Habits Technology

The Time Sink of Television and Email

By Hector on 06 April 2017

Is Watching Television Still High in Trend?

The exact numbers differ with ethnicity, and increase with age, but, if you are between the ages of 18 and 35, you probably spend an average of 25 hours a week watching television.

That’s a part time job.

As for emails, the McKinsey Institute found that 28% of an employee’s workweek is spent reading and responding to emails.

Though this is limited to work hours, I personally know that many corporate employees will be bothered (and pressured to read and respond to) by emails in their off-hours. Furthermore, it’s unlikely this habit dies once someone is in “free time” mode.

We’ve covered many different time management practices. Whether it’s the power of “doing nothing” or the 100-hour work week and Gary Vaynerchuk’s plea for everyone to stop complaining about not having time, the goal of these advocacies and the goal of an application like FocusMe is very, very simple – spend more time doing what you love.

That means spend less time doing what distracts you from what you love.

Twenty-four hours in a day. Pope or pauper, you all have the same amount of time. If nearly a second full-time job a week is spent on television and emails (if you add the times together), does the excuse of “I don’t have the time to do X” still hold true?

Let’s Face the Numbers

No, it doesn’t. Let’s do some quick math.

Full-time works clock an average of 47 hours a week.

Let’s then add in 8 hours of sleep a week, to be ideal (for those who complain about not getting sleep). 56 hours.

Add to that 2 hours a day of preparing/eating meals. 14 hours a week.

Oh, and don’t forget laundry/grocery shopping. ~2 hours a week.

With a week, comprising of 168 hours, that leaves us with 49 hours of free time, roughly.

If you’re spending close to thirty hours a week watching television, you can see under the cold hard truth of math that you do have the time. You just don’t spend it very well.

Yet another article criticizing the false notion that you don’t have time.

Don’t like that you have to spend 47 hours a week working? Well, that’s another article in and of itself. For now, let’s work on giving you more time with the life you’re currently living.

We need to kill the bad habit. You spend too much time watching television and reading emails. If you’re one of the few who don’t, then don’t read this article.

To kill a bad habit, you need to

Understand what you like in your bad habit

Find an alternative, better way to get that reward

I’ll explain.

Television, The Pleasure Application

What are we looking for in watching television show?

Escape. Entertainment. Distraction. “To wind down.”

The real answer is: pleasure.

That’s why we watch television, play video games, and “distract” ourselves in many different ways. There’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, it’s a great thing. Pretty much every desire we have, even the noblest, are paths to pleasure (e.g., being kind and charitable for the warmth that comes from acknowledging one’s own goodness and doing the deeds themselves).

If we are to be dopamine addicts, though, why don’t we think a little more, long-term?

If you spend, let’s say, 15 hours a week watching television (and I’m going to count Instagram/Facebook videos among these as well, which would probably bump that number up), cut it down to 10.


Well, first, how. If you download the FocusMe application, you can set times of the day and periods of focus to block all applications and websites that might make these distractions available (I, for one, don’t own a TV. I watch shows through the magical internet, ala Netflix and Amazon Prime).

Okay, back to the “why?”

Because with those five extra hours a week, you can put that time towards a project you already dedicate time to – e.g., learning a language or building a business. Or, the extra free time could be used to begin a new project…like learning a language. Or writing. Or spending time with family. There are tons of worthwhile ventures that you probably consider valuable but think you don’t have time to do.

If I have to explain how, in the long-term, these ventures will provide more pleasure for you than a few hours of pleasure now, then you have bigger problems than productivity. What you dream of doing, but excuse yourself from actually doing, usually is what you should be doing (i.e., what will give you the greatest pleasure, since you will be, well, living your dream).

I’m not saying watching television or random funny videos is a bad thing. No. It’s fun and pleasurable, which is good. It’s a simply a matter of how bad and how quickly you want your other goals to come to fruition (luckily, as a writer, watching any story, be it on a book or on the screen, counts as research for me! Muahaha).

Focus on the Work, Not the Emails

I write. A lot. I sometimes can spend twenty minutes crafting a Facebook status (pathetic, I know). Imagine, then, how long I might spend on something I consider ‘important,” like a business email?

Not as much, actually.


I try to check my emails only once or twice a day and respond to the important ones. The conversational emails, I leave for when I feel like I’ve deserved them or for when I want to respond to them.

A better way to enforce this (because willpower is often unreliable with productivity), is to use FocusMe. You can block Gmail or whatever other archaic method you use for email management while you focus on the important tasks.

For some perspective, let’s give emails the same “why?” treatment.

What’s the Productive Payoff in Emails?

In other words, what are we looking for when we read emails?
This may seem like an inane question. “We’re doing work!” you say. And you probably are. But how many of those emails require urgent attention? How many can be pushed aside until you complete your primary task? I’m sure one of the emails you planned on responding to counts among these.

Another answer to the question of “why are we responding to these emails?” is this: we want to feel productive.

After reading through a few emails, we feel like we’re making some progress, like something is being done. And, again, you might be responding to an important notice about a project you’re working on. Maybe.

But how much is actually getting done, I wonder? What percentage of that project, task, or page was improved by reading and responding to that email?

I’m willing to bet a Cheeto that you are just getting a dopamine hit from it.

If so, get back to work. Be more productive. Get shit done.

*grumble grumble*