Guilt-Free TV

TVGame of Thrones, anyone? Are you eagerly awaiting the Gilmore Girls revival? Still loyal to Grey’s Anatomy?

If you are a TV hater, and I’ve met many, just move along. This isn’t for you.

If you are still reading, though, and you’re disdainful of TV-watchers, why is that? Are your pastimes really so much more honorable and worthwhile? Do you also judge the books your friends read, and the movies they watch? I submit that the TV you watch is no different from the company you keep. If the shows are uplifting, or educational, or entertaining, why not indulge?

If you watch mindfully, and stick to your time and money budgets, you can watch TV guilt-free! Share on X


I love TV. There, I said it. I love it in the same way I love books and movies. And there are SO MANY of each medium and genre to choose from! So many adventures! So many things to learn! When people say TV is awful, citing the numerous Housewives “reality” shows, well, c’mon, I can’t stand those either! (But somebody must like them…?) I do enjoy glimpses into other people’s lives, though, such as Who do You Think You Are? (celebrities tracing their family history) and I am Jazz (about a transgender teen activist).

Leaving taste aside, I say that TV is only a problem if it interferes with something else in your life, like work, or relationships, or finances, or sleep. If you feel guilty about how much TV you watch, ask yourself the following questions:

Am I watching mindfully?

Do you like to have the TV on in the background? Not me. To some, I hear, it’s comforting, like white noise. To me it’s auditory clutter, and very distracting. My TV is never on unless I’m actively watching a show I’ve selected. (Keep in mind I live alone and can do what I want.) No channel surfing for me, either, or (for the most part) multitasking. If I’m truly interested in a show, I don’t want to miss the dialogue, or the facial expressions, or the thing one character saw (and so did we) that the other character didn’t notice. You know? You simply can’t catch details like that if you are multitasking. It’s like being late to a movie and missing the beginning, or skipping pages of a book. And if I’m not truly interested, why would I be watching in the first place?

Also, how are you sleeping? If not especially well, consider this: Do you have a TV in your bedroom? I don’t. I never have, though, so it’s not a sacrifice for me. One of the reasons not to have a TV in your bedroom is that it can interfere with your sleep. Just search Google for keywords “TV sleep bedroom” to read umpteen articles on the benefits of turning screens off — computer, TV, smart phone — an hour before bedtime.

Don’t get me wrong. YOU can have the TV on in the background, or in the bedroom, if you want to, and watch random bits and pieces of shows. I’m just saying it’s the opposite of watching mindfully, and might be a source of stress for you, whether you realize it or not.

Can I afford it?

Can you afford the time that TV watching costs? If so, great! But if it’s robbing time from something (or someone) else that is more important to you…well then, cut back! Scheduling TV time is a way of containing it. Decide how much you’re going to watch, and don’t let your “container” overflow!

Can you afford it financially? Premium channels and subscriptions can really add up! Do you need to have them all, though? Or can you focus on the offerings of one or two networks or services at a time, and supplement paid programming with free programming? Be mindful of temporary subscriptions and free trial offers. Note the expiration date on your calendar so you don’t forget to unsubscribe, or you’ll wind up paying for something you’re not using.

Am I watching efficiently?

Have you heard the saying, “Organizers are just too lazy to look for things”…? It’s true. We are always on the lookout for ways to be more efficient so we can spend more time having fun. Being mindful and organized makes for happy, guilt-free TV watching, and some of the happiest, TV watching-est people I know are professional organizers!

TV watching has gotten complicated! There are so many shows, on so many networks, with so many different schedules and season lengths, that it’s hard to keep track of the good ones once you find them. So, I keep a spreadsheet. Yes, really. You can laugh if you want, but it frees my mind of details that were on my mind. I never found it necessary until I discovered binge watching, starting with The Sopranos and The West Wing, neither of which I followed when they were originally aired. It used to be that all I had to do to prepare for a new television season was to note which new shows I wanted to watch and add them to my TiVo lineup. (I rarely watch anything live. I set my own schedule and save time by skipping commercials.) Now I keep track of which shows I want to watch, where they can currently be found – PBS? HBO? Netflix? — the season and episode numbers where I left off, etc. I treat my TV spreadsheet like I do any other project or to-do list. Just because it’s on my list doesn’t mean I have to watch it! I can always cross it off. I only need a list so I don’t forget what my curated options are. Changing my mind is like decluttering the list, allowing me to spend my time budget on better shows.

Am I trying to watch everything at once?

Relax! The combination of DVR and spreadsheet, and the way programming is offered these days (multiple sources, whole seasons at a time) free me up to NOT watch everything that interests me all at once. I am convinced that anything worth watching on TV is even better binge-watched. So, I don’t worry about missing whole seasons of new shows. If they turn out to be worthwhile, there will be multiple seasons, and they will be available later (with notable exceptions like My So Called Life and Freaks and Geeks…available, yes, but, sadly, only one season each). Sometimes I will let a few episodes of a current show pile up and watch them all at once!

