Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't kill the Time Sucker...repurpose it.

First Time Sucker: Television:
In the beginning of college, I didn't watch a lot of TV. I would occasionally indulge in a movie on a rainy day, but I spent most of the time hanging out with friends and exploring. Oh, and studying, of course. (my dad reads this blog, you know.)

But then I got married and had trouble finding a job and was home a lot. And then I got a newborn little baby who had a fondness for eating around the clock and a complete disregard for normal human waking hours.

And then my TV watching got plain dumb. You know what dumb TV is. Don't make me say it. It included reruns, infomercials and just plain silliness.

And it was not feeding my soul.

Second Time Sucker: The Internet

I don't spend longs periods of time online- which is bad.

It's five minutes here, 3 minutes there. I can fool myself into thinking I don't give a lot of my time to the computer. In reality, I am more comfortable being oblivious than tallying up my cumulative computer time. Although I'm almost always reading good stuff and not just facebook stalking, I find this time is out of balance with how much time I need to spend doing things that are higher on my priority list.

I've tried to limit my time doing these things. But I keep getting sucked in. I think our couch is too comfortable. I tried berating myself. You're lazy. Stop sitting there. SELF, WHY ARE YOU WASTING YOUR LIFE??

None of these things worked.

My husband recently had some training at his job that he brought home and shared with me. It's changing the way we talk to and understand each other and anyone we encounter whose behavior may be hard to understand. I'm using it to understand myself and try to change my own behaviors.

The concept is easy: Every person has needs. Our actions are motivated by these needs. 

When we consciously think of people's actions as need-meeting, we find ourselves more understanding of other people.

I decided to try this on myself. What need is being met by watching television during the day? What need is being met by checking my email constantly or always reading blogs and news articles?

The need for Connection. Bingo.

My other methods for changing my behavior always failed because after removing the television and internet from my life, the need for connection still remained. This explained why after I stopped watching TV during the day, I had trouble turning it off. It gave me a shadow of a feeling of connection. I didn't want to close the laptop on the kitchen counter because I might miss an email - an opportunity for connection. I'm not attached to my phone at all, but I see why some people are. Constant connection.

The first question What need is being met? helped me identify my motivation. But the second question is the one that helped me make the actual change in behavior: Is my current way the best possible way to meet this need?

I took a good hard look at myself. I still felt lonely and more depressed after too much screen time.  My chores weren't getting done. The answer was painfully and honestly No.  It was also freeing to realize this because it gave me permission to change my behavior.

Turning the television off was one of the easiest things to change. It wasn't feeding me or really making me feel more connected, something I remind myself of every time I find myself reaching for the remote. After the first few days, I broke the habit of automatically sitting down to watch TV. If I need background, I listen to music and dance with my daughter in the kitchen.

The television isn't evil. It's didn't need to be thrown away - it needed to be re-purposed. I try and reserve it for true sick days or date nights with the hubby with a program we truly look forward to watching.

The computer wasn't quite so cut and dry. The needs were more complicated here. More than just connection, I needed of mental stimulation after changing diapers and endless games of peekaboo. I was getting a lot of encouragement from the blogs I was reading. There are so many good reads for stay at home mamas who are prone to feeling like they are in it all by themselves. So many words of wisdom, recipes, organization ideas- there is such a wealth of really good information out there. Except I had no time to put them into action because I spent all of my extra time reading about them.

1) I unsubscribed from just about every email subscription in my inbox that wasn't worth my time. Especially if it advertised "deals" and planted a seed in my mind that said "Buy more stuff", I said Buh-bye. That cuts in my email checking time in half.

2) I replaced A LOT of my online reading with podcasts. What a revelation! I can get all of my chores done while listening to some really thought provoking, soul-nurturing conversations. It fills my cup on days I don't have time for phone conversations or coffee dates with friends. Podcasts are like listening to someone else's coffee date. My favorites are Focus on the Family's 30 minute podcasts and the slightly longer and more casual The Simple Mom podcasts.

Most of all, I want set a precedent to my kids. If my daughter grows up in a home where the TV is always on, odds are she'll fall into the same habit. As parents, we can actively choose if we want to give our kids a blueprint for bad habits or good ones.

I want my daughter to automatically know that playing outside and planting things and spending time face to face and laughing are the best choices for her. It's time to make those the best choices for me.

How have you re-purposed your Time Suckers? Also, if you have any inspiring podcasts to share, please do!


  1. Yes, your dad does read this blog!!

  2. Really good post! It is so nice not to have the computer and TV always up. I'm working on the phone. It just calls to me. Who sent that text??? Who was that unknown number?? Find out NOW

  3. I was sucked into the TV the same way you were: from being at home all day and nursing a baby all day long. During Lent, when Daniel was 10 months old or so, I gave up watching the TV during the day and that helped me kick the habit. I have never gone back. As far as podcasts, try Family Life Today. They have some good stuff (very similar to Focus). Also, don't forget about real people...get out and join a moms group or the Parenting Center or the library story time. Just leaving the house for 1 hour a day is all you need sometimes to make you feel connected!

  4. Nicole, it has been such a JOY watching you grow as a wife and mother... You inspire me in so many ways. While I know it seems like there's always, always room for improvement - and that's true - we have to remember at all times that our Lord (mysteriously) takes DELIGHT in our efforts! That's been a great consolation for me this past year when my destructive, perfectionistic thought patterns started becoming my norm (again). Wish we lived closer to each other. Love and miss you mucho! - Em