Devilish Time Suck


I consider myself a productive person. I spend a lot of time reflecting on the topic and how it plays out in my life. I read books and articles on the topic, blog and journal about it, and work with my staff and others on it. However, I just started reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and I immediately began to see a series of habits all related to the same thing that has been a huge time suck in my life—sports.

For most of my life I have followed sports. I love sports. I love the drama and the incredible stories that emerge from sports. I watch sports, I listen to sports talk radio, I read sports pages, I read sports magazines, and I follow sports through apps on my phone and tablet. I follow pro football, college football, baseball, pro basketball, college basketball (mainly during the NCAA tournament), golf, a little tennis, and a little hockey. If I have any time in the morning, it is the first section I read in the paper. Why do I get the NYTimes if 90% of the time I only read the sports section? When I am up at 4:45 a.m. stretching and foam rolling before running I have Sports Center on in the background. Bits and pieces and often entire blocks of Saturday and Sunday afternoons are gobbled by “important” games or matches. These are deeply ingrained habits. I don’t think about them, I just do them.

Then I wonder why I can’t seem to find time to read, write, blog, watch TED Talk videos, play the guitar, or write music. At the start of this year I had the modest goal of reading 10 specific books by the end of the year. It looks like I will only have read four from my list and two others by the close of 2013. That’s a wake-up call that I wasn’t being as productive as I thought I was.

I learned years ago that nothing in life is inherently meaningful. Humans, as meaning making machines, imbue elements of our life with meaning. Given the amount of time I spend focused on sports, it appears that I have elevated it to a high level of importance in my life. This is not an intrinsically bad thing; it just means that sports is taking time away from other potentially meaningful activities in my life.

So a few days ago the idea dawned on me of giving up sports for a period of time. Just the fact that the very thought of giving up sports kind of frightened me suggested that I may be onto something important. So, after a few days of kicking around the idea in my head including how long I should do this for, I have decided that as of today I am giving up sports until Memorial Day. That is just about six months from now.

So, here are my rules:No watching sports on TV, listening to sports on radio, or listening to sports talk radio

  •   No watching sports on TV, listening to sports on radio, or listening to sports talk radio
  •    No reading the sports section in the paper or purchasing sports magazines
  •    Delete the sports apps from my phone and tablet

I am going to make some exceptions to this. I will watch the Super Bowl, the BCS football championship game, the NCAA basketball championship game, and the last round of the Master’s golf tournament, but ONLY if they are part of a social event.

I will also blog about the experience after the first month, at the halfway point (three months), and at the end. I am curious to see how often I “fall off the wagon.” It will also be interesting to get a sense of just how much time had been spent focused on sports and what, if anything, else I can accomplish during this time.

Hey, this should give me plenty of time to continue watching the 49 episodes of Breaking Bad I have left to watch!

Other than email, what time sucks are you dealing with? Comments very welcome!



  1. I’ve tried to make sure I’m not “losing” time watching sports by making sure I’m doing something else while watching – I can’t sit there and do nothing but watch a game, but if I’m responding to email, updating filing, or knocking out some projects at home, I feel like I’m not zeroing in on a game.
    The flip side is I may miss a key play “live,” but they show enough replays that it doesn’t matter too much.
    Now, when OSU is putting up a goal-line stand with seconds to go on a 2-point conversion, that’s all I’m focusing on in that moment!

  2. Jeff, Same here when it came to watching. Sunday afternoons catching up on email while watching the Jets/Giants/whoever. What I am realizing is the totality of my focus beyond that. I see this as a brief journey of discovery, though it looks like I missed a heck of an ending to OSU-MI and Ala-Aub!

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