Anything worth watching on TV is even better binge-watched. Share on X

Does watching TV make me happy?

Gretchen Rubin — of The Happiness Project book, blog, and podcast – agrees with me that TV can contribute to one’s happiness. In her blog post, How to keep reality TV from ruining your life, or, 9 tips to make TV-watching a source of happiness, she says:

… if you watch TV mindfully and purposefully, it can be a source of happiness, especially if you use it to connect with other people. If you watch it passively, automatically, and for want of anything better to do, it can be a drain on happiness.

As for connecting with other people, I tend to watch TV alone, but my best friend, who lives far away, meets with me – via text — once a week to watch TV and catch up. Our favorite show in the we-both-like-it-and-it’s-also-conducive-to-chatting category is So You Think You Can Dance, but we’ve also watched several seasons of Survivor together.

How else can I justify watching TV?

One thing I like to do is to break up an at-home work day by alternating work time with TV time. My mind enjoys the break and solves problems subconsciously while I watch. Then I return to work refreshed. It helps me to always have a little notebook and pen handy to capture tasks and ideas that pop into my head, so I don’t worry about remembering them later.

Another way to justify TV watching is to use it as a reward to help create new habits. An example of this is my new fitness program, which I call “Exercising with Friends”. It involves my treadmill, my laptop computer and, yes, Friends reruns streamed via Netflix, which I don’t watch otherwise.

Bottom line

If you watch mindfully…and if it doesn’t adversely affect other areas of your life …and if you budget your time and money…and stick to your budgets…and if you watch efficiently… and you clear the clutter of services you aren’t using, and shows you don’t care about…. You, too, can watch TV guilt-free!

Do you enjoy TV? What are your favorite shows? Do you feel guilty watching them? Please leave a comment below!

P.S. If you are overwhelmed with choices, or feeling unproductive, contact me for a free 20 minute TV-watching goal-setting and time-management session. LOL! But no, really!

Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Social media links directly to this page are encouraged!
Please contact me for other types of reprint permission.


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  1. Janet Barclay on September 9, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    “Guilt Free TV” = magic to my ears!

    • Hazel Thornton on September 10, 2016 at 8:22 am

      I’m happy you approve! Coming up with a title I liked was the hardest part of writing this blog post.

  2. Jamie Steele on September 11, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I love this post!!!. I “work” while my husband watches TV. I’m going to have to suggest he start a spreadsheet for his wanna watch list. Once he finishes binge watching a show it is hard for him to figure out what to binge next. He had created spreadsheets for shows in the past, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. I really enjoyed this, Hazel.

    • Hazel Thornton on September 12, 2016 at 7:42 am

      Thanks, Jamie! Yes. I know exactly how he feels, and a spreadsheet REALLY helps with deciding what’s next: hopefully something you already love, or already want to try, that’s available on network you already get!

  3. Stacey Agin Murray on September 12, 2016 at 7:57 am

    My husband enjoys TV more than I do and like Jaime, after the kiddies go to bed I ‘work’ on my laptop next to my husband who is watching TV. If I come home exhausted from a physically taxing client job, I’ll eat my lunch and relax with a pre-recorded Super Soul Sunday episode (or something else no one in my household wants to watch). No guilt! I’ll finish my admin work later…

    • Hazel Thornton on September 12, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Some shows are definitely more relaxing than others. SSS is a good one to de-stress with!

  4. Seana G Turner on September 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I’ve been binge watching 24… I have to admit it! It’s been fun… who doesn’t like Jack Bauer? I had it on over the weekend as I was scrubbing some teak furniture!

    • Hazel Thornton on September 12, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      I’ve heard of people binge watching 24 in real time, around the clock….I like Jack Bauer, but not that much!!! I do like Kiefer Sutherland enough to try the new show, Designated Survivor, though!

  5. Sarah Soboleski on September 12, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Love this post! I do enjoy TV, but when we moved into our house 11yrs ago, we made it a point not to have a television in the bedroom and we haven’t missed it. Oh and I love that you make spreadsheets of your show schedules and that you’re into West Wing – loved that show when it was on!! And I’m a SYTYCD fan too. What have you thought of this season featuring the Next Generation?

    • Hazel Thornton on September 13, 2016 at 9:58 am

      At first I was disappointed that SYTYCD was planning to feature kids. But by the time they narrowed it down to the Top 10 I was hooked, because those kids are SO GOOD!!! I will admit to being surprised at the outcome last night. Again, they were all super-talented, but I was rooting for J.T. or Emma. Kida reminds me a bit of Joshua, Season 4 (my first), whom I loved, in that he’s a relatively untrained hip-hopper who apparently also (like Joshua) won America’s hearts. I, too, was impressed with his turn at choreography. Sadly, I am just now reading about Joshua’s personal and legal issues. Who were you rooting for?

  6. Sarah Soboleski on September 15, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Yes, I was surprised that Kida won too! But, good for him. He and Fikshun had great chemistry. I was rooting for Tate or Emma. I do love a good tapper! 🙂

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