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Do DVRs really save you time?

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY I get interviewed occasionally for magazine articles on how to "find an extra two hours in your day" or some such cover line. Often, the reporter asks if using a digital video recorder (DVR), like TiVo (back in the day), will save time. Does being able to forward through the commercials make TV-watching more efficient?

I see the appeal. I've been recording the Olympics this week, and there's no way I'd sit through four hours of Olympic broadcasts each day. Instead, I fast forward through the commercials, the heart-wrenching back stories, the travelogue pieces on the British isles, and the sports I'm not interested in. This gets the Olympics down to a far more manageable 90 minutes per day.

The other upside, of course, is that you can watch TV at a time that's convenient for you. A big part of time management is shifting activities from high-demand times, like right after work, to lower demand times (see related post: Want to Get More Done? Try the "Crock Pot" Mindset). At 8 p.m. there's a lot going on in my house. At 6 a.m. on Sunday? A lot less. When people are trying to start a morning workout routine, I sometimes suggest taping The Daily Show and watching it on the treadmill in the morning. That way you get to bed earlier and still get your late night laugh fix.

That said, there's something ludicrous about the question of whether a DVR will save you time. Using a DVR means you're watching television. And if you're watching television, you by definition have plenty of free time. A better way to find two hours in your day is to hide the TV somewhere and pull it out mostly for special occasions (like the Olympics). Then use those hours you used to be watching TV for whatever wonderful activity you claim you'd love to do, but just can't fit in your schedule.

Do you DVR shows? Do you find you watch more or less TV as a result?

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