Raise your hand if you’ve ever met a ‘cord cutter.’ How will you know if someone’s a cord cutter? It’s easy: look for the mildly cranky person who keeps marathoning shows on netflix, but talks about all the time and money they save by not having cable.

Americans watch a lot of television. As someone who used to sell cable, you won’t believe the number of people who pay more than $200 a month for their TV addiction. TV’s in every room, premium channels, sports packages, maxed-out channel lists; they’d have it all. And their main reason for not wanting to switch to a more affordable competitor?

Weren’t home enough. Wouldn’t use it.

I’d also come across the millennial customers, with nothing but an Internet connection and a couple of laptops. With HBO GO, their parent’s Netflix account, and a $400 videogame console to stream it through because they still haven’t heard of Chromecast, can you guess what their favorite shows are?

Meh. They just watch what’s on.

How Much Are We Watching

As I said before, Americans watch a lot of television. We have it on all the time. We shell out for it every month like it’s our mental security system, the only thing keeping us from those dangerous thoughts we might think if we’re not buried in some written-by-committee narrative. We’ll put up with commercials, just for background noise. We’ll hate-binge the Trending Now list, to keep ourselves from focusing on what we’re doing. We’ll powerblock five seasons of How I Met Your Mother in two weeks rather than listen to public radio.

Seriously though. Have you ever calculated how much TV you consume in a week? One 48 minute episode a day during the workweek is four hours of content. And if you watch two or three episodes each day on the weekend? That brings your total up to 8.8 hours. The average Netflix viewer watches two hours of programming each day, or 14 hours per week, while the average TV subscriber watches five hours or programming, or 35 hours per week. If you’re spending an entire work day (plus travel time) consuming TV, you’re in the lower range.

Now, I’m not going to tell you what you should do with that time. That’s prescriptivist. But are you using those hours the way you want to?

If you are, that’s great. Keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re in a position where it feels like time is getting away from you and you’re missing out on things that you really do want to do, taking a look at how much media you unconsciously consume can help you make that schedule work for you. If you’re like me, you probably end up throwing a show on as background noise while you’re doing something, and find yourself sitting down in front of your Netflix machine half an hour later, task done, waiting for the show to finish instead of taking care of the next thing on your list.

Pacing yourself makes it better

Binge watching decreases the perceived enjoyment of TV. Seriously. It does. They did science about it. Just like they did science on how multi-tasking doesn’t exist and how our attention spans are getting shorter.

Pacing yourself increases the derived pleasure from pretty much everything, because you’re consciously engaging with the material. Did you know that you can disable autoplay on Netflix? Imagine what doing that would do to your average viewing time. Moreover, imagine how many show you wouldn’t watch, because they’re not worth hitting play for.

In the end, your spare time is yours. But knowing what you do with it is important. The lure of binge watching is strong, especially when it’s a franchise you’re invested in, but exercising your self control will make your viewing experience better. If you feel like there isn’t enough time in the day, you don’t have to give up television altogether; just disable autoplay, and treat every episode as a choice rather than a stream.

If you’re still watching TV the old fashioned way, pay attention to what rooms you waste the most time in when the TV is on. Keeping a TV in the living room is expected, and having one in your bedroom is common — But what’s up with the one in your kitchen? Don’t leave the TV on if you’re not paying attention to it, and never leave it on when you leave the room. The easiest way to avoid channel surfing is to only turn it on when you know what you’re going to watch.

Do you have any tips on how to manage TV addiction? Let us know!