What I Learned From a Month Without Videos

This last month I haven’t watched any videos, TV, YouTube, Periscope, etc., (with the exception of a few things for work and school, which were required). I’ll admit, this month was a huge challenge for me. I didn’t think it would be so hard to go without video entertainment for a month, but man did I feel the draw of movies and YouTube videos.

The first thing I learned is that video is everywhere! It seems that video is everywhere now: restaurants, airports, buses, trains, at school, work, at home, everywhere! No matter where I went, there was always a TV or somebody watching videos on their phone, tablet, laptop or with some other device. I had no idea that videos had taken over our attention so completely. Everywhere I turned, somebody was watching some sort of video. It seemed inescapable.

The second thing I learned is how focused I feel without the constant distraction of videos and TV. Not that videos are bad, but it seems that we are engulfed in TV, videos, streaming apps and other outlets. When I stepped away from the movie screen for a month, I discovered how much more focused my brain is while writing, reading and doing other tasks for work and school. I strongly recommend a few days away from video and TV so you can see the effects for yourself.

Probably the most important thing I learned this month is how to have stronger self-discipline. I had to rigorously remind myself of my challenge to avoid video, no matter how tempting it was to watch a quick video online. There were so many times when I wanted to watch something. My wife and I usually watch a movie together on the weekends; there were several movies that came out to theaters this month that I have been waiting to see; the new Star Wars trailer came out this month; there were several new videos uploaded on a YouTube channel that I watch and much more. It seems like so much content online begins with a video. I read several articles online this month that were secondary to the video at the top of the screen. Needless to say, I have a collection of videos and movies to take me through the next few months. On the bright side, I can now watch many of those movies at home instead of paying for tickets to watch them at a theater.

Personally, not watching TV was super easy at home. It was as easy as not turning it on and finding something else to do. I just put the remotes in a drawer and walked away. The hard thing for me was being online for work and school and seeing videos in articles, on social media and elsewhere. The videos were so tempting!

To avoid watching them I turned off automatic play on social media and installed a Flash player blocking plugin in Chrome. Basically it blocks anything that uses Flash to play videos or ads, so it blocked most videos from showing up. For the rest of the videos, I would find something else to do, like writing, reading or getting caught up on homework.

That has been key during my year of habit experiments: finding a replacement. I filled my video watching time with other things. This one strategy has helped me overcome a lot of temptations to break my habits or give in to the urge to watch video (or eat meat, drink soda, or whatever it was). Without some sort of replacement habit or alternative, all of these months would have been way harder than they were and I probably would not have been as successful. If you are trying to make any change, whether dropping a bad habit or starting a good one, it is important to clearly define what you will and will not be doing.

Although I go “cold turkey” for an entire month, I recommend starting small. If you’re trying to kick a TV habit, just watch a little bit less for a few days, and then limit your time more and more as you progress. I do these experiments for a month so I can get a feel for how these habits affect me and what steps I need to do to change them. If you’re trying to make a serious, lasting change, you’ll have to work on any habit for much longer than a month. Several of my experiments from the Year of Change have ended up as long-term habits and all of them have changed me for the better, even if it only makes me more aware of my own habits and automatic behaviors.

Check back soon for updates and information about next year’s Year of Change.

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