My Next Productivity Experiment: One Month of Netflix

Takeaway: As a productivity experiment, I’m watching Netflix for a month; alternating between watching TV shows, movies, and documentaries for a full day, and then trying to get as much as possible done the next. This should be fun. Suggest shows below if you know any good ones!

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 46s.

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Naturally, now that I’ve finished writing my book, I’ve got a lot more time on my hands. 

While brainstorming ideas for productivity experiments with a few friends the other day, we came to realize something curious: while I’ve experimented quite a bit with getting more done, I haven’t invested too much time into exploring the flip side of productivity: relaxation. There was my experiment to live like a total slob for a week, but that one was pretty extreme; in it I removed virtually every source of energy from my life, and my productivity obviously went to hell because of it.

After chatting about productivity for a bit, our conversation quickly turned to the new season of Orange Is the New Black. (My friends can only take so much productivity talk.) I’ve never seen the show, and I’ve never been one to watch a ton of TV or movies—I average only a few hours of TV and movie time on the typical week—but something hit me from that conversation: virtually everyone I know binge-watches TV shows. I include myself in the bunch; whenever a new season of House of Cards or Arrested Development comes out, even though I’m usually pretty busy, I somehow manage to find the time to squeeze the entire season into a week or two.

Productivity is great, of course—but so is switching off and vegging out every once in a while.

Thinking about this got me curious. Most people love both productivity and relaxing, but where’s the sweet spot between them? Do productivity and vegging out work together—as opposite sides of the same coin? Or do they have a more complicated relationship? Does vegging out make you lazier when you have to get back to work, or does it let you unwind and make you even more productive?

That’s what drove me to design this experiment.

The Experiment, and What I’m Measuring

I’ll be tracking my progress—including how long I watch for, what I watch, how much bandwidth I consume, and how much I spend on takeout—on this page.

The design of this experiment is relatively simple:

For the entire month of July, I’m alternating between watching eight hours of Netflix one day (the length of a typical work day), and then spending the entire next day working—while observing the impact this routine has on my productivity. 

To observe how this impacts my productivity, like with most of my other experiments, I’ll be mindful of how the experiment affects how I spend my time, attention, and energy—the three ingredients of productivity. Over the course of the month I’ll have more than enough work to plow through, between working on a marketing plan for my book, writing articles for this here site, preparing for speaking engagements, and more. Because I have so much to do, I’ll also keep a running log of how much I accomplish by the end of the day, noting whether I achieve what I intend to, while being aware of how my willpower and motivation fluctuate between the start and end of the month.

If you think this experiment is an elaborate way to slack off for a month, you’re partly right. But it’s also a way to experiment with how relaxing and vegging out impacts how motivated we are, how much energy we have, and how productive we are.

Suggest Stuff!

Over the month, my plan is to watch a potpourri of TV series, documentaries, and movies, in order to play around with how different types of shows impact my productivity—and so I don’t quickly get bored halfway through the experiment.

That said, I’m a pretty out-of-touch guy, and I know next to nothing about what’s out there. That’s where I need your help, if you have a second. If you have a TV show, movie, documentary, or anything else that you recommend on Netflix, please send them in via the form below! I’ll crush as many of your recommendations as I possibly can. Please, though, for the sake of my sanity, suggest a favorite documentary or two if you know of something great. (I live in Canada, but will have access to U.S. Netflix for the experiment.)

Suggest a Show!

Over the course of the experiment, I’ll also stream how many hours of Netflix I watch, what shows I watch, and how much internet bandwidth I consume.

This is going to be fun.

I have an article on my body fat and vegetarian experiments coming! I wrote about both experiments in my book, but I’m also working hard on an article summarizing what I learned from each. Stay tuned.
  • It’s not that I don’t find the idea behind the experiment interesting, but is watching TV really the best way to get relaxation? Vegging, as you call it, is but a single method of relaxation and it is by far the easiest one. I don’t see any way that extensive experimenting as a couch potato would give any conclusive results when not being compared with other activities. This, of course, still holds true in the rest of my comment about other ways of relaxation.

    How about having a hobby where something is created or learned? Where you’re actually challenged from time to time, be it in spirit or body? This is of course unrelated to work (as I assume that’s what the productivity is referring to), but might have a seriously positive impact. Just because the average person watches a lot of TV doesn’t mean that might be the best way to conduct this experiment.

    Essentially, I’m curious why you narrowed it down so fast to this way of relaxation and not just take ‘what I normally do to relax’ as a starting point. Aside from the obvious readers it’ll attract, because hoping to see confirmation in already established habits is an easy way to justify them (or change them if the motivation is there). Either way, I’ll be following your posts on the experiment. I’m curious what it’ll bring you, aside from a highly probably lack of motivation to watch some more TV.

    • Maybe relaxation was the wrong word to use, but ultimately my curiosity got the better of me with this one! To your point, my intention is to mostly play around with how vegging out impacts my productivity; it’s not something I do often, which may skew the results a tad, but binge watching and vegging out are such common phenomenons, I wanted to conduct an experiment to dive into them both.

      Expect more experiments around the idea of learning and other forms of relaxation later on :-)

      • In that case I’m curious about the results still and the upcoming later experiment(s) as well. Best of luck with it!

  • Knut B. Håland

    Fun to see what this brings along. I am curious how you will measure your increase or decrease in productivty. I guess it has to be a “gut feeling”. Anyway, what to watch – search for anything or everything regarding Norway (documentaries, what not). Great country – spoken by an impartial Norwegian :-)

  • Jan Hunt

    I hope you can see some of the wonderful TED talks. My favorites are “Do schools kill creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson, and the follow-up: “Bring On The Learning Revolution!”. He is brilliant, funny, and immensely likeable. The TED talks are fascinating, humorous and inspiring. No guilt or boredom watching these!

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