UPDATE: As of January 28 2020, a new version of this article is available, with the latest tips and tricks to definitely stop spending too much time on youtube. Find the more comprehensive version complete with animated tutorials and downloadable material, by clicking right here.
Last Saturday, after having a pretty busy and chaotic week, I decided that this weekend was going to be more about myself than about doing things. There is nothing wrong with taking a break once in a while. Or even everyday if you are able to make room for it in your schedule. After doing my usual chores I relaxed while listening to some music, and I tried to figure out what to do with my weekend. After a while, I made a mistake most of us repeatedly do day after day: I pulled out my laptop and started browsing aimlessly.
I headed to Youtube. I hadn’t been on Youtube in a long time, and I fell in its time wasting trap again. I glanced at the screaming recommendations, with their capital titles and eye-catching visuals. And that was it. I was gone. Video after video, I started wasting my time away. It took me a good 30 minutes to get a hold of myself. I closed my browser, shut down my laptop, and decided to go for a walk.
My time was mine again
We all have been in this situation before. Some of us are better at fighting the urge or at stopping, but it is always hard. Youtube falls into the same category as Facebook, Netflix, Instagram and smoking. Once you’ve started, it’s really hard to stop. Here is a little compilation of the best ways to track, manage and reduce your Youtube consumption.
Youtube is a Google product. This means that if you are always logged into your Google account while browsing Youtube, everything you watch, like and comment will be logged by their algorithms. That’s how you get recommendations and updates the next time you log in. As you have probably experienced, this will cause you to click and watch more, sometimes just when you were about to quit. A good way to fight this is to simply log out of your Google account when you are using Youtube.
Even though logging out will help, it’s only half the battle. Youtube will still track some of your data. Though you will not get notified with new content (from the channels you are subscribed to), you might still see recommendations. That’s because some of your data is still stored in your browser cookies. All you have to do to prevent that is to disable cookies for Youtube. The procedure to do this depends on your browser. That’s only a Google search away (not Youtube).
Create custom styles
Now you won’t see content related to what you have watched before. But you will still see content you didn’t even ask for, on the homepage and in the “related” section of the videos you watch. You will also see comments below the videos, usually written with an intellectual and grammar level roughly equal to that of a spoiled 10 year old.
Unless you consider this something worth your time to read, you won’t want to take the risk to be dragged into the Youtube comment world. Let’s make your Youtube experience a blank page experience, with only the content you are asking for.
To do so, we can use a browser extension to add custom style rules for specific websites you visit. We can tell this extension to please stop displaying the things I don’t want to see on Youtube. I use Stylish for Firefox. There other options. Again, Google is your friend (hopefully not the only one).
Create a custom style sheet for Youtube.com, and paste your code into it. This is the code I use:
Depending on a lot of factors, your Youtube version might be different than mine, and you might need to tweak this code to hide all the unnecessary content. For me, this hides everything but the search bar, the search results, and the video player:
Time your consumption
I remember why I decided to tackle my Youtube problem years ago. I had installed Mind The Time, a browser extension which tracks the time you spend on each website you visit. You get full daily, weekly and monthly reports. The time I spent on Youtube was beyond insane. I decided to take action. If you want to see for yourself, go ahead and download Mind The Time to start tracking your online time use. It is definitely revealing and helpful.
The extreme solution
If you are the kind of person who has a hard time making commitments, there is a solution to definitely stop wasting your time online. This solution is radical, and it’s called SelfControl. SelfControl is a software that allows you to block access to specific URLs for a certain amount of time (up to 24 hours). Once a website is on the blacklist, there is no way to access it until the timer expires, even after restarting your computer. Download it now: https://selfcontrolapp.com/
Time wasters are everywhere, screaming for unnecessary attention. They’re hard to fight against, and only those who win the battle get more out of their life. In the online war for our attention, be part of the winning team, the one that doesn’t surrender. Take action.
Thanks so much for reading! If you want to take control of your time, stop wasting your energy, and prioritise the right things, my free tool The 168 Hours Spreadsheet will help!