How to Stop Binge-Watching—and Take Back Your Life
Have you lost sleep due to unnecessary Netflix streaming? Are you itching for your video fix by the end of the day? Do you feel thankful every time the autoplay option on your streaming platform starts the next episode before you have to decide to press play? If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you suffer from the digital addiction known as binge-watching. Sure, being able to cruise through the first couple episodes of House of Cards sans interruption is enjoyable. But feeling imprisoned by your screen until the wee hours of the morning is bound to make you feel fatigued and grumpy and make you question where all your willpower went.
In order to take back your night (and your general sense of dignity), you don’t have to go cold turkey. We’ve uncovered several ways to help you transition off your addiction from bleary-eyed binge-watcher to healthy media user. Give yourself the gift of time and cease binge-watching forever with our tips below.
Yes, you’ve heard this before, but in order to preserve the sanctity of your sleep, but we’ll say it again: Protect the integrity of your REM cycles and the sanity of your mind by making the bedroom a screen-free zone. Don’t let the “I use my iPhone as an alarm clock” excuse fool you. It’s one step away from a full-on laptop-on-the-bed binge-watching nightmare. Instead, go old school and buy yourself an actual alarm clock with the sole function of waking you up in the morning.
Binge-watching is a wonderful way to procrastinate or fight boredom. But it ultimately leads to feeling less productive and less satisfied than before you pushed play. Pay attention to when and why you binge-watch, and then create alternative coping mechanisms. If you stream when you’re nervous, try talking to a friend on the phone instead. If you stream to fall asleep, opt for a book (not your iPad). If you stream as a means of procrastination, try another hobby like cooking or boxing. You need to know when you’re most vulnerable to a binge-watching session and have an easy-to-do alternative that you can turn to.
Only allow yourself an episode after you’ve hit the gym or completed your top five to-do items of the day. Or, better yet, restrict your viewing time to while you’re working out. There is no greater satisfaction that enjoying one full episode of Orange Is the New Black while getting in a 45-minute cardio session. Who knew watching TV could be so productive?
Going cold turkey is a very hard (and sometimes unsustainable) solution. Instead, create a schedule where you gradually reduce your daily streaming allowance. Now that you know how much time you’re actually spending on these streaming services, you’ll be able to monitor yourself and begin to cut your viewing time each day until you get to a reasonable amount.
The autoplay function has the superhuman ability to drain time faster than any other activity on the planet. Disable this function immediately. We’ll even tell you how. When on Netflix, go to Your Account and click Playback Settings. Uncheck the button that says “Play next episode automatically,” and emit a deep sigh of relief.
It’s common for twenty-somethings to keep a browser window open with an ancient episode of Gossip Girl or Gilmore Girls playing in the background while they “work.” We’re not going to lecture you on the debilitating effects of multitasking, but, given that 92% of millennials use an Internet-connected device while watching TV, we thought it pertinent to advise against working while streaming video content. If you fall into the dual-screen user category, do yourself a favor and stick to multitasking recreational activities, not your professional tasks. Use your full desktop for each tab so that you physically remove the option completely.
Have you ever measured the amount of time per day you spend streaming video content? According to The New York Daily News, Americans spend five hours a day on average watching TV. Another study specific to Netflix usage found that the average Netflix subscriber watches two plus hours of content per day. Try downloading a time-management app like Toggl and track the average number of hours you consume video content throughout a given week. If your numbers are anywhere as high as an average American, the reality of how much time you sacrifice to binge-watching will likely scare you into a streaming detox.
The trick to removing yourself from the temptation of the next episode is to stop watching the finale before you get to the end. TV show writers have conspired to leave you just enough breadcrumbs to crave the immediate gratification of the next season or the next episode. Instead, press pause when there is a lull in the narrative. Charlie Rubin, head of television writing at Tisch School of Arts and former writer of Seinfeld and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, dissects the laws of screen writing as follows: “It’s inhale and exhale. There’s always a dramatic moment, and then you pull back from it,” he tells The Wall Street Journal. Take the exhale moment as your cue to exit out of your Netflix tab.
Wean off your binge-watching addiction with a few of our favorite necessities below.
Do you binge-watch? How do you fight the urge to keep streaming? Share with us in the comments.