

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