Something has got to change.
I start everyday with the best of intentions. I have my to-do list, each day I know that I need to write a few blog posts and an article or two, as well as, knock out at least 6 pages of my book. I'm a woman on a mission.
And then I log into Twitter and I follow links and hashtags not so much because they will add to my day but the 140 character description has hooked me. I read about stuff that I never knew - isn't that cool? I even read about someone else's parenting controversy – I mean, I'm a parent so I should be interested, right?
After about an hour or so I then turn to Facebook. Cute videos call out my name, posts where I've been tagged deserve a response, new writers, new friends need to be acknowledged. I need to update my status so that I can reach out to others. I need to let my “friends” know that I'm here and actively engaged.
Then there's Linkedin, Google+ , comments on my blog, email, and by the time I'm ready to start my writing day, the morning hours have wasted away to literally nothing. I end up squandering my best writing time (the morning) by spending it doing what I think I should be doing - all the Social Media stuff that's important to my success.
But is it really?
For example, like the millions around the world, I was saddened by Steve Jobs passing. Such an innovative spirit, gone. But I spent far too much time reading tributes and articles about Jobs. I read about the Apple logo (and yeah, the cyanide apple story is fiction), I read through the Jobs quotes that were popping up all over. I was even invited to a “Dress like Steve Jobs on Friday to honor Steve Jobs” event. (to which I actually took the time to comment that I thought this was wrong.)
I lost almost two days of work on the death of a man whom I admired greatly but whom I didn't personally know. It was just too easy to get sucked up in the outpouring. Guilty.
Social Media is a pig. It takes all it can get and always wants more.
When I waste my time like this (and please, let's call it what it is) it usually means that my blog posts get rushed, my articles are written in a flurry, and most distressing of all, the 6 pages of my book don't get done. I have the world's greatest book that has never been written.
And I'm supposed to be a writer.
I recently read a post by Peter Bregman on “An 18 minute plan on managing your day” (which, based on the repsonse, became a book.) In the post, he describes much of the same frustration I and I imagine quite a few of you feel. In his post, which has now become a book, he outlines a formula for managing Social Media during the work day.
He suggests the following steps:
STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day. Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you've been productive and successful? Write those things down.
Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.
In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz describe a study in which a group of women agreed to do a breast self-exam during a period of 30 days. 100% of those who said where and when they were going to do it completed the exam. Only 53% of the others did.
In another study, drug addicts in withdrawal (can you find a more stressed-out population?) agreed to write an essay before 5 p.m. on a certain day. 80% of those who said when and where they would write the essay completed it. None of the others did.
If you want to get something done, decide when and where you're going to do it. Otherwise, take it off your list.
STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don't let the hours manage you.
STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?
I think this is brilliant if only for the fact that it sets boundaries around something that if left unguarded could escape into your life causing tremendous chaos and destruction.
I know of another writer, New York Times Best Seller Chris Bohjalian, who sets up his day like this: he writes in the morning, exercises and essentially plays or does research or enjoys life in the afternoon, and it is only in the late afternoon that he goes back to his computer to get his Social Media work done. Sure, there are days when he doesn't follow this schedule (they're called book tours) but by following this routine on more days than not, he ends up creating roughly one best seller a year.
Not a bad habit.
Listen, I know, I get it that Social Media is important. It's how we connect, how we get instant information, how we are perceived by others. It's how we grow our base, get fans of our work. Through Social Media we can become known. Us – the people who sit at our desks removed from all others.
I get it. I see how helpful it can be.
But I also see how destructive it can be when it creeps into your creative time, your work time, and crawls around the inside of your brain.
Starting today, something's going to change. I'm foregoing the titillating links, the unbelievable photos, the touching videos, and replying to every #FF. I'm not going to politely decline every automatic invitation I receive or every request to join a worthwhile cause. Instead, I'm going to write my 6 pages.
After all, when I die, I want to be remembered as a writer, a productive writer, and not as a person who was incredibly proficient at Social Media.
About the Author: An e-copy and features writer, interviewer, and columnist, Wendy Thomas has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs. Her current project is to blog about life living with 6 kids and a flock of chickens.
Photo Credit: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent)