Experiments

I Used to Binge Netflix. The 100 Day TV Fast Retrained My Mind to Read for Fun.

By April 18, 2019 July 13th, 2019 No Comments

Cutting out TV for 100 days is the best thing I have done this year. Here’s how I did it. You can too.


The Problem:

I Used to Binge Netflix

I used to binge-watch Netflix every weekend. My Dad measures binging as watching at least 4 or episodes in a day. With a very conservative estimate of 30 minutes per episode and 8 episodes a week, that means:

240 minutes a week

11,520 minutes a year

2.2% of an entire year

This time was spent mostly sitting still, by myself, consuming mindless entertainment. Movement is important for both our bodies and brains, and for me, watching TV did not encourage either.


What I Did:

A 100 Day TV Fast

Years of internal unhappiness at my TV watching habits resulted in an outwardly impulsive decision in December 2018 to completely cut it out for a time. I started the fast shortly after having the idea, and soon made these goal guidelines. I’ve written them below in the SMART goal format. I successfully finished the goal in April 2019.

Specific: No TV, Movies, or YouTube

I wanted to stop my dependency on video media for entertainment. So I cut out Netflix, movies, and YouTube for entertainment. This included both me by myself and with friends. I was still allowed to watch nonfiction professional courses.

Measurable: Tracked Daily on Phone Habit App

I am an all or nothing person. I have also heard that cutting something out is mentally easier if you cut it entirely out. You don’t have to have the willpower to make frequent decisions about how much TV to watch, but instead decide you will not watch it at all for a certain amount of time. I chose 100 days, but I think any amount is good.

Achievable: Takes Willpower but Possible

100 days long enough that I thought it would make a lasting improvement on my habits, but it wasn’t so long that it was impossible.

Rewarding: Cutting Netflix Has Immediate Benefits

Removing a dependence on Netflix means freed up time and less low-quality media consumption.

Time-bound: 100 Days In a Row

At first I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to go, and wishfully thought of extending it for a year. I chose the more realistic 100 days, which was long enough that I thought it would make a lasting improvement on my habits.


The Results:

Retrained My Mind to Read for Fun

I very quickly adjusted. My initial instinct was to watch TV when I was tired. Then I shifted to wanting to listen to a book when I crashed on the sofa after a long day.

Tracking streaks of non-TV days was very encouraging. I loved seeing the streak build over time.


The future:

What I Can Improve

When I finished the fast, I found myself occasionally reverting to binging again. I’ve since read the book Atomic Habits and will shift how I approach preventing binging in the future. Here are some ideas to improve this in the future:

  • Allow occasional TV.
    • For example, give myself a budget category with $1 every day I do not watch, to be spent exclusively on fun things. On days I do watch TV, I would not add that day’s $1.
  • Change streaming account passwords.
    • If I had my own streaming accounts, I could just cancel them. But I share my generous brother’s Netflix and Hulu accounts. Maybe I could have him change the passwords and not tell me the updates if I am ever short on willpower. This wouldn’t work with Amazon Prime streaming, since I still want access to Amazon.
    • Similarly, I don’t have a TV (I watch on my laptop), but if I had one, I would probably give it away.
  • Have a description of why this is meaningful ready to tell friends so they don’t feel offended if I turn down watch something with them

  • Don’t watch extra professional courses.

    • Although I did not count instructional courses as TV, I am not entirely happy with how many I watched. This is still time spent with information spoon-fed instead of actively learned.
  • Social media boundaries so I don’t find other ways of mindless entertainment.

    • Update: I left Facebook and Instagram entirely!