A simple trick that will let you live 13.6 years longer

by | Feb 29, 2016 | Time

Takeaway: By the time you die, if you’re average, you’ll have spent 13.6 years of your life watching TV. That’s a lot of time.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 14s.

Photo: Francisco Osorio, CC


If a genie magically appeared in front of you and asked whether you would like to extend your life by 13.6 years with just a small amount of effort, would you say yes?

That’s not even a question—of course you would!

How would you spend that time? Like imagining what you’d do if you won the lottery, it’s fun to think about. Would you read hundreds more books? Write one? Travel the world? Volunteer?

The reason investing in your productivity is so important is that our time is limited. That’s why I think the best productivity tactics out there exist to help us accomplish what we have to do in less time. This lets us carve out more time for what’s actually meaningful and important to us.

But yet, despite how limited our time is, we waste so much of it. I don’t think many people, as an example, would consider filling those 13 years with binging on Netflix, or watching TV.

Yet that’s exactly what the average American does. The number of years the regular person burns through watching TV is astounding. If you’re reading this post, on this site, you’re probably better than most. But for an average person who lives until 70, and watches 34 hours of TV a week (the average), this amounts to 13.6 years of TV watching.

I would never tell you how you should spend your time, and it’s not my intention to turn this post into a 500-word guilt trip. But I think it’s important to remember that every minute of TV we watch is one minute that we could spend doing anything else. If we have the time, freedom, and flexibility to turn on the TV, chances are we also have the freedom and flexibility to spend time on other things that are significantly more meaningful.

I personally believe that the meaning of life is not something we discover—rather, it’s something we create. Instead of watching TV, when we spend time with a friend or loved one, volunteer, meditate, or pick up a book that will help us become a better human being, we make our life more meaningful. The research shows just how much happier we become when we do these things. Even if we’d never give up TV entirely, it’s easy to admit that 13.6 years is a lot of time to spend watching it.

In the moment, especially when our energy is low, it’s often tempting to veg out and mindlessly watch a few episodes of a show. But it may not be worth the cost—and when you spend your time on something you find meaningful, more energy usually follows.

13.6 years is a lot of time to burn, especially on something that’s not all that meaningful.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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