I recently reached an unimportant and somewhat depressing milestone – I passed Level 3000 on the app game Cookie Jam. I play it all the time on Facebook while I’m working. Do a little work, play a little game. I had no idea, really how much I was playing until I saw that level number come up. Do you know how much time that is? Yeah, I don’t either, but I decided to do a little math.

Let’s assume that on the average it takes me 10 minutes to get through a level. I think that’s reasonable. Some I complete pretty quickly. Some take me a few tries and others have been known to take a day or two. The math is easy – 30,000 minutes or 500 hours. Do you know what 500 hours translates into? Nearly TWENTY-ONE days.  Yes, I’ve spent at least three weeks of my life on this game.

How about some perspective. That’s almost as much as the total number of day’s I’ve spent in Disney World on vacation.  It’s more time than I’ve spent at writers conferences in the past three years. It’s enough time to write from 20-40,000 words (or more) depending on where I am in a manuscript.  Think about all the things you could do in three weeks. When I figured out the actual time… I was floored. And a little ill.

Addiction to one-person games like this runs in my family. My grandfather played hour after hour of solitaire on the dining room table (yes, in the days of actual decks of cards) and my mother does the same online. I have known for a while that any game I put on my phone, my kindle or have on Facebook is likely to be a HUGE time-suck in my life. But even knowing what it does to my time and my focus, I haven’t been able to completely stop.

Yet.

Seeing that level number come up was a bit of a wakeup call. There’s nothing wrong with playing phone/app games and, in fact, if you find it truly relaxing then it’s a great outlet. Me? It’s what I do to almost intentionally lose track of time, to avoid what I could be doing, to procrastinate if something (read: my current work in progress) is a challenge. I can lose hours without even realizing it. And in case you’re wondering – yes, I’ve stopped writing this a few times to try to get off the current level I’m on. Yes, it’s higher now than 3000. And no, I don’t feel relaxed or rejuvenated by any of the time I’ve spent playing. There are ways to take a break, ways to play that are good for you and I need to make a shift to that.

Once you see something, you can’t unsee it and now that I’m aware of the time I’ve given this game (and many others – I don’t even want to think about the totals from those. Do not get me started on Bejeweled!) I’m feeling ready to make a change. That’s why this blog post is titled “Part One”. I am going to stop playing Cookie Jam. Today. I’m posting about it to help keep me honest and also to find out if there are others like me reading this. I’ve changed other habits for the better, but this one feels huge.

So, have any of you made this kind of change?  How did it go?  Were there “withdrawal” symptoms?  Let me know – because to be honest, I’m kind of nervous. I’ve never not played a game in between/while working and I have no idea what this is going to be like.

That will be Part II.

Level 3000 – Part One
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