9–5 and a TV and you’re done for it
The deadly combo is a 9–5 job and a TV. Just a TV and no job, and you’ll get tired of watching so much TV and start feeling like a loser (speaking from experience here). Just a 9–5 and no TV, you’re going to have to find something to do after work. Maybe that’s drinking or playing video games or playing pickup sports, which I don’t have as much experience with, so I won’t talk about those in detail.
When I say 9–5, I mean a salaried job, and when I say TV, I mean a TV in the literal sense but also things like YouTube. The fundamental issue here is that the 9–5 takes up most of your energy and the TV takes up the rest of your attention, which essentially traps you in a feedback loop where what you see on TV dictates how you act when you’re not in front of the TV, and even if you realize that that’s a problem, you don’t have the energy to do anything about it since you have work tomorrow.
I’m not saying that TV is bad, like how many people are saying smartphones are terrible for you or porn is bad for you, I’m just saying that anything that see on TV is bad information. Shows and movies are scripted, constructed and processed in the same way that ingredients in snacks like Cheetos are. The same applies to news and sports, but to a lesser extent since there is still an element of chance involved, but it isn’t much better. The problem with what you see on TV is not what they show, but what they don’t show, which is everything else. Think of what they show on TV as the sugar, fat, and salt and what they don’t show as the fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. The closest you’re going to get to a well-rounded watching experience is LiveLeak, but even then, it’s still not as good as going outside.
And I’m also not saying that being trapped in a feedback loop is a bad thing either — we’re all “trapped” in a feedback loop in some way or another, where we call this feedback loop our “routine”. The point here is that you want to improve your feedback loop to gradually include more productive activities, which means switching out the TV and YouTube and TikTok and Reddit for a different set of activities that have a better nutrition profile.
That leads us to the next point, which is probably why many people have can’t figure out how to stop watching TV when they get home from work, and that’s that they don’t have many viable activities that they can substitute in the place of TV, where viable means that you’ll consistently pick the activity over watching TV or watching YouTube or looking at Reddit nine times out of ten. (Drinking yourself silly at a bar every night might seem like a viable activity, but there are TVs at the bar, and your phone is there, too, so drinking isn’t really a substitute, it’s an add-on.)
People who are overcoming one addiction often substitute their addition for a more productive activity, like working out. TV and YouTube and TikTok and Reddit aren’t addictions for most people, I imagine, but just a default when there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing. The substitute activities don’t even need to be something beneficial or productive — in fact, they can still be harmful — they just have to be less bad than what they are standing in for.
This isn’t a game of 0 to hero, this is the long game, and the goal is to do less worse over time than you were before. The key is to gradually guide your current habits into new ones, over time, giving yourself plenty of slack along the way.
Let’s be clear, though. Activities that you’d rather do over watching TV nine times out of ten and are less harmful to you are worth their weight in gold. They take time to find and more time to develop. If you’ve ever heard people talking about how playing football or rapping or something else saved them from getting into trouble when they were growing up, they’re talking about how a viable activity saved them from their environmental default activity.
Doing the Math
Think about it — a 9 to 5 is really an 8 to 6 if you include commute. That’s 10 hours of your day, five days a week, which is 50 hours a week. If you watch two hours of TV every day, that’s 14 hours of your week. If you get 8 hours of sleep every night (which is generous), that’s 56 hours a week. How many hours does that leave per week? 48 hours, which translates to 4 hours a day on the weekdays and 12 hours a day on the weekends. If we’re talking work-life balance, that’s 50 hours of work to 48 hours of life. Not terrible, but if don’t watch TV, that becomes 50hrs of work to 62 hours of life, which is better.
It seems so simple, but the more time you spend on an activity, the more prominent that activity becomes in your life. Nothing else matters except time. If you spend 50 hours a week on work-related activities, work is 45% of your life. If you spend 14 hours a week watching TV, TV constitutes 12.5% of your life, so on and so forth. And that’s the key — the only thing that matters is time spent. They guy who goes to the gym for an hour every day and putters around is better off than the guy who goes hard at the gym for an hour three times a week in the long run. Why spend more effort for a worse result when you could spend less for a better one? In the long run, time spent beats effort every time, which means:
- There’s a high opportunity cost to watching two hours of TV a day, since that’s two hours you could be spending doing anything else that is marginally better, at any given effort level.
- There’s a high opportunity cost to working even one more hour a day at your job, since you could spending that hour each day doing anything else that is marginally better, at any given effort level.
- Anything that takes up an appreciable amount of time in your life is worth improving. If you spend ten hours a week eating, it’s worth thinking about how you can improve the food you eat, or the experience you have when eating.
- Hard work doesn’t matter in the long run. Don’t worry about working hard, just make sure that you’re putting in the necessary time into the right activities.