5 Rules for Watching Reality TV Efficiently

Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 3:01 PM EDT

What's your guilty reality TV pleasure? The Bachelor? Survivor? America's Got Talent? Of course, tonight is the big night for the granddaddy of them all -- American Idol. Some 30 or 40 million fans have been waiting six months for American Idol to kick off. If this season is anything like last season, expect at least 50 hours of American Idol on your TV. No, that's not a typo.

Last year I gave you a few ideas on what you could have done with those 50 hours instead of watch American Idol. For example, you could earn an extra $1,000, read several books, start writing your own book, burn 43,000 calories jogging, learn the waltz, and others. But, who am I kidding? If you like the show, you're not going to listen to me. Heck, I'm not even going to listen to me because I'm going to watch this season!

But you're nuts if you think I'm going to waste 50 hours. Here are my 5 rules for watching reality TV efficiently:

  1. Never forget the price of an hour. Quick, what's the average life expectancy for someone in the United States? According to the Center for Disease Control, it is 77.8 years; but the guys in white lab coats at the CDC got it wrong. Sleep and work take 313,176 hours of our life. This leaves us 368,352 hours -- 42 years. That's our real life expectancy. Watching a couple of hours of TV might not seem like a big deal (most people watch 4 hours and 35 minutes per day!), but if you only have 8 real hours a day, those two hours suddenly represent 25% of your day! Next time you start flipping mindlessly through the channels, ask yourself if you really want to invest 25% or 50% of your day to TV.
  1. Never watch live TV. This is so obvious I questioned including it, but you'd be shocked at the number of people who still watch those, uh, those short annoying things that interrupt the show. You'll save about 20 minutes for every hour of TV you watch. This one is a no-brainer. Get a DVR and use it.
  2. Never watch the elimination episodes. This should save you about 15 hours and at least a dozen brain cells. How they can create an hour-long show around a 30 second elimination both infuriates and impresses me.
  3. Never just watch TV. American Idol ain't rocket science. There are a thousand things you could be doing while watching. Here are a few ideas: pay bills, read a magazine, exercise, write notes to family and friends, surf the web, connect with Facebook friends, pack tomorrow's lunch, fold your clothes, or give a massage.
  4. Never watch TV alone. If you're going to kill two hours watching the latest reality show, you might as well make a party out of it. Invite friends over and encourage them to bring somebody new each week -- this way you get to expand your network, connect with your friends, and watch some TV at the same time.
I once went two years without watching any TV, and guess what? I didn't miss a thing. I do watch some TV now, but I make sure I am conscious about what I'm watching and how I'm watching it. If you follow these 5 rules, you'll still enjoy TV but you'll achieve more.

And remember, the other 8 hours are your most precious time to create a more financially secure and rewarding life. Don't spend all of this time watching others try to achieve their dream while neglecting your own.

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    Robert Pagliarini is obsessed with inspiring others to create and empowering them to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they invest their time and energy. He is the founder of Richer Life, a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work. He is a Certified Financial Planner and the president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm serving sudden wealth recipients and affluent individuals. He has appeared as a financial expert on 20/20, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew's Lifechangers and many others.