In January, my husband and I took a month off TV. No Netflix, no Hulu, no TV news. Our goal was to become more intentional and creative with our evenings—playing games, reading, having friends over, conversing with one another.
Up until January, we were in the habit of watching a few episodes before bed each night. It began to feel like a rut where as soon as we put the kids to bed, we were drawn to the couch like magnets, plopping down shortly after, usually with snacks in hand.
On January 1, we were halfway through The Crown on Netflix, and I thought that tearing myself away mid-season would be tough. Thankfully, our TV-Turn-Off month turned out to be much easier than I expected. Within two days, I mostly forgot about The Crown. We found ourselves playing those board games we’d wanted to play, inviting friends over, reading lots more books, and enjoying our evenings in new and refreshing ways.
In the midst of this, one surprising benefit emerged: we were going to bed earlier, 45 minutes to an hour on average. Instead of feeling the urge to binge-watch one more thing, we simply went to bed when we were tired, and woke feeling more refreshed.
I also felt more freedom in the evenings. Knowing there were different options each night, and challenging myself to try them—cooking something fun and time-consuming, sitting around the firepit, listening to an audiobook while doing a jigsaw puzzle—filled me with possibilities and made me feel more creative in all of life.
The benefits were wide-ranging. We shared longer family dinners with better conversation, invested more time meal prepping healthy food in the evening, and awoke each morning feeling rejuvenated from a solid night’s sleep. I got up without pressing snooze. I finished more books and podcasts. At work, especially, I felt more rested and focused. It was my experience that cutting out TV led to all of this, and ultimately to an overall boost in wellbeing.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of a break from TV, here are some questions to spark your thinking:
Is streaming entertainment cutting into your sleep?
We all know sleep is the foundation for so much in life, including focus, learning, and performance at work. Reducing screen time is almost guaranteed to increase your sleep, both in quality and quantity. You can also think of it from the negative side: sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce performance and productivity. As this article shows, a lack of motivation, focus, and creativity can all be traced back to inadequate sleep.
Do you engage in screen-free recreation activities on a regular basis?
I found it refreshing to enjoy different leisure activities during our TV-free month. Sure, it took a little more energy, but it actually made me feel more energized and engaged with life. The inspirations I’ve gotten while hiking or going for a run/walk outside have led to breakthroughs in my mindset at work. I don’t generally get inspired to make positive change while watching Parks and Recreation (much as I love that show!). Breaking out of my TV rut inspired me and sparked fresh passion in my life.
How much of your free time goes towards TV?
I am not going to say there’s a right or wrong amount of time to watch shows, but I bet you could come up with a number. Are you exceeding it? Imagine you are your Future Self, 10-15 years down the road. How much entertainment would your Future Self want you to be watching now? What else would he/she like you to be doing in your spare time?
In light of all the positive effects my husband and I experienced, I’d encourage anyone to take a TV sabbatical. It may challenge your thinking, shake up your routine, and take more creativity and energy. But it just might lead to better sleep, a healthier mindset, and greater inspiration in your personal life and at work.
I recently had the chance to eat dinner with Horst Schulz, the co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton. Over quesadillas, chips, and multiple orders of queso, he shared stories with those of us at the table.
When this man opens his mouth, you listen. You listen because Horst was the inspiration for the iconic Chick-fil-A phrase “My pleasure,” and he’s also behind the fresh flowers most Chick-fil-As display on their dining room tables. And then there’s the Ritz.
His words challenged and inspired me in many ways, but by far, my biggest takeaway was this statement: “human beings want to belong, have purpose, and be part of excellence.“
If you’re a leader in your organization, here are some thoughts on how to leverage each of these components to improve employee retention and satisfaction.
People want to belong to something. As a leader in your business, you have the chance to provide this sense of belonging to your team. Cast vision for your people. Show them they aren’t just an individual working a role, nor a cog in a wheel, but rather a vital part of something bigger than themselves. Challenge yourself to inspire your team just as much, if not even more, than you push your team to grow. On a practical level, think about your onboarding process. Are you making the process something special? Onboarding is an opportunity to convert new hires into loyal fans.
