Use Cold Turkey Blocker to eliminate digital distractions
IT’S VERY EASY TO FALL down an online rabbit hole: You start the day with the best intentions, but before you know it, you’ve spent three hours watching pop videos on YouTube. That’s great if you’re just messing around, but it’s a problem if you’re messing around when you really ought to be working. Cold Turkey Blocker makes it impossible to mess about for a specified time.
Windows 10’s built-in parental controls cover similar ground, such as setting time limits, but Cold Turkey Blocker is even tougher: It works across web browsers and with virtual private networks, and if you decide to shell out for the paid-for Pro version, you get some really advanced blocking tools. But, as we’ll discover in this tutorial, the free version does an incredibly good job of getting rid of the biggest time-wasters and keeping you focused on what you’re supposed to be doing. 1 WHICH EXTENSION DO YOU REQUIRE? The first time you install the Cold Turkey Blocker program on your system, you also need to install the appropriate extension for Google Chrome (or whatever web browser you’re using) as well [ Image A]. Cold Turkey Blocker offers support for both Firefox and Opera, too—however, unfortunately it currently doesn’t work with the latest version of Microsoft’s Edge browser. Unless you’re a die-hard Edge fan, we always recommend that you go with an alternative browser anyway. And in this case, you’ll just have to stop yourself from being tempted to use Edge in order to circumvent the blocking.
2 INSTALL THE APP First up, you’re obviously going to need to get yourself the free version of Cold Turkey Blocker, so go to https://getcoldturkey.com, click the big green “Get it now” button, then click “Download Now” to grab the “Basic” version. Once Cold Turkey is installed on your system, run the program, and it asks you which browser extension you want to install. Click the green “Install” button in the new window that appears [ Image B], and it installs and adds the extension to your Chrome, Opera, or Firefox browser for you.
3 ENABLE THE EXTENSION The first thing you need to do is enable the extension, which you do by clicking the “On/Off” button, so it’s no longer gray. You can get to this page any time by entering “chrome://extensions” in the address bar [ Image C]. You also need to click the “Details” link underneath the Cold Turkey icon, because there’s an important setting we need to switch on for the app. 4 ENABLE INCOGNITO Just below the halfway mark in the extension details menu, you should see an option for “Allow in incognito” [ Image D]. This needs to be enabled, or you or anybody else can bypass Cold Turkey by putting Chrome into incognito mode, its private browsing mode. If you don’t enable this option, Cold Turkey automatically closes Chrome after one minute whenever you launch it, in order to prevent any potentially unwanted shenanigans. 5 DETAIL THE DISTRACTIONS Once you’ve changed it so Cold Turkey can now function in incognito mode, you can return to the desktop app. From the Dashboard screen, click “Block Lists” [ Image E] to start finding ways to make your day distraction-free. By default, Cold Turkey Blocker comes with a predefined list of time-wasting websites, such as Netflix, discussion boards, and clickbait websites. Click “Edit” to see the block list or to add your own entries. 6 CUSTOMIZE THE LIST If you drop the cash on the Pro version, you’ll see four categories toward the top of the window here: “Websites,” “Apps,” “Win 10 Apps,” which blocks apps that aren’t EXE files, and “Exceptions” [ Image F]. You can use the last one to whitelist certain web pages and programs. For example, you might want to block Reddit, but still allow yourself access to http://reddit.com/r/getmotivated. It’s a nifty little feature, although it does make the program a little inflexible without spending money first. It’s currently $19 for the Pro version as a one-off payment. 7 SET THE BLOCK Now we’ve got the exceptions edited, it’s time to set the block. Click the “Timers” icon to set the end time for your distraction-free session. From the main dashboard, click “Start a timer,” then click the Calendar under “Block Until.” Next, click the date, then click the time you want the distraction-free period to finish [ Image G]. Only click the big “Status” toggle button from “Off” to “On” when you’re sure you have the right date and time set for your distraction free period. 8 TURN IT ON Once everything’s set up, and you’ve pressed the big red button, so to speak, with the filters and timers switched on, this is what happens when someone— including you—tries to visit any of the sites you’ve limited access to: Instead of Netflix, for example, we get a motivational quote designed to encourage us to be more productive [ Image H]. The message appears with any access attempts, until the distraction-free period ends.