Conquer This Hidden Success Killer

I’m going to risk some controversy this week and talk about a subject I feel is crucial in your quest for success.


Let me start out by asking if you watched the Super Bowl? If so, did you do it because you’re a dyed-in-the-wool New York Giants or New England Patriots fan? Or, did you watch because it’s what “everyone does” on Super Bowl Sunday?

Did you start watching shortly before kickoff and turn your TV off right after the game? Or did you start watching early and keep watching all the locker-room interviews and post-game discussions after the game was long over?

And when those were over, did you tune in some program you really didn’t care about? Was the rest of the night shot?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching the Super Bowl. But this event provides a great example of how easily television can suck up time you could be using more effectively.

The experts agree: TV is addictive!

I’m not alone in my thinking.

Two university professors — Robert Kubey, Rutgers University, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Claremont University — performed a far-reaching study of TV watching.

According to their research, “TV addiction” is real. In an article in Scientific American (“Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor”), they describe experiments they did with television viewers.

Here’s what they found …

“As one might expect, people who were watching TV … reported feeling relaxed and passive. What is more surprising is that the sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue. Survey participants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted.”

It gets worse …

Subjects also reported more difficulty concentrating after watching TV than before. They rarely felt this way after reading. People reported improvements in mood after playing sports or engaging in hobbies. After watching TV, people’s moods are about the same or worse than before.

And here’s the addiction part …

People watch TV a lot longer than they’d planned to. And they did it even though they didn’t enjoy it.

This sounds familiar to me. Before moving up here in the mountains, my wife Linda and I had cable. We’d find a program we were really interested in watching. As soon as it was over, we would start surfing, trying to find something to fill the void.

Almost invariably, we’d settle for junk because there wasn’t anything else on. But we still watched it.

We broke our addiction when we moved to our rural, mountain home. Since there’s no TV reception here except by cable or satellite, we simply opted out. And we’re happier — and more productive — for it.

Control it … Don’t let it control you

TV’s addictive qualities wouldn’t be so bad except you have important things to do with your life. You’re a copywriter now. You want to build your success every single day.

TV dramatically cuts into the time you should be spending building your success. Cut the cord!

Maybe not literally, but certainly, carefully control how much TV you watch. If there’s a program you absolutely have to see (and those are not reality shows), watch it. But then, as soon as it’s over, stand up, turn off the TV, and go into another room. Make yourself a cup of tea or do something like that.

But what about keeping up with all the cultural references we get through television? Isn't knowing those important in copywriting? Your prospects are probably TV watchers, so isn’t it important to keep current on what they’re watching?

Those questions came up at an AWAI Writer’s Retreat. John Forde, Jen Stevens, and I all agreed. The cost to your productivity isn’t worth it. If you want to keep up with those cultural references, do it by chatting with friends who are TV watchers. They’ll gladly tell you about TV shows you care nothing about.

Here are some strategies that will help reduce the impact of TV watching on your productivity …

  • Start by listing all the other activities you can do to boost your success instead of watching TV. Tape your list on your TV or TV remote. Check this list BEFORE you turn on the TV.
  • Keep a record of how much TV you watch and when you watch. Do this for one week.
  • Set a limit for how much TV you will watch in one week. Record your time and stick to your commitment.
  • Commit to exercising whenever you watch TV, such as walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, etc.
  • Record your must-see shows and watch them quickly by fast-forwarding through commercials and uninteresting parts — then turn the TV off again.
  • Consider removing your TV for a fixed period of time. You might find yourself writing more and talking to your family again instead of watching the TV so much.

I would love to hear from you if you’ve conquered the hold TV had on you. Drop me an email and tell me how you did it.

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Published: April 2, 2012

2 Responses to “Conquer This Hidden Success Killer”

  1. While there is no doubt that television is a significant time and productivity waster, I think an even greater threat to staying engaged and productive is the internet itself.

    While the internet is one of the greatest developments of our time, it has also made us so distracted by the immense volume of information that we can scarcely concentrate on anything at all.

    Instead we are drawn to fluff, socializing, and compressing our life into 140 character bits because it's so easily digestible.

    Guest (vaecordia)

  2. I would have to agree with the guest, I haven't had TV at all for three years, and I don't miss it! The internet is my vice... it is very difficult to ignore the internet when your computer IS your work environment. But it's possible. I set a timer and work in one-hour increments. While the timer's ticking away, I'm clicking away.

    Guest (kwoods)

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