The Key to Productivity: No TV, No Video Games at Home

Something wild and out-of-control has taken place in the Timming household. I never imagined it was possible, but here I am. Against every fiber of my being, we caved in and bought a Nintendo Switch Lite, a handheld console for playing next generation video games.

I say this is “wild and out-of-control” because I’ve not even had a television in my house for the last 19 years. Much of this time I was in the United Kingdom, where I regularly received harassing letters from the “TV Licencing Officers” there. They always said something like, “You have notified us that you have no TV at this household. We know you’d never lie to us, but you should also know that our TV Licencing Officers will be visiting your house soon.” I thought it was a bluff, but after a couple years, one actually showed up! I know I didn’t have to invite him in, but I did anyway, just to show him first hand that our house has no TV. He apologized and left, but the harassing letters still came.

The fact that I have not had a TV in my house for 19 years has, I suspect, dramatically increased my productivity vis-à-vis colleagues who have televisions. When you’re bored and have nothing to do, you will pick up a book or start writing. We do have Netflix, but I find that this is used in my family when we actually want to watch something. We never turn it on mindlessly and just watch whatever is on, like we would with a TV.

The lack of television has not only been great for my productivity, but also for my children’s. I’ve got two kids who read at least a couple hours a day because that is their best option for entertainment. Well, perhaps I should say, that was their best option for entertainment.

“If you feel like you’re not making sufficient progress with your work, if you feel your research is not where you’d like it to be, then throw out your television and video games.”

Back to the Nintendo Switch. I’ve only had it for a couple of days. We got a game called “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” The last Zelda game I played was for the NES in the 1980s. I was a little boy. I thought nothing could beat those 8-bit graphics. I later got a Sega Genesis, but that was the last console I ever bought. I’ve never even played a Playstation or Xbox. What can I say about Breath of the Wild? It is shockingly addictive, not only for the kids, but also for me! I must have played it 10 hours this weekend. Of course, Monday through Friday, I’ll be able to exercise control and not let it interfere with my work, but I can’t say that same it true for my kids. I’ve decided to hide the Nintendo Switch so they aren’t tempted. I’ve heard stories from friends who’ve woken up at 3AM to find their kids playing video games. Not in my household!

There is a moral in this story. If you feel like you’re not making sufficient progress with your work, if you feel your research is not where you’d like it to be, then throw out your television and video games. They’re fun, I get it. They can provide you with a release in a stressful lockdown (which is why we got ours). But they will negatively impact your work as an academic. Even worse, they may take away time for family conversations or reading. If I see any evidence to that end in my family, the Switch is going into the ditch.

Professor Andrew R. Timming

This article is published under a Creative Commons 4.0 License.

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