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Time Management and Social Media: Progress Update #1

OHI0060 EmailCheck 500

A little while ago, I posted about needing to rethink my social media habits. I am still rethinking. :-) I was off-line for much of August because of the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles as well as a 10 day anniversary trip with my husband.

I had originally planned to stay offline the entire time. Because we needed to coordinate with friends in California and because Jeff was relying on Google maps and other online navigation information during the trip, I found it impossible to resist the lure.

Yes, I am weak.

I did manage to stay off line for as much as 48 hours at a time, however. This may not seem like a lot to some of you. For me, though, it was an achievement. :-)What I found: I did not miss being online if I had other distractions to keep me occupied.

When I got home, I started experimenting with longer work sessions during which I stayed completely offline. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought, especially when I realized how much more productive I could be. A surprising challenge: training everyone else to learn that I wasn't as glued to my e-mail as usual. I can't blame them, really. People are so used to me being able to respond to an e-mail within a few minutes.

As I mentioned before, I have no interest in pulling back completely from social media. I use social media for so much more than just business networking, and it's part of who I am. I have always been a fan of online communities.The people and posts I follow on various social networks inspire me, inform and educate.

As a creative freelancer, I'm used to working for long periods in isolation. When I'm working on something that requires a lot of creative concentration, I need to be alone. However, sometimes it's great to take a break and socialize a bit online.

The key, of course, is moderation.

Here are some steps I've been taking in my attempts to get more control over how much time I spend online and my productivity:

1. Learn to say no. Sometimes a fun project or a project for a good cause will come up, or a potential promotional opportunity that's hard to turn down. I'm keeping closer track of how many of these I take on at any one time, and learning how to say no or to postpone the rest.

2. Learn how to focus for longer periods of time. I've grown so used to an interrupt-driven workday. What I have learned, which I'm sure is already obvious to most of you: being able to work for longer periods without interruption makes me more productive. I try to ignore the phone when it rings, and let people leave messages. I tried to check e-mail fewer times during the day, and am also gradually training people I know to not expect immediate responses.

3. When I go online, I try to stick to my original purpose. I find it way too easy to start following links and looking things up online, clicking and clicking until I realize I've totally forgotten the original reason I went online. Now I use Instapaper and Pinboard to record links I want to check out later and tell myself (who gets the following nerdy Star Wars quote ref?) to STAY ON TARGET.

How are the rest of you doing? Have you learned any new tips to share?


Reader Comments (10)

Great post and a subject we all think about.

Totally agree that productivity improves with uninterrupted writing time. I have found that whilst writing I need to concentrate because I am writing about a fantasy world I have created so I need to be in that world and interruptions mean I have to return to earth; most inconvenient.

My tips: Write early in the morning before anyone is up. None of my friends are up at 5 so I know I won't get phone calls etc and the silence at that time is amazing.

Agree with learning to say no. At first it might be uncomfortable but absence makes the heart grow fonder. Once friends and family learn that you will not come running at the drop of a hat whenever they are bored and they want a chat etc., they will value you more. If they think you are being selfish, that says more about them than you and who wants a friend like that?

Plan a treat AFTER you have achiened a mini target. So delay that coffee and biscuits until you have completed 1000 words or whatever. It's very motivating as the caffeine withdrawal kicks in and you still have 200 words to go.

Enjoy your writing otherwise why are you doing it. It's 'me time'. Everybody else has me time so why shouldn't you?

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchristopher wills

Christopher: Excellent advice! Is it ok if I include some of it in a follow-up Inkygirl post?

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Ohi

Of course you can, no problem Debbie.

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchristopher wills

I suffer from being distracted from the internet as well. The comic is cute.

September 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvelyn N. Alfred

I agree with Christopher! Like him, I usually start working early in the morning at 5 am, when my family is still asleep and I can have all the silence and concentration I need. As a work-at-home mom, distractions are everywhere especially when the kids are up and would want to play or have conversations with me.

As a writer, I also feel that I am most inspired to write early in the morning :) So as much as I can, I make it a point to sleep early so I can wake up and work early (than the other way around of sleeping late and waking up and working late - I find this routine stressful)

p.s. I just love your illustrations, Debbie. It gets us more involved with your posts :)

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShyxter

Great post, Debbie. I liked your point about teaching others your new online habits. When I'm accustomed to quick responses, I find myself a little annoyed when I cant get what I want. Right. Now. Then I get to see my own habitual unrealistic impatience. Almost laughable if it wasn't so ingrained. OY. Seeing it allows me to get real and let it go. Your independence helps me declare my independence.
Informing others of your new schedule is step 1. Sticking with it despite their pushy impatience is the bigger step 2. But once they've adjusted (and learned from it), new clients/friends accept it from the getgo.

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdawn groves

I got the reference, Red Three. There's no cupholder in these things. Now, ketchup is everywhere!

September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Flavin

Hi Debbie,

What a great feeling being offline, isn't it? I think we should all do that once a while. I used to panic if I didn't have Internet access for 24 hours, but nowadays I embrace it because it showed me how productive I can be and that I'm not that reliant on being online.

If people are expecting you to respond to email within minutes, you have to slowly condition them you won't continue to do that. So start being slower at responding and give them a heads up that it might take a while. Then it's all about being consistent with your behavior. If you say that you will get back within 24 hours, but you keep replying within 24 minutes....then that doesn't work.

From my experience, it's best to set these boundaries upfront.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThanh Pham

Instapaper saved my homework! Great tip!

September 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSanne

I've been having trouble with this too, and I'm thinking I need to try to focus on #3. There is so much stuff out there, and since I'm a newbie to Twitter, it's really easy to get overwhelmed by it and end up wasting massive amounts of time.

And in honor of that thought, I'm going to go back to work! Thanks for sharing your struggles with this.

October 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnnabelle

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