We’ve all been there. The long commute to work, being asked to stay late, the commute home, dinner, it’s all just so draining. It’s no wonder why TV and Streaming have become our coping mechanism of choice. But are we all spending way too much time in front of a screen? Do you know how much time a week you’re spending? Chances are your spending more time than you think.

According to Netflix “last year average viewing hours per membership rose 9 percent year-over-year. In 2017 users watched 140 million hours of content per day. Given the company had 117.58 million subscribers by the end of the year, that averages out to little over 50 minutes a day per subscriber.” Now let’s take a look at those numbers a bit more closely. Netflix is saying that on average, everyone with their service is spending 50 minutes a day viewing content. A DAY! That’s over 350 hours a year spent on watching Netflix a year! And that is just one entertainment service.

Instagram, Yoube, and Facebook are the Biggest Offenders

Instagram reports that people also spend on average about 50 minutes per day on the platform. This also adds up to roughly the same 350 hours per year users are spending on Netflix. Youtube claims that users spend users spend roughly 6 hours per month watching videos. And Facebook claims users spend 15 hours per month on the platform.

All together this equates to the average person spending 952 hours per year consuming content. That roughly equates to 20 hours a week or 25, 40 hour work weeks a year! Staring in front of our screens has become a part time job for many of us and it’s quite sad. Imagine how much more you could do a year when you weren’t spending so much time in front of a screen? What would you do if you had all that time back? Would you start a business? Start a blog? Work towards a goal you’ve been putting off?

Productivity Exercise

Here’s an exercise I’d like you to try. Go ahead and create a spreadsheet or excel document and document all the different forms of “screen time” you access. Put in spots for Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming subscription services you’re a part of. Next, put a spot for free to use services like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and any other sites you may be a part of. And lastly, go ahead and play a category called Misc. for anything that doesn’t fall into any of those categories.

During the next 3 days you’re going to start tracking how much time you spend on these various platforms. Don’t worry if you forget to start a clock every single time you access them. The important thing here is that we are trying to get a benchmark for your viewing habits. Often times the apps themselves will have time trackers built into them, but I want you to avoid using them. Because the goal of this exercise is to force you to do the tracking, so that you get the mindset of tracing your own time spent in front of a screen. Ideally you will want to do this exercise once during a work week, and again on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This will give you an idea of how your viewing habits differ on work weeks v.s. weekends.

Don’t beat yourself up

Anytime you’re working of anything related to self-improvement, it’s easy to beat ourselves up. It’s easy to hyper focus on the bad without focusing on the good. If you’re looking at your results and you find that your viewing times are way higher than average, that’s ok. The goal here is awareness, not correction.

Once you have your results, it’s important to start asking the Why’s. Why are you spending so much time in front of a screen? Is it boredom? Is work stressing you out so much that you need a few hours a night to decompress? Identifying some of the whys may help you to understand how to avoid getting stuck in front of a screen in the first place.

What Type of Content are you Consuming?

It’s important to get an idea of what type of content you are consuming as well. This is important because it will help you understand yourself better. Is social media taking up most of your attention? Or is more binge watching? If you spending the majority of your time connecting with others via social media, that might stem from a different set of unmet needs. Perhaps you are feeling lonely and disconnected and your using social media to reach out to others. If you are instead binge watching old seasons of Game of Thrones, then maybe you’re being over stimulated by the people around you and your looking for an escape.

Either way the escape you’re using is not helping you long term. Both solutions are just temporary and aren’t addressing the core issues. Your media consumption may be masking some other issues in your life. The important thing is to develop an action plan to avoid being sucked into the TV/screen viewing trap.

Action Plan : Practice Time tracking

Time tracking is an important skill that everyone should be familiar with. Time tracking is tracking how much time we spend doing an activity and learning how to optimize our time. When it comes to media consumption the goal isn’t to remove it from our lives, but rather, to have a better control of it.

We all have a need to blow off steam once and awhile. And there’s nothing wrong with using any of the platforms above. Netflix, Television, and Social media can be an excellent source of inspiration, relaxation, and networking opportunities. So our goal isn’t to eliminate it from our lives. Our goal is to just make sure we’re in control of our habits and not the other way around. By practicing time tracking on a regular basis we can ensure that we are aware of our own habits.

Recap

Here’s a quick Recap of how to start tracking our screen time 1. Make a list of all your “sources” of screen time. ( Facebook, Netflix, Youtube, etc.) 2. Spend 3 week days and 2 weekend days t tracking how much time you’re spending viewing things. 3. Record your findings 4. Review what type of content you are consuming and why? Try to do a deep dive into why you think you’re spending so much time watching things.

With a higher awareness of your viewing habits, you can start to spur change in your life. By taking control, you can now start increasing your own productivity, while at the same time having time for entertainment. Remember, the goal of time tracking isn’t to remove watching things from your lifestyle. It’s to simply make sure that you are in full control of it.