Like most things in life, the rise of social media platforms has been both a blessing and a curse for professionals. There is a host of new opportunities to create meaningful engagement…and lose hours of productivity.
Our approach to these platforms goes a long way to determining whether they really help us in our professional lives.
For example, my wife surfs Facebook after a long day to connect with her friends and see what people have posted. I play video games. Both are totally valid forms of relaxation.
But I don’t play video games in the middle of the day. And you shouldn’t mindlessly surf social media and pretend that you are working.
The Thin Line between Useful and Wasteful
For professionals who use the connectivity that social media platforms create, there’s a new on-the-job hazard: falling into a hole of mindless online surfing and wasting hours of time and attention. It might not happen all at once, but 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there adds up.
I use social myself, so I understand the need, but we have to remember that these platforms aren’t inherently designed to help us with our jobs. They’re designed to sell advertising and help the owners turn a profit. They have whole departments of really smart people who are focused on finding ways of making us stay on the sites longer than we intended.
As the saying goes, if you don’t pay for a product, you are the product. Until we start paying for Facebook, their job is to keep our eyeballs on the site for as long as possible.
We take advantage of that when we use the sites to help us market, sell, and create communities for our businesses. But that same power can suck us in and kill our productivity.
Minimize Your Downtime on Social
It’s important that you are deliberate and intentional with your work time on social media platforms. Here are some ideas on ways that you can be more effective with your professional online activity.
1. Schedule your work and set a timer:
When you are on social for business, whether it’s participating in an online community on Facebook or running searches on LinkedIn for prospects, plan out what you need to do in advance. Know how much time you are going to spend and what activities you are going to spend it on. That way, when you are online, you have a guidepost to focus your activity. And more importantly, you’ll know when you are done.
2. Don’t go on social when you don’t need to:
Digital platforms have given us an amazing ability to connect in ways that we haven’t had before. But that doesn’t mean that all of our work is going to be improved by going online. Know when it’s time to market, comment, or collaborate, and when it’s time to put your head down and do your work. If it’s hard to stay away from Facebook or Instagram when you want a break “for just a minute”, use online blockers like Freedom, Self-Control, or Cold Turkey.
3. Turn off your notifications:
Every moment you aren’t using their social media platforms, companies can’t sell your attention to advertisers. Luckily for them, we give them permission to keep tempting us back by turning on our notifications. Every little “ding” calls us back like the Sirens called Odysseus. Unless your job is to directly monitor an account for possible negative activities, there aren’t any emergencies on social that you need to respond to immediately. Turn off your mobile and desktop notifications.
4. Don’t be on platforms you don’t need to be on:
The best way to avoid temptation to use a social media platform is to not be on it. Obviously, if there’s a business reason to be there, be there. But trying to keep up with every site will drive you crazy. There are way too many for you stay up-to-date with. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are great platforms for specific people and reasons. But I am not one of those people and I don’t have those reasons so I’m not there. It’s hard to surf a site you don’t have an account on.
5. Create opportunities for self-awareness:
Get in the habit of asking yourself, “Do I really need to spend my time doing what I’m doing now? Is there a real professional reason for me to be here?” If the answer is no, move on to something else. Social media platforms rely on our inertia. They rely on our mindless scrolling. Admittedly, it takes a little while, but if you can get in the habit of asking yourself if you really need to be on Facebook right now, and then acting on the honest answer, two things will happen.
One: When you are on social media for personal activities, you’ll enjoy your social time even more because you won’t feel guilty.
Two: You’ll gain back a lot of wasted time and energy that you can funnel into other professional projects.
A version of this article originally appeared on the awesome site, Spin Sucks. Check it out here.