Cable TV is a waste of money to me. I don’t have time for it and other things are more important. I can’t bring myself to pay $70+ dollars a month for content I wouldn’t would watch very much and I’d rather spend $840 a year on something else.

Netflix recently lured me in with their one month free and $8.99 per month unlimited streaming offer. The overall user experience completely exceeded my expectations.  The streaming picture quality is very good. I was amazed by how satisfying the experience was in ways that I can’t quite explain. I’d been thinking about subscribing for a while, but was always frustrated by how hard it was to find a listing of the different plans on their site. I expected the rest of my user experience to be the same way, including cancelling my account when the free month was over.

Amazingly once I signed up the the plan information was easy to find and the website interface makes it easy to search movies and learn about new ones. I stayed beyond the first free month and I’ve had a great time watching movies and old TV shows with my version of cable TV–all for the amazing price of $8.99 a month. After a while I wondered if it was becoming a distraction and taking more time than I really had to give to it. Watching LOST can do that to a person. 🙂

I go through phases of productivity and focus. I get really focused and disciplined with my time and what I’m working on and then things eventually drift. Right now I’m existing the phase of wandering and entering the phase of buckling down and refocusing. I’m wondering if this drifting is partly due to dependence on other things to make me feel a certain way–coffee to feel mentally sharp and and alive so I can be productive–TV because, “surely I need a break after a long day and surely relaxing by watching TV will rejuvenate me so I can be productive and work on my side projects.”

I recently questioned whether either were having the full intended benefit. Watching LOST isn’t exactly the path to a Zen like state and after the caffeine wears off I don’t always feel so good.

My friend Carolyn challenged me to stop drinking coffee. I took the “cold turkey” approach. I was amazed again by how brutal the withdrawal headaches can be. I don’t think of myself as a particularly heavy coffee drinker. I stopped drinking it completely a year and a half ago for 6 months and then started having it occasionally.

Through a variety of compounding factors I found myself back at one 16 ounce cup each morning. Now that I’ve stopped I’m not feeling as amped up which I sometimes miss, but I feel more level and balanced across the day and I don’t feel chained to a special substance to feel “on.”

Putting my Netflix subscription on hold was amazingly easy. It as if they don’t care if I leave or not. Ultimately like any business I’m sure they want to make as much money as they can, but I expected the old “cancelling your AOL account” experience that required 30 minutes of time on the telephone or an impossible to find place on the web. I guess what I keep coming back to with Netflix is that they make it pretty easy to enter, stay, or leave.  That is a good feeling.

They provide two versions of “leaving”–cancelling or putting your account on hold.  Putting your account on hold lets you save your movie queue and continue to add to it.  How smart is that?! I enjoyed the experience of leaving so much and they’ve made it so easy to rejoin that I will likely do so after things get more in balance or I take some vacation time.  Coffee is kind of the same way, though harder to leave.

Netflix was a lot of fun and it provided some great relaxation. In hindsight it was taking more of my time than I realized. Sometimes it takes an experiment like quitting something to learn if it is true. The same with stopping coffee. The withdrawal headaches were a sign to me that I had more dependence than I wanted.

With fewer distractions and dependencies I’m finding it is a little easier to be focused.  Having time is really important to me because of all the different interests and responsibilities I try to juggle. As I get older it feels like there less is of it too.  Maybe that is why people look forward to retirement as they get older.