Social media was a real life saver back when the pandemic began. Depending on your platform of choice, scrolling through social media was a way to stay informed, connected and/or distracted. Those were all really important, especially during the early days of quarantine when the isolation, anxiety and confusion were really overwhelming.
At least you could always find a funny meme or some cute animal pictures on Instagram or Facebook. At the same time, you could read about the newest updates from the CDC and be reassured by updates from your long-distance loved ones. It wasn’t always great for time management and productivity, but having those connections to the larger world was so important when we were all social distancing.
Even though the world has opened up again, social media is obviously still a prominent part of the day for a lot of people. In 2021, Pew Research found that 72% of Americans used social media of some type.
While it’s so common, social media use—and how it affects time management—is also really personal.
Some people use one platform and check it once a week; others spend hours every day engaging on multiple platforms. Some people are frequent posters while others prefer to lurk. We all have different motivations for using social media, which may change from hour to hour and from platform to platform.
- play Facebook games to give your brain a break between meetings
- use your Twitter feed to keep up with politics and your favorite sports team
- check TikTok when you need a laugh (or to understand what a young relative is talking about).
The Power of Social Media
If you’re a social media user, you witness its power every time a big news story breaks.
Take the recent devastating events in Ukraine. A few decades ago, you could have followed the story through a daily newspaper and a few daily newscasts. You might have talked about it around the water cooler, but it probably wouldn’t be front-of-mind because you wouldn’t know much about what was going on.
Today, we’re able to follow stories like the Ukranian invasion in real time, 24/7. You could click over to Twitter or Facebook right now and find the latest updates. You can see videos of Ukranian refugees and bombed cities, and find links to relief organizations that need donations. If you have a question about something that’s going on, you can find other people talking (and/or fighting) about the same thing on Reddit or YouTube. You can even set your phone to deliver push notifications of breaking headlines.
It’s never been easier to be highly informed. And totally overwhelmed.
There’s SO much information available—but that can be a blessing and a curse for time management and productivity.
Social Media Users Know These Platforms Are Really Good at Sucking You in.
There’s always one more post to look at. So what you intended to be a five-minute break for your brain turns into a 30-minute scrolling session. And when so much of what’s in your feed is dark and/or traumatic, like a lot of the news coming out of Ukraine, you don’t necessarily want to take that all in and carry it with you all day. (To say nothing of the stress caused by the divisiveness and fighting that’s so common on social media!)
There are already enough distractions pulling your attention away from the important things you need to get done. Being overly plugged into social media probably isn’t going to help you fix your time management challenges. It’s almost definitely not going to be great for your mental health.
The problem is, a lot of our social media habits are deeply ingrained. If you typically open your Facebook app 15 times a day, non-conscious muscle memory is probably going to drive you to keep doing that, even if you know that you have a ton of important tasks on your plate, or that scrolling through your feed is going to make you upset.
Being intentional about how you manage your relationship with social media helps you prevent the overstimulation and overwhelm that can derail your day and compound your time management challenges.
Three Ideas for Managing Your Relationship with Social Media
1. Use digital tools to create time limits on social media sites. This is a simple way to curb mindless scrolling. If you access social media apps on an iPhone and/or Mac, use the Apps Limit setting to give yourself a daily boundary. Or, if you use social media on your computer, search for a browser extension that will block distracting websites after you’ve reached a predetermined amount of time on them.
2. Establish social media blackout periods. At some point in each day, let yourself completely unplug from social media’s stimulation. Give your brain time to rest and recharge. Maybe you want to avoid social media for the last hour before you go to sleep. Or, designate Sunday as a social-media free day.
3. Reflect on your meaningful goals to reframe how you think about how you use your time. These are the goals that are going to guide you to have the life that you want, and that have great personal meaning for you. Break those goals into actionable steps, then think about how you could make progress on those steps in short periods of time. Say you have a goal of opening a new side business. When you have 15 free minutes between calls, it’s easier to pull up social media than to dive into such a huge and daunting goal. But you could use that time to tackle one small piece of the project, like making a list of prospective business attorneys to call. Knowing what steps to take next on your goals may motivate you to dive into that work instead of defaulting to social media.
Time Management Plays an Important Role
Carefully managing how and when you take in information, especially through social media, is an important piece of your time management plan.
Being prepared to navigate distractions that come up throughout the day is critically important if you’re going to cut down on wasted time and get more done.
If you want more support, check out my new video series: Three Keys to Getting Started on the Important Things. If you feel like the things you need to do to move your business forward just aren’t getting done, Three Keys is for you. You’ll learn more about setting meaningful goals and how to prioritize those goals even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Click here for more information and to access the video series.