Reading vs Gaming: Where did my time go?

I used to spend a lot of time playing video games as a kid. Loved my Atari 2600!! Shortly after I started working full-time at age 14, I bought my first computer. After spending what I thought to be too much time playing Wolfenstein 3D and Doom on my computer, I decided I should never have games installed on my computers. And that’s how it has been ever since: I do not play computer games.

Shortly after getting my first iPhone (v2), I ended up getting some games on it. I’ve played the heck out of Angry Birds! At one point, I noticed I was spending too much time playing Doodle Jump. Yeah, this game…

The game has a stats feature. When I saw the total time I had spent on that game, I was not happy. I don’t remember what the number was, but it added up to a few days.

I couldn’t believe I had spent that much of my life on such a thing. I thought about many other activities I could have done in that amount of time and realized I’d be much happier if had spent such time in those activities instead (working on my music, sharpening skills I use to make a living, reading great books…).

So I decided to never have games on my phone again. And it has been like that since 2010.

When I first moved to the US in 2002, my first guilty pleasure was a 1st generation X-Box (videogame consoles are ridiculously expensive in Brazil!). I used to play on it for several hours some weekends. I’ve had the X-Box 360 and currently have the X-Box One X. So, how do I handle it these days?

For the last year or so, I’ve been tracking my time spent on certain activities using the ATracker app on my phone. The activities I track may vary, based on what I’m trying to improve in my life:

  • If I feel like I’m spending too much time on a given type of activity, I track it;
  • If I feel like I’m not spending enough time on a given activity, I track it;
  • In a given month, I may want to make sure I spend more time working on my music;
  • On another, I may want to spend more time catching up with friends.

I use time tracking as a tool to keep myself accountable.

Since March, I’ve been track the time I spent reading books vs the time I spend on the video game. When I pull up the app, I want to see no more than 20% of my tracked time going into video games over the last 30-day period. Playing games is fun, but I also get a lot of fun out of reading, and can get even better things out of it.

As I pulled up my phone right now to check the time tracker, I see 76% reading and 24% gaming, which tells me I need to focus on getting more reading done over the next couple days, before I think of video games.

When I do play video game, I deliberately set how long I’ll play (usually 30 minutes, sometimes 1 or 2 hours), and I have the ATracker timer in a visible spot at all times.

Temperance.

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