Founder Diary

January 24, 2023

Ignore the judgy voice in your head: Netflix & video games are good for you

Ignore the judgy voice in your head: Netflix & video games are good for you

Some work ? some play makes you the most productive boy (or girl) you can be.

First-person view of hamster paws with a TV in the background. There's a video game console controller in one paw, and a book in the other
First-person view of hamster paws with a TV in the background. There's a video game console controller in one paw, and a book in the other
First-person view of hamster paws with a TV in the background. There's a video game console controller in one paw, and a book in the other
Nikita Kazhin's headshot

Nikita Kazhin

Co-founder at Brick

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Hey 👋,

Every time I watch a show or play video games before bed, a little anxious voice in the background whispers (or shouts):

“Shame, you could have used this time to read a book, learn new skills, or otherwise ‘focus on growth.’ What a waste!”


The science is clear: let it go and indulge, your work will thank you.

How come?

“Cyber leisure” is sneaky, but not evil

This term includes anything rest-related that you do on a device: video games, TV shows, and even social media. This type of rest is often looked down at compared to the “high-level” pre-bedtime hobbies of “true intellectuals,” like books.

But if you know how to play it (literally, haha), cyber leisure can be a huge positive for your well-being.

Let’s talk pros and cons.

Bedtime procrastination…

No surprise, shows and games are a big culprit when it comes to crappy sleep.

That out-of-hand House of the Dragon binge or a last push to beat that God of War boss can lead to that well-known feeling when you finally get off the TV at 1 a.m. and you bitterly realize that your morning (and likely the whole next day) is done for.

Plus, if going to bed late wasn’t bad enough, trying to fall asleep after immersive experiences like those (on top of acute feelings of guilt) is no small feat. Your mind keeps racing. You just can’t turn it off as quickly as you’d like. Another hour of sleep lost just like that. We’ve all been there and it sucks.

But don’t rush to trash your Playstation just yet.

… vs. unwinding

Research also shows that all those hours of “wasted” time have a sizable productivity-positive effect.

It’s called psychological detachment. It means video games and the like pull you out of the moment. They can make you forget about work and lose track of time. They’re a distraction in the most positive sense of the word. Distraction from grind, monotony, and thoughts about work.

Who would have thunk?

Addictiveness and immersiveness can be a good thing when it helps you unwind.

The result is that the next morning you return to work more energized with a clearer head. Blocking thoughts about your endless commitments for a while turns out to be a surefire way to let your brain process problems in the background, restore its capacity to focus, and do better work in the end.

The combination

Now, what do you get when you pit bedtime procrastination and psychological detachment against each other? In real life, they often come hand in hand and…

They kinda cancel each other out.

Because you didn’t sleep well enough, your morning productivity is subdued, you just can’t tackle complex tasks with the same rigor as when you get a good night’s rest. Besides, you bump into productivity anxiety, beating yourself up for not being strong-willed enough to stop yourself from delaying sleep.

But… at the same time you’re better prepared to come up with more creative solutions than you would have been if you hadn’t gotten a respite from work thoughts.

Simply put, video games and TV shows both help and hurt recovery.

Get the best of both worlds

So the important question is: how do I turn it all in my favor?

On the surface, the answer is dead simple. Play/watch all you like, just make sure you wrap it up some time before bedtime.

But how often does it actually work for you? Can you rely on your willpower so blindly?

Sure, some of us are naturally good at that. Their rhythm works like a clock. But the mortals among us, including myself, aren’t that all-powerful.

Luckily, science found the missing piece: mindfulness.

Those who’re mindful about their unwinding habits tend to avoid bedtime procrastination while reaping the full benefits of psychological detachment. Mindfulness practices such as meditation are powerful at helping you catch yourself before you cross into the tomorrow’s-screwed-anyway territory.

Simply put, when you notice what you’re doing, know both how to be in the moment and how to stop yourself from getting too carried away. When you do that you’re much more likely to be very good at not letting your unwinding get in the way of your sleep.

I know you’ve heard mindfulness is good for you all around, blah-blah-blah. Yet, there’s more and more evidence this subtle art has practical benefits when it comes to not only your psychological condition, but also work and productivity.

A few more tips:

  • Set a hard time limit. Pick a time after which you unconditionally stop watching / playing / browsing. This works best when your family is ready to be accountability partners. I set a recurring alarm to boot.

  • To avoid incessant mind racing at bedtime, avoid immersive activities at least half an hour before bed.

  • To take the next step, Dr. Andrew Huberman recommends that all devices be off after about 7:30 pm except for things you plan purposefully. And purposefully, of course, means mindfully.

So what?

I know this is no quick fix, but those don’t work.

Can’t say I figured it all out, but this approach helped me shorten my gaming excesses from hours to half an hour to close to zero eventually. But your gaming hours aren't the point.

We often get too focused on the “tactics” of how to be more efficient and “get things done” during the day. But the keys to meaningful work, creativity, and an enjoyable process often hide outside of our workdays. Context is at least just as critical as content.

Netflix and video games can be destructive, but with a little effort you can make this kind of seemingly wasteful leisure into both enjoyable and, counterintuitively, productive time.

And shut up judgy critics (including your own conscience) once and for all.

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