Tracking is key
When Peter Drucker said what gets measured gets managed he was absolutely right. The reason I think this works so well is that we should not rely on our memory to track how much we spent on superfluous tasks. We will never have an accurate representation, but when we write down what we did, and for how long, it will tell us a drastically different story.
So instead of tracking everything, start with distractions, every time you catch yourself watching youtube, just write down approximately how long you spend on youtube, instagram, etc… Then each day try to make it 1% better than the last day.
Next time you do use youtube, try to make it a bit more intentional, don’t just go in and start watching the recommended videos from the home page, they are designed to draw you in with pointless drama, and rarely will you find a normal educational video.
Another benefit to being intentional is the feeling of control, you came up with an idea and you executed it. Just as the body needs protein, carbs, and fat, the mind needs three things autonomy, competence, and belonging, it is literally food for the mind. To prove it just mark down how you feel after intentional use of youtube versus when you wasted an hour watching random youtube videos full of drama.
Schedule your distractions
It often helps to schedule 30 minutes of youtube to go over any new videos from channels you follow (not random yt videos). The key here is to schedule a specific activity with a specific intention, not just “30 minutes of random browsing/video watching”.
Hack back external distractions
This hack is from the Indistractable book by Nil Eyar and it works wonders. I went on reddit to find the best safari plugins to disable the home page for youtube and I bought one called untrap. It totally fixed my youtube problem, the moment there is no recommended youtube videos section (often just random drama-filled pointless videos) it’s much easier to use youtube with intention. Now, I can just see videos from channels I subscribe to and I can search, that’s it.