Cold Turkey Pro (Windows, Mac): reduce online distractions and increase focus

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The internet is an awesome technology for us programmers. But when we work on difficult problems or learn complex technologies, we do our best work when we can really focus. Unfortunately, the internet is also a productivity killer, with internet companies (like Facebook and Twitter) spending billions to increase engagement with their products.

From personal experience most of us already know that multitasking makes it hard to progress on our important work. Furthermore, research suggests that software developers typically switch activities every three minutes (Gonzalez & Mark, 2004), while jumping between tasks makes completing them take 50% longer (Gendreau, 2007). One important cause looks to be the internet: when Microsoft employees work online, they switch between applications every 47 seconds (!) on average (Mark et al., 2016). Unsurprisingly, the more those knowledge workers switched between tasks, the less their feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

“It’s a little surprising that nobody has taken aim at the #1 enemy of productivity everywhere: The Internet. (…) The internet, and chain upon chain of fascinating links, is never more than a keystroke away. It’s a problem. Sometimes I truly think I’d be more productive if I disconnected my ethernet jack.”
Jeff Atwood – web software developer, co-founder StackOverflow and Discourse, and author of the popular Coding Horror blog.

Being able to focus and work productively are important work skills. But how do we use the internet as the useful tool it is, without having it distract us from doing our important work?

The Cold Turkey app: block distracting websites and applications

While unplugging the internet cable might work for some, as programmers we need to have some internet connectivity – like working on an online app, pushing Git commits, or coordinating with team members. Willpower helps when the day is still young, but once we grow tired or frustrated, willpower often fails us too.

Luckily, Cold Turkey Pro (Windows, Mac) blocks distracting websites and applications for us. After creating block lists and setting them with a timer or schedule, Cold Turkey Pro operates on autopilot and blocks our distractions for us. Let’s look at what makes this app so useful.

Block websites and applications with different block lists

Cold Turkey Pro can block an unlimited number of websites and applications, as well as block the entire internet with only whitelisting the websites that we need to visit. We configure this with a block list, which contains all websites and/or applications that we want to block during a specific time period.

For instance, we can create a block list with social media websites and block it during working hours. Or use the application block feature so that we can play League of Legends during those hours. And with another block list we can disable email during the first few hours of the day. And to really focus we create a list that blocks the entire internet with just a few websites whitelisted.

Example of different block lists in Cold Turkey Pro

“Environment is critical. Allow yourself time to focus and be productive. Don’t check email, phone, twitter, etc.”
Steve Francia – technical program manager of the Go programming language at Google, software developer, author, and creator of the Hugo open source project.

Enforce block lists for a certain time or per schedule

Once we’ve created a block list in Cold Turkey Pro, there are two ways to active it: using a timer or following a certain schedule.

A timer is a wonderful way to block certain websites and/or applications until a certain date and time. This way the block is enforced whenever you’re at your desk. And once activated, a time block cannot be turned off until its time elapses.

Blocking distractions with the timer feature of Cold Turkey Pro

Blocking internet distractions with a schedule is a great way to have Cold Turkey Pro run on autopilot. With this feature you simply specify which list should be blocked during which day and time. And once you have your schedule configured, you can lock it until a certain date. That way when the urge to procrastinate arises, you cannot circumvent your own schedule.

Blocking internet distractions with a schedule in Cold Turkey Pro

Features of Cold Turkey Pro

Cold Turkey Pro has the following features to make the most of your limited time:

Personally, I’m a happy daily user of Cold Turkey Pro for more than a year now. Its features help me to have more focus when programming, learning, and writing. And the schedule feature makes me more efficient when I do use distracting websites (like email).

A low price for getting more things done

Even though the cost of lost productivity due to internet distractions adds up over time, Cold Turkey Pro is priced surprisingly friendly: just a $25 CAD one-time fee.

For that price you get:

Try Cold Turkey Pro today and reduce internet distractions, achieve more in the same time, and experience less stress.

“Avoid wasting your limited time and attention on low-value online activities, and instead focus on the much smaller number of activities that return the most value for your life. This is a basic 80/20 analysis: doing less, but focusing on higher quality, can generate more total value.”
Dr. Cal Newport – bestseller author and distinguished associate professor of computer science.

References

Gendreau, R. 2007. The new techno culture in the workplace and at home. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 11(2), 191-196.

Gonzalez, V. M. & Mark, G. 2004. “Constant, Constant, Multi-tasking Craziness”: Managing Multiple Working Spheres. Proceedings CHI’04, 113-120.

Mark, G., Iqbal, S., Czerwinski, M., Johns, P., & Sano, A. (2016). Neurotics Can’t Focus: An situ of Online Multitasking in the Workplace. Proceedings CHI’16.