Watching TV gets a bad wrap among driven, productivity-obsessed entrepreneurs. This tweet from Gary Vaynerchuk captures the message of the anti-TV crusaders well:

Or take this comment from marketing guru Seth Godin as another example: "I don't watch TV. At all. There are so many other things I'd rather do in that moment." The time you spend in front of the tube, these and a ton of other hustle porn purveyors argue, is wasted. Instead, optimize, optimize, optimize, and you'll be more successful. 

But let me guess, a great many of you out there watched this week's epic new Game of Thrones episode anyway. Then you felt a little guilty about it afterwards.

It's time to stop beating yourself up and come out of the closet about your love of an occasional TV binge. Watch with pride, not just because having a life outside of work is nothing to be ashamed of, but because kicking back with a great story every now and then will actually make you more productive at work.

Less stress and better stories

That's the argument Brian Fanzo, CEO of iSocialFanz, makes on Medium. First off, he notes, everyone needs a way to unplug their brain occasionally.

"I LOVE binge watching TV shows and find its a hobby of mine that allows my brain to switch gears much in the way going to the gym for some people helps them avoid burnout," he writes. (You should definitely go to the gym too.)

He's right, of course. Our brains only have so many hours of work in them -- science suggests probably fewer than most of us think -- and pushing yourself past these limits means you're working inefficiently. Zoning out a bit and coming back fresh allows you to get more quality work done in the long run.

But that's not even Fanzo's biggest argument for why indulging in a multi-episode TV blowout now and again is a positive good for entrepreneurs. In the rush to ridicule TV, the likes of Godin and Vaynerchuk gloss over a truth that should be obvious. Making great TV is hard and takes immense skill. Watching TV with an eye to how your favorite shows capture your attention can teach you something about how to tell an addictive story. And what professional couldn't benefit from a well honed ability to capture and hold the attention of an audience (or a customer)?  

Fanzo actually watches Netflix with a notebook by his side to capture the lessons he learns. "A great example of this happened this past week as I took notes while watching three drastically different programs: Game of Thrones, Brene Brown Netflix Special and Beyonce Homecoming documentary," he writes.

For instance, he reports, he connected an insight about camera positioning in Game of Thrones to "how I will stand and position a story I plan on telling next week on stage at an event I'm speaking at." He has a whole podcast breaking down these connections for those who want a deep dive into the details.

There really is such a thing as too much productivity. Just ask Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

Fanzo makes a compelling case that, assuming you engage your brain a little, watching TV in moderation can make you a better storyteller and therefore a better entrepreneur. But it's worth returning to the idea that you don't really need to justify your favorite "time-wasting" hobby in this way at all.

Jeff Bezos putters around at home in the mornings doing basically nothing, and claims his brain doesn't fully come online until 10 a.m. Bill Gates has admitted to a love of Friday night Lights, Narcos, and Silicon Valley, among other shows. The guy clearly isn't embarrassed by his TV habit.

With apologies to Vaynerchuk and Godin, It's unlikely these two business icons are slackers. A more reasonable interpretation is that there really is such a thing as too much hustle. Or as Bezos put it in his latest shareholder letter, "Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. You need to employ both."

What looks like "doing nothing" is actually the fallow time your brain needs to recharge and to work away subconsciously at the sort of difficult problems that require creative insights and lightning strikes of inspiration to solve. So go ahead and indulge in a few guilt-free, slothful hours in front of the TV. Your brain and your business will thank you.

Published on: Apr 30, 2019
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