According to a Nielson report from 2009, the average American watches 153 hours of television per month. In addition, this average American also uses the internet, presumably surfing, checking Facebook, Twitter, blogs, news, etc, about 30 hours per month. This all adds up to more than 7 24-hour days!
From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, we find out that the average employed person aged 24 to 55, with children, spends 8.7 hours per day working or doing work-related activities (like commuting), and 7.7 hours per day sleeping. That’s roughly 270 hours per month working and 231 hours per month sleeping. Here’s a chart of the data they’ve compiled from the American Time Use Survey:
This is a lot of time, isn’t it? Sure, we’re spending a lot of time working. We knew that, right? A lot of time sleeping, yes. A lot of time watching tv and surfing the net. We knew this was a lot of time, too, but it’s shocking to see the large number of hours. Of course, this is an average and each individuals time will vary and could be much less or much higher.
So, what’s my point, then? The point is about what we’re doing with the time when we’re not working or taking care of the house or kids. We’re consuming information. We’re taking in mostly useless information that we don’t do a lot with. To borrow from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, we’re not working on production or building production capacity. Yes, we’re relaxing and forgetting about the stresses of the world, but there’s more to it than that.
It’s the balance between consuming and creating something. This is what it means to me. It occurred to me recently while watching television that I wasn’t really interested in what I was watching. It was more of a time waster, something to do before going to bed. More importantly, I started thinking about the hour or two watching tv and how I hadn’t accomplished anything that day, other than working all day and coming home brain dead. I didn’t feel balanced.
The next morning, I got up bright and early and sat in front of my computer and started writing. I don’t know what I wrote about. I just wrote in a journal whatever was on my mind. I wanted to spend some time just creating something, even if it was never to be shared with anyone. From this process I went on to work on this blog and some other web pages.
This was the balance I was thinking about. I don’t want to be working from dawn to dusk and never give myself a break. I wouldn’t want this for myself and I wouldn’t advocate it for anyone else. That’s a recipe for a nervous breakdown.
What I am advocating is to find a balance that you feel comfortable with. For me, if I’m watching an hour of television each night, I feel better about it if I’ve spent at least an hour that morning writing or working on something else productive. As long as I’ve spent some time working on my personal goals, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I feel more balanced.
Ask yourself this question when you sit down to watch tv? What have I accomplished today that moves me closer to achieving my goals in life? How much time have I spent on it today? If you haven’t yet figured out what you want to achieve, then take some time to set some goals right now and start carving out the time to balance productive activity with leisure time.