When Binge-Watching Shows Interferes With Work: A Recovery Guide

By Bethany Johnson, Contributor, on July 28, 2017

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Why is every episode of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” released all at once? Do the producers have no mercy? Don’t they know that working from home is hard enough for those of us juggling client calls, deadlines and families? Why would they open the flood gates and force us to exercise superhuman restraint just to get a little work done?

If you’re like me, you’re a work-from-home freelancer trying to resist binge-watching every show that comes out. You’re not alone, and the quest to prioritize activities doesn’t have to require herculean fortitude. In fact, these five simple (but maybe not easy) steps can help you catch up with your favorite show and hit your deadlines.

Forgive Yourself

First, if you’ve already blown a deadline, get out of that hole of guilt you’re hanging out in. There’s nothing worse than the crippling shame that comes with self-destructive choices. If you’ve gone too far, today is a new day, and the community of freelancers is here to help. After all, let’s be real: it happens to the best of us.

Learn How it Works

Now that you can view it objectively, demystify the psychology behind binge-watching. It’s not magic, and you’re not necessarily weak for hitting “play next” one more time. There’s a team of writers somewhere, brainstorming ways to craft cliff-hangers that’ll keep you up at night and coming back for more. It’s their job.

Plus, watching “just one more” episode eases the loneliness common to freelancers, which can be a huge relief particularly to remote workers, according to Fortune. In fact, researchers at Kiwi Report have linked temporarily diminished loneliness with good feelings from binge-watching, a sensation all of us can appreciate.

Know the Real Risks

No one loves a binge session more than I do, but at some point, you and I must choose between another episode and real-life business goals. Hitting that “play next” button always feels good, but you know what feels even better? Acing tomorrow’s client call because you’re prepared. Submitting work a day early and giving your client extra time for revisions, since you’re on top of things. Clearing out your email inbox first thing in the morning, having slept all night.

Each of these little factors can be dismissed separately. Cumulatively, though, they add up to form a whole picture of a healthy business.

Build a Support Network

Next, surround yourself with helpful voices of people who get it. No, I don’t mean “Netflix Anonymous,” although that may be helpful someday. I mean a supportive circle of other freelancers who deal with the same highs and lows of freelance life.

Need an example? Here’s a post that hit my Facebook news feed just this morning, perfectly illustrating how helpful it was for one freelancer to share his situation to a chorus of supportive “me too”s in the group:

“Today I slept in, and last night I fell back into a bad habit of staying up doing little more than becoming a zombie to Netflix. That’s the last time I do either, so help me God. #Optimizingmytime”

The simple commiseration reinforced his resolve, since sharing goals with others increases the likelihood of achieving those objectives. But it did something else, too. It humanized the struggle we all face. And that strengthened our group.

Set a realistic schedule that gets you back on track and caught up with all your obligations. Block out time each day to check off task after task until your head is back above water and you have time to spare. And for goodness’ sake, build relationships with people who understand. Check in together at least once a week on your productivity metrics and the occasional series’ character updates.

Schedule Time for Healthy Fun

Once you’ve got a handle on your activities, add a show or two back into your routine. Don’t fall into the trap of demonizing your enjoyment of some good storytelling, but keep an eye on the temptation to let the story consume you (instead of vice versa). The trick? Scheduling your fun the same way you do a task — with a clear beginning and a hard cut-off. Doing so feels more like a job well done than a shameful guilt-fest that distracts you from being your prolifically creative self — the one your client hired you to be.

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