The Surprising Results of my No-TV Experiment

Going into this, my hypothesis was that by tackling my unproductive habits, like watching TV or flipping through popular images on imgur, and substituting these with relaxing but productive habits, like learning a little bit of code through experimentation or reading up on work topics, but mostly reading and listening to books, I would end up getting a lot more done, writing in particular, because of the extra ideas that I would be able to get out of these new habits.


And this held true for the first week or so, when I still had a clear image of what I was doing, and I was still fresh and motivated.. but as the weeks went on, I ended up spending a lot of time and energy on making the decision to read, or listen to an audiobook, so that when it became time to work, I had a lot less mental energy to spend. I was experiencing decision fatigue in the afternoon, as I was making work related decisions at work, and then coming home and making decisions to eat healthy and read books, over defaulting to a habit.

It also impacted my mood negatively some days. Because I was focusing very hard on not watching any TV, I would opt out of TV-related conversations, and if someone else were to watch TV with me in the same room, I would be quite annoyed (I share a studio with my girlfriend who was not joining me in the experiment). And just not getting the same amount of humor in a day, and possibly the fact that it kind of tricks me into feeling like I’ve had sufficient social interaction on days where I didn’t talk to anyone outside of work.

Reading about different topics, in particular philosophical ones, proved to just as much spillover distraction as watching TV, just in a different shape. If you’re caught up in a good TV show, you’ll feel a desire to keep watching a lot of the time, even when you need to work. When I was reading, I ended up not being able to put unrelated ideas out of my mind.

Perhaps as a by-product of the disappointing final results I ended up not posting about it sooner, and with the my 11 day trip that followed right after the last day of the experiment, and the transition into working again when I got back, it’s now been over a month, almost two, since my last post.

Things That I Could Have Done Better

If I had finalized a healthy eating habit first, with a few clear options that don’t rely too much on outside factors (some of the healthy dishes I like to get from the market are not available consistently because the vendor is not there every day of the week) completely substituting reading and listening to audiobooks, learning some code with TV series and other shallow entertainment would have gone smoother, and it might have had the positive effect on my work that I’d hoped it would.

Another thing that could have helped, is if I had stocked up on books that were inherently interesting, energizing, and maybe a little bit funny, to me. Not necessarily all qualities in all books, but a few options that meet one of the criteria, so that I could choose whichever book would be the best for a certain time. One of the things that I turn to TV shows for is to be mesmerized, entertained and when I was reading fiction or non-fiction that I honestly enjoyed reading 100% through and through, it was a complete non-issue. When I had to force myself to keep reading and it felt like work in and of itself, it negatively impacted the amount of work I was doing.

Not sure I should have tackled the Infinite Jest audiobook in the beginning.  It is 40+ hours long. The book makes you reflect on a lot of interesting things, and although I enjoyed many parts quite a bit, the fact that it would take over 40 hours to get to tell yourself that you completed one book combined with the slower parts of the book makes it maybe not an ideal choice for first book to read.


I have probably added some extra stuff to a sort of backlog of useful information in my head that could lead to more, or better, ideas in the near future.

While I still struggle to stop in the middle of a TV-series marathon, it is now a lot easier for me to choose not to watch it in the first place. Which means that I can more easily convince myself to do work earlier in the day, and even use it as a reward for doing other, more productive things, like writing and doing other work.

I found it easier to commit to hanging out with people and go out and actually experience real things(except when I was reading fiction that I got completely hooked to).

Going Forward

Will I be trying to do another similar experiment in the future and take even more care in how I set it all up? Trying to incorporate the lessons I learned this time around? Perhaps. Or I might just start adding a little reading to my daily habits as I gain some further momentum with my daily routine.

My next experiment will probably be about freeing up the absolute maximum amount of mindspace by creating a routine where all food and other small choices are already planned and taken care of before the day even begins.

Alternatively, I’ll try keeping a journal about beating procrastination. Where I would write entries every time I successfully get to work, and then read the last entry about how I beat procrastination every time that I’m struggling to get started.

What To Do When You Get Tonsillitis And Your Blog Gets Hacked In The Same Week

hackedDon’t get caught up in thinking about what happened. Forget if ‘it’s fair’ or if ‘it’s not a good time’. In fact, forget about what happened, focus on how you react to it. Focus on what you can do to minimize the damage, and if applicable, what you can do to stop similar things from happening again.

It sounds simple, but it is hard. Very hard. To do this, you must first understand and internalize a crucial idea. The idea that a lot of your suffering is self-inflicted after the fact. That your choices and interpretations of something leads to suffering, not what happens itself.

This is not a new idea. It dates back thousands of years. In fact, it is one of the key ideas/concepts of the ancient Stoics.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius

But it is a hard one to internalize. It doesn’t help that it sounds maybe a little too good to be true. How could you choose not to suffer? I mean the negative stuff has already happened right? Suffering is only the natural consequence of the negative stuff happening right? I’m not so sure. Continue reading

8 Lessons and Important Reminders from 8 Days of No TV or Other ‘Mindless Distractions’

no more tvJust saying no to TV and other ”distractions” is proving to be a challenge. The good news is, it’s just about as hard as I had anticipated it would be. That’s also the bad news. But the real good news is that my No TV Challenge is just into it’s second week, and I’ve already learned, and been reminded of, a few important things.

Procrastination comes in all shapes and forms.

This is the most obvious when you have something completely overwhelming that you’ve postponed for just a little bit too long. You might find yourself almost making up chores, and things you do in preparation before you get started.

One of the trickier ones to deal with, is thinking. I’ve talked about this before. About how it’s easy to get stuck thinking about doing stuff, rather than just doing it.

It is easier to get started when the break or procrastination activity is ‘less fun’.

This had sort of been one of my key assumptions that motivated me to do this experiment. When I’m taking a break from working, if the break activity is addictive, entertaining and soul-sucking at the same time, it adds an extra layer of resistance towards working. If it is fun and relaxing, but not addictive, it’s easier to switch back to working mode. This is maybe the most motivating part of this project so far.

Productive procrastination is possible, and can be fairly productive.

I’ve started to learn how to make WordPress themes using a particular framework called underscores. I’ve been using this to experiment with making my portfolio site look better. (My final goal would be to create a lightweight, semi-customizable, easy to use portfolio theme. One that is focused on writers. Though it is going to take some time and real effort to get there.) Continue reading

The Sun Tzu Guide to Vanquishing Bad Habits (and My 30-Day No TV Challenge)


“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu

Do you dream of defeating your bad habits for good?

Routing the bad, and sparing only the salvageable, usable elite (any useful parts of a bad habit)? Replacing it with something more productive?

Trying to deal with bad habits can be a terrible struggle.

There’s you, the ruler, the general, pitting limited willpower against well-established neural pathways and outside influences that compel you towards a certain behavior. The enemy.

It would hardly be an overstatement to call it an internal war.

When creating and sticking to good, and changing/eradicating bad habits, you are at once your own general, and your own worst enemy.

Rushing in head, no, will-power first, without a second thought, throwing yourself against temptation, outside influence, and established neural-pathways is a recipe for disaster. Thousands, if not millions, experience this after they make their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ every year.

Success requires planning. Preparation.


That’s why you should use some of Sun Tzu’s timeless, strategic advice in our own personal battles against bad habits.
Continue reading