My five-day TV fast
I recently had a few days of alone time and thought, what better time to challenge myself to do something interesting? One thing that I've wanted to do for a while is see how long I can go without watching TV.
TV is the ultimate time waster, silence killer, background filler in our house. There's almost always somthing on the TV, whether anyone is actually watching it or not. We do watch some things, like documentaries, that are educational, but a lot of it is fun, mindless junk.
I was thinking back to when I was a child and a voracious reader. I think part of the reason why I read so much was because I wasn't allowed to have a TV in my room. We had a handful of TVs; one in the living room, one in the kitchen, and a couple of portable old black and white TVs, one of which was hooked up to the TRS-80 in the basement. (Yes, my first color computer was hooked up to a black and white TV for most of the time I used it, except on rare occasions when I'd bring it upstairs to view my creations in color on the main TV.)
I've been making an effort to read more, as well. I feel like I've sqandered the past year, the past few years, when it comes to my reading habits. Also, my writing! I used to write a lot more, heck, I used to be employed as a writer! Now, I feel like I barely have time to write anything substantial. And let's not even talk about programming projects! I'll work on projects in fits and starts over separate weekends, but I feel like I never have time to finish a project.
It really all comes down to a lack of time or, really, my misuse of it. So the question is, did I feel like I used my time wisely over my five-day TV fast? Or did I still manage to squander my time?
This was a work day, and a busy day of having to drop Jason off at the airport. Bye, dear! I won't be watching any TV without you!
I finish the day around 5:30. Usually, I'd fire up Fortnite on the Switch for some duos matches or turn on the TV for some background noise while I prepare dinner. Well, I didn't feel like playing any solo Fortnite (technically I wouldn't be turning on the TV, just playing on the Switch, so I'm not going to call video games cheating), and I'm planning on eating some of the leftovers in the fridge.
I did notice that it's so very quiet. It's me and Zoey the dog, and she's a sleepy couch potato. After playing with the sound bar for a bit, I realized that it had a bluetooth option. I connected my phone via bluetooth and turned on some classical music. I felt so cultured while eating my leftover cauliflower mac 'n cheese.
I wanted to get some books read, so I fired up the Kindle. I had recently re-started reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. I had made it to chapter 9 before I simply dropped off. I think the problem was that I was falling asleep while reading and retaining none of the previous chapters. So, I decided to start the book again from the beginning.
I was also in the middle of another book, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, a book about success. I'm finding the anecdotes in the book interesting, but overall, it's kind of the same self-help stuff as all other productivity books.
The rest of the night was spent reading a bit of one book, then a bit of the other. I end up drowsy early from the music, cozy couch, and early late fall evening, so I go to bed earlier than usual. I'd normally turn on the TV in the bedroom and put on some Bob Ross videos to lull myself to sleep, but I feel ready to sleep immediately, and I do.
I wake up feeling rested and energized. Did reading myself to sleep with some classical music really give me a great night's sleep?
It's another work day, so I'm easily TV-less until around 5:00 again. Thursday is a carbon-copy of Wednesday night: leftovers for dinner, books for entertainment, except I've substituted some lo-fi jazz for the classical music.
It was trash night, so I gathered up all the trash and took it to the curb, which took all of 15 minutes.
I need to find a way to stop falling asleep while reading! I'm absolutely too comfortable. I research how to not fall asleep while reading. The answer: read while standing up. That sounds awful, but when I do start feeling extremely drowsy, I stand up and pace with my book for a bit before sitting back down. I mostly read A Brief History of Time tonight. I'm getting to the dense chapters, and between the information and the drowsiness, I'm not getting through it very quickly.
Another work day, and I'm done around 4:30 or 5:00. Dinner and music. I need to do some dishes, so I take the time to fill the dishwasher, and then I sweep up the kitchen a bit. I could do some good cleaning with my free time, but I'm looking forward to my books. I've made some real progress on A Brief History of Time.
I'm definitely substituting books for TV time instead of getting things done around the house. I was looking forward to not having an excuse for procrastinating, and I've just replaced something I'm meh about (TV) with something I remembered I truly love (reading). If anything, I'm less motivated now!
I felt like I wanted to start another book instead of reading the ones I'd been reading, so I would open up a new book on my Kindle, read a bit of the first chapter, feel unsatisfied, and start another book. I don't know why I couldn't be satisfied with any one book today, but I didn't have any issue with that on any other day of my TV fast.
