How to Quit Watching TV

Two Methods:Alternate Activity MethodCold Turkey Method

The average American watches over 35 hours of TV a week[1] and the average Brit over 25. If you find yourself addicted to the TV and want to break the habit, or if you're just celebrating TV Turnoff Week, [2] the key is to wean yourself off using the steps below, watching TV less and less until you stop watching it altogether.


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    Start small. Try not watching TV for just one day a week. Make sure to replace that time with another activity that's equally or more satisfying. In other words, don't replace TV time with a task you dread. The task might be noble (such as cleaning the fireplace, or raking leaves, or giving the cat a bath) but such endeavors are best left to when you've already phased TV out of your life. Right now, the best way to wean yourself off of TV is to replace it with another enjoyable activity, but one that's more constructive or engaging, like reading a book, practicing to be a guitar god, or playing drown the penny with your kids. Eventually, increase the number of days per week when you don't watch TV, until there are none (if you wish to go that far).
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    Don't replace old shows with new ones. When one of your favorite shows goes off the air or you stop enjoying it, don't replace it with another show. Instead, use that new free time to do something else, like calling on friends, doing a hobby, reading, or exercise. Eventually, you will whittle down the shows you watch to a manageable few.
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    Use the TV timer. Many TVs come with a timer feature. When you start watching TV, decide how much time you want to spend there, and set the timer so that the TV turns off when that time is up. This prevents you from "lingering" on the TV, or at least it's a reminder, forcing you to turn the TV back on if you want to keep watching. If you have an older television that does not have a timer, or if you do not know how to use your TV timer, get a simple egg timer from the store. They are cheap, easy to use, and handy for other uses in the house.
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    Keep a TV diary. Bringing attention to your habit, without pressuring yourself to get rid of it, can help you realize how much time you actually waste on TV. In fact, the very act of recording how much time you spend watching TV (and what you watch) is likely to reduce your habit. As you write down "12:30am - Watching rerun of Friends that I've seen twice already" you might realize how much of a waste of time it is, and shut off the television, whereas normally you would just keep watching because you lose track of time.
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    Compare your TV time to the time you need to reach your unachieved goals. This is a good motivation exercise. Once you've kept a TV diary for at least a week, you'll know how much time television really takes up in your life. Now it's time to ask yourself how you can use that time more productively. If you're spending 20 hours a week glued to the tube, think about how much you could accomplish if you redirected that time towards something else! Make a list of goals, or things you always complain about but never have time to do. Things like:

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    Get rid of and hide TVs. The rise in television is linked to the increase in TVs per household.[1] Cut down on the number of TVs, and you'll cut down on TV time. You might be met with a good deal of resistance if you live with other people who are addicted to TV, especially kids--see How to Get Your Children Away from TV--but do you really need more than one TV? Do you really need one at all? If you do leave a TV in the house, at least put it in an uncomfortable place, like the garage, with no comfy couch to lounge in.
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    Cut down on channels. Another reason people are watching more TV is because there are more channels.[1] Look into downgrading your cable or satellite package (and you'll save some money, too!). Another option, if your provider offers it, is to program your TV so it only shows channels that don't suck you in--or if they do suck you in, they at least feed your brain. Stick to news, science, and history channels. Steer clear of entertainment, comedy, and sports channels. Make it so that you can't access the "bad" channels unless you have a password, and have someone you trust be the only person who knows the password. Having to ask for permission is a good way to filter your TV watching.
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    Use recording devices to your advantage. Even though recording devices like DVR and TiVo are associated with an increase in TV watching[1] you can also use them for the opposite effect. Make a rule that you will only watch recorded shows. Then place a limit on how much TV you can record. This will force you to be more selective about what you watch.

Method 1
Alternate Activity Method

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    Decide what you would like to do for a period of time other than watch TV. This is a critical step because if you do not find something that will keep your interest, you will fall back on your ol' faithful crutch, the TV. Look up a volunteer program, 'check out' that book, books of CD or magazine out of the library, find a new hobby, pick a craft, introduce your self to your family or even your neighbors, or any thing else that you want to do that you are currently not doing. You may want to schedule something during your usual TV-watching time; you cannot watch TV at your house and volunteer at the local soup kitchen at the same time.
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    Pick a time span that you plan to do what you picked for step #1. Start with a small amount of time, (30 minutes, 1 hour) and then expand each day or week.
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    Turn off and unplug the television for the time specified in step 2.
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    Keep doing this until you no longer miss the time away from the television. Then increase the time. Soon enough your TV time will be replaced with something productive. You may even get to the point where watching TV is a waste of your time and your money. Also, you can cut you expenses down by down grading your cable or satellite package.

Method 2
Cold Turkey Method

  1. 1
    Call you cable or satellite provider and investigate about discontinuing or suspending your service for a period of time, (weeks or months). Make sure there are no penalties for doing this.
  2. 2
    Follow steps #1 - #3 in the alternate activity method.
  3. 3
    If this fails, go to the Alternative Activity Method.
  4. 4
    Turn it off.


  • Remember that television is not a requirement for living. In the past as well as in some modern cultures, people watch no or very little television. If you grew up in a time and place where TV watching is very common, it may be hard to envision a life without TV. However, if you follow the steps in this article, then living a TV-free life will be easier and easier until it is second nature.
  • Replace your TV time with reading time. A trip to your local lending library may produce many good surprises.
  • Don't leave the TV on all the time in the background. If nobody's actively watching it, turn it off. A TV that is turned on draws most people towards it. If you prefer a bit of background noise while you work, try the radio, music, or a tabletop fountain instead.
  • Quitting television saves money. If you decide not to keep your TV and it still works, consider selling it or donating it to a place that needs televisions. For donations, a local school or non-profit group is your best bet. If your television is small and of a newer model, then you might be able to sell it for a decent amount of money. Use the money that you gained from selling the TV for other uses. You will also be saving money by canceling TV-related subscriptions.
  • If you need an audio-based activity, try audiobooks, radio, and podcasts. Some people, either by necessity and by preference, choose to listen to their media instead of read it. Many of the most popular classic and modern books have been made into audiobooks. There are podcasts on almost every topic imaginable, and most of them are free. There is also a variety of radio shows on the air at all hours; ask around your local area for a list of stations.
  • If you don't quit TV cold turkey, then at least Exercise While Watching TV or Do a Full Body Workout in Less Than 5 Minutes during commercials.
  • Choose another news source. If part of your television watching was the evening news, read a newspaper, news magazine, or online news source, instead. You may find you like it better, since you can spend time on the articles you find most significant and read only as much, or as little, as you like about each story.
  • Meet other people who have made the same choice. You may seem like you are the only person not watching TV, but there are many people like you out there. Many people from all walks of life are kicking out television from their schedules in order to make room for activities that they think are more important.
  • If you have a dog take her/him to a dog park. You could also try an academy for dogs.
  • Just turn it off. It's so easy- It isn't hard. If it is, you have really bad problems. Some people need food - you just need to turn off a freaking TV.
  • Take time to reflect upon the reasons WHY you may be watching TV and WHY you are watching it so often.


  • Don't replace TV time with other notorious time wasters like MySpace or Facebook.
  • Some people may not understand your decision, especially if you live in a culture where hours of TV-watching is the norm. Stand up for your choice and invite others to join you. This will also strengthen your resolve if you are just starting a TV-free life.
  • Remember to respect the wishes of your TV-watching family members and/or housemates. At the same time, you have the right to have your decision respected by the people who you live with. Discuss these issues with your family members and/or housemates for the best results; every situation is different.

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