Hospitality is more than just taking great care of customers. It’s how the team ought to relate to one other as well. Start with internal hospitality. Welcome the team into your organization, treat people with dignity and respect, and they will inevitably begin to extend the same powerful hospitality towards your customers.
People want purpose. No matter if it’s the dishwasher in the hotel kitchen or the marketing manager, make sure every single person knows the “Why” behind your organization. What is your overall mission? What is their specific mission? How is their unique role vital to the entire business? From the moment you onboard someone, be sure to bring them into this conversation and continually remind them of their purpose. Not only will they perform better, they’ll also stick around longer. This is the secret sauce behind the Ritz-Carlton’s extremely low turnover rate, around 20% as of 2014.
Finally, people want to be part of excellence. Hold the team to a high standard, and then celebrate the excellence. Remind your people what great work they’re doing, share your company values with them, and market your brand’s excellence to your people just as much as you would to a potential customer.
Try this recipe. It’s so easy! Throw it in the crockpot. It’s so simple! Pinterest headlines make it seem that everything in life can be had with zero effort. From finances (stupid easy budgeting!) to exercise (5 minute abs!) the prevailing message is that we can have everything we want in life—without working for it.
Effort is bad. Ease is good. The quicker the better.
I’ve subscribed to this same mentality, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve told people, “Try it yourself. It’s super easy.”
I used to proclaim 5-ingredient recipes to all my acquaintances. The same goes for exercise, because I’ve long been a fan of the 7 minute workout.
In the midst of racing around and doing everything in the fastest, most convenient way possible, I’ve begun to question just which destination I’m running towards.
I’ve started to wonder whether, in pursuing ease, I’m sacrificing quality. What is being gained aside from a couple minutes?
When I took the time to list some of the most important accomplishments in my life, I realized the common denominator was this: they didn’t come easy. Climbing a 14,000 foot mountain, having children, maintaining a loving marriage—these things all took and continue to take tremendous effort.
Inspired by this revelation, I began trying to do certain things “the hard way.” Rather than buy herbs pre-grown, I grew my own this summer and dehydrated the extra basil, tarragon and oregano for winter. And instead of buying a bag of pumpkin seeds, I hand-picked the seeds out of our Halloween pumpkins so I could clean and roast them for a healthy evening snack. It was slimy. It took time. But the end result, toasted in sea salt and coconut oil? Heavenly.
What does this mean, aside from the fact that I have gotten really into cooking and gardening lately? My point is this: sometimes hard stuff is good. For instance: I have a good job. I’m a coach who gets to invest in leaders across the country. But this job is also hard. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I must read books and pursue continual learning to do my best.
And you know what I’ve discovered? I love the struggle. I’m thankful that it’s hard. The challenge of being a better coach stretches me and allows me to discover new potential in myself I never knew I had.
Ease is a fact of life. We live in an abundant society where we don’t have to grind our own flour to make bread from scratch every day. And thank goodness for that!
Here’s what I’m learning, though. Ease isn’t an end in and of itself. The fact that I had to put effort into something and really work up a sweat can make the end product sweeter. Even more than that, working hard cultivates my character.
My labors teach me that not every urge ought to be instantaneously gratified. I learn patience. I grow to appreciate the work that goes into life’s conveniences, remembering the farmers and the factory workers involved in getting the delicious Cashew Cookie Larabar snack into my shopping cart. In short, a thankful attitude and increased self-control both blossom out of a commitment to hard work.
I leave you with this challenge: do something hard today. Pull weeds. Split wood. Call someone who isn’t easy to talk to and ask how they’re doing. When we do hard things on a regular basis, we become resilient people, better equipped to navigate the inevitable hardships of life, and better able to flexibly navigate rapidly evolving workplaces.
This isn’t a quick fix (do 5 hard things and transform your life!) But it’s a real fix, a slow-but-true fix that can transform not just individuals but all of society into sturdy and hardworking people.
Finally, I want to mention special thanks to Ben Sasse whose new book The Vanishing American Adult no doubt inspired much of this post!