I've made it to the same spot in A Brief History of Time where I fell off before. I've even taken time to review my highlights in earlier chapters and write down some notes. I feel smart, but the looming housework is nagging at me.
I find it hard to keep programming after a full day of work, but today is a weekday, and I have projects to work on! I start poking around in a project that I abandoned in July or August. It is so close to done, but I hit a horrible roadblock. I wrote a markdown transformation library in Rust, and I wanted to create a desktop program in Flutter using that Rust code. However, it just didn't want to work in any mode except debug mode.
After stopping for lunch, I dove back in, creating the front end for my application. I basically worked a full 8-hour day on my project, with plenty of breaks to hang out with Zoey and enjoy the nice day outside.
Once I had the project almost finished, I stopped for the day and settled back down with my books. I finished A Brief History of Time and was able to put it on my read shelf on Goodreads! I'm glad I finally finished it. I felt like I was lost in the middle chapters, but the end of the book brings it all back around, and I feel like I actually understood the material this time.
I've been hitting the non-fiction and business/productivity books hard for a while lately, and I feel like I deserve some Star Wars. I dive into Into the Dark by Claudia Gray and devour the first few chapters. I will always gladly read a Star Wars novel.
Barking Up the Wrong Tree is over halfway finished, but it's not scratching the itch I want it to. I like it, but it's just another coping mechanism for my need to overachieve. Bring me the mindless Star Wars novels!
Music for today was all over the place, from some 70's light rock to 90's alternative. When I hit got into reading Into the Dark I turned on some Star Wars soundtracks.
In the back of my mind for a week has been the idea of making some pumpkin bread with leftover canned pumpkin I'd used for making pumpkin spice macarons. I wanted to do some baking this weekend, so why not? I whip up the pumpkin bread, which probably only took about 30 minutes. It barely took any time at all, why do I procrastinate these things?
I clean up, do some dishes, and, after working with Rust code so heavily the past couple of days, I really want to read a book on the language. Yes, I've been writing Rust programs without really diving deep into documentation or official books. I learn by doing, and looking things up as I need them.
I do some research into different books and find that one of the best resources is The Rust Programming Language, which is freely available online. I've read bits and pieces of this book as I've worked on my small Rust projects, but never sat down to just read the entire thing. I actually find it interesting and easy to read, and in the first few chapters I already find ways to fix small problems with my code. (Jump ahead to today, the Wednesday after, and I'm on chapter 10. It's still a good read.)
I have my programming project mostly done, except for some bugs that pop-up in my hastily-constructed front end. Now, I need to write about the project. I like writing (as you can see, I've just written a whole bunch about not watching TV), but it takes so long to do. I want to share what I've learned, though, and I power through, going back over my old Rust code and reworking how I wrote it in the first place.
Now, here's where I come the closest to breaking my TV fast. It's Sunday. There are football games on. I have a fantasy football team. I also pay way too much for NFL RedZone. So what I did was, turn the RedZone channel on in another browser tab and cast the audio to my speaker. I wasn't watching any football, instead I listened to it like a radio program as I wrote.
As I'm listening to the 1:00 games, I finish my writeup of my latest project and publish my post on Rust, WebAssembly, and FCKed Editor, the cursed markdown editor. I realize that I'm not even really paying attention to the football games and turn off the stream.
I spend some of the rest of the day doing chores and some light cleanup, but I never get around to doing the deep clean I had tried to hype myself up for. I also didn't play any video games. I was going to let myself play some games, but I never got around to it. Maybe that's for the best. I could've ended up in a five-day Civilization hole, but I didn't even start Steam once this week.
After dinner, Zoey wasn't feeling well, so I spent the evening trying to read while simultaneously worrying about her and Googling dog ailments.
A half day of work, then picking Jason up at the airport. As soon as he got home, I turned on the TV and we watched the latest Bob's Burgers while eating dinner. My TV fast was over.
What I learned from five days with no TV
- I was tempted at times to watch, usually by a Twitter post or a song, but it wasn't too hard to replace TV with a book.
- I did watch some videos on my phone, like TikTok and Twitter, but I was mindful of keeping it to a minimum.
- I listened to a variety of music that I normally wouldn't listen to. Classical, 70's light rock, 90's alternative, movie soundtracks, and more. I filled the silence with music and it was great.
- A few days in, I was more comfortable with silence, and sometimes read in complete silence, or outside listening to nature (and city) sounds.
- It didn't make me any more productive at things I didn't want to do. I replaced mindless procrastination with a more mindful procrastination.
- But it did help me finish a project that I did want to do, without giving me an easy way out.