“Just one more video” is my evening mantra at this point. As important as it is to get a good night’s sleep, late-night David always finds it even more important to watch one last, compelling video on YouTube—and maybe one more related video after that. YouTube can be a big time suck, especially during quarantine life, but you have a few settings you can use to reduce its allure.
Force a YouTube Break
Let’s start with the easiest method: shame. Pull up the YouTube app on Android or iOS and tap on your face in the upper-right corner (or whatever you use for your profile image). If you’re on Android, tap on “Time Watched;” if you’re on iOS, tap on Settings and then “Time watched.” Prepare to feel bad.
Oof. Let’s not talk about it. But this handy little chart should clue you in as to how much of your precious time you’re wasting away by watching other peoples’ cute doggos on YouTube (desktop or apps). If this is enough to correct your obsession, you are strong-willed and I salute you. For me, and everyone else, it’s time to summon some help.
How about a gentle reminder from YouTube?
On iOS, scroll down a bit on this screen and you’ll see a section called “Tools to manage your YouTube time.” Enable the first one, “Remind me to take a break,” and you’ll be asked to set a frequency for how often the app should remind you to put down your phone and go do something else.
Screenshot: David Murphy
If you tap Disable sounds & notifications, you’ll also be able to set a do-not-disturb-like time when you’d prefer that YouTube not bother you. This way, a notification won’t send you down a YouTube spiral 10 minutes before you were planning to get to sleep.
Compact your YouTube notifications into one digest
If you enable the “Scheduled digest” feature, you won’t get constant notifications via the app; they’ll come in the form of a single, daily digest that you can then peruse at your convenience. Ideally, you’ll schedule this to arrive sometime in the afternoon, not an hour before bedtime.
Let YouTube tell you when it’s time for bed
I don’t have this feature yet on my iOS or Android version of YouTube—not even as part of the beta, sadly—but Google is rolling out a new “it’s time for bed” option that you’ll be able to enable in YouTube’s settings. When you do, you’ll get a little message each day at whatever time you set, telling you that you should probably put down YouTube and go to sleep. You can, of course, snooze that notification, or even (presumably) have YouTube not display it when you’re watching an actual video, merely browsing.
I’m honestly somewhat surprised Google would offer such a blatant “stop using our app now” message, but I’m thankful for it. I’m not sure how effective it’ll be until I’ve tried it out, but it certainly sounds like a great way to remind yourself it’s bedtime—which is much more pleasant than looking up and realizing it’s an hour past bedtime because you were too busy watching an hour-long video of someone’s Stellaris playthrough.