Stop Procrastinating, Go Cold Turkey - 4 min read

If you’ve experimented with the wonders of the Internet, chances are you’ve been seduced by AI algorithms. Like the tranquil sirens lured fierce sailors into submission, the seductive algorithms can take you from a productive student to a transfixed robot scrolling pointlessly through cat videos.

You don’t need to write a lot of assignments before you realize procrastinating goes hand-in-hand with student life. You’re most likely studying on your computer, and when online, you’re tempted by all the websites you could potentially visit. Before you know it, you’re dragged into a procrastination pit, which sucks out every last drop of your time—time that should be spent on those assignments.   

I used to guilt myself for unconsciously searching YouTube every time I opened a new tab, or scrolling through Instagram in the middle of completing an assignment. But, that’s when I realized it’s completely normal. Websites are specifically designed to keep your attention for as long as possible to maximize their ad revenue. So, if you’re tempted to open a new tab and feel guilty when you give in, why not eradicate the temptation completely?

Here’s how…

In comes Cold Turkey, an application that allows you to block yourself out of certain websites for a specific time period. By block, I mean block. You’re literally unable to turn the app off. There are many tools like Cold Turkey, but they’re usually pretty easy to turn off, and none of them have the same set of features and allow for the same kind of customization as Cold Turkey.

Not to worry—the app doesn’t turn off the Internet. You’re still able to use the Internet for all things relevant for your work. So, if you use Netflix for work-related stuff (yeah right), then you can simply choose not to block it.

So, how does it work?

Cold Turkey is available for Windows and MacOS, and you can download it here. After you open the app, you’ll see many different options, which could be overwhelming at first. For now, just ignore all of this. Instead, simply create a blocklist, and set a timer for as long as you’d like.

Creating blocklists

As the name suggests, a blocklist is a collection of websites that will become inaccessible after you turn the app on. Cold Turkey has a standard blocklist in place that blocks a lot of websites that people tend to waste time on, such as Reddit, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

However, one problem with that is that it can be too much. For example, YouTube can both be an enormous time-waster, but also a great learning platform. That’s why Cold Turkey allows you to create custom blocklists, so you can choose which websites to block and which ones to not block.

Below, you can see how I’ve created a personalized “Light” distraction list. In this block list, I’ve excluded YouTube, because I may want to use it in my work. It’s fairly common that I have this blocklist activated for most of my studying and work.

If I have to perform a very specific task or complete an assignment that’s not saved on my computer, I’ll activate my personalized “KEEP ME OUT!” blocklist. As the name suggests, this list blocks me from everything that could wind up being distracting. I’ve added a whopping 51 websites to this list. This feature makes browsing the Internet very boring. So, I only activate this blocklist when I’m trying to get some heavy work done.

If you’re more of an app junkie, you can also pay for the pro version of Cold Turkey. This way you’ll be able to add applications to your blocklists. Personally, this isn’t as important for me, but may be something worth considering for some.

Setting timers

So, now that you’ve set up your blocklists, you’re ready to activate them. Under “Timers”, simply choose which blocklist to activate, select the right date and time, and change the status to “on”.

A word for the wise—make sure to choose the correct date when setting your timer. It would be rather awkward to accidentally set your blocker to stop next week and be unable to use your browser for anything fun until then.

If you’re using the pro version, you can enable breaks at a specific time interval. This might be useful if you’re using the Pomodoro Technique, which I’ve previously highlighted. The main idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is to work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. I’m a huge fan of this technique, but personally, I’m not so sure breaks should be spent on your computer. It’s better if you take a short walk, drink some water, or, I don’t know, stare blankly at the wall. It’s not much of a mental break if you just scroll aimlessly through other sites, right?

The pro version of Cold Turkey allows for some extra features, including a scheduling tools that allows you to activate blocklists at a certain time. However, the thing I love about Cold Turkey is that even the free version is extremely efficient and reliable. Who doesn’t want to save money?  

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re prone to procrastination. You’re not alone. It’s a word that sort of infers you did something wrong. But, that’s the wrong kind of thinking. It’s completely normal to visit sites like Youtube, Facebook, IG, etc., which are specifically designed to trigger your brain’s reward system. Instead of relying on your own self-control, take it to the next level. Delegate that self-control to an app!

“I’m a big believer in putting things off, In fact, I even put off procrastinating.”

Elle Varner

Markus studies at Copenhagen Business School, and as a student forced to process endless amounts of textbook babble, he has had to adapt or die. He very quickly realized that there are smart ways to study and not-so-smart ways, and as a self-proclaimed “study hacker”, he is eager to share with you what works, and more importantly, what definitely doesn’t work.

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