Have you ever just gotten so sick of something you wanted to completely quit it? I had that feeling about social media. I was spending way too much time looking at things that did not help me get closer to my goals. Reading posts often cause me more stress and angst than joy. So I took a social media break. And it helped my business and my happiness.
I’m not sure exactly when I reached the last straw on social media. It may have been when commercials started saying ‘hashtag’ as part of their actors’ scripts. Or it may have been when the news stations started reading random tweets as part of the broadcast. And let’s not overlook the unlimited sharing of lunch photos, selfies, and expletives. All I know is one day I’d had enough. I wondered if I needed social media at all.
The investigation begins.
I was already tracking my daily activities to try and understand my productivity patterns and I realized as part of that exercise I was spending an average of 2.5 hours every day on social media. Some of that time was posting thoughts, ideas, and links to engage the people who are connected to my stream. Additional time was spent reading news items. But a good portion of that 2.5 hours was just browsing Facebook or Pinterest for entertainment. I did some of it while having lunch or watching TV. It was never all at once, but when the minutes added up to 2.5 hours I knew I had to make a change.
Easier to quit than expected.
Just to be clear, I haven’t quit social media completely. I recognize the value of curated news and reaching people from across the globe. What I wanted was to use social media wisely. I wanted it to work for me, not the other way around.
My first step was to make accessing social media as inconvenient as possible. So I deleted all social media apps from my mobile devices. If I were going to check any social media it would have to be at my computer which is usually sitting on my desk in my office.
My second step was to limit the number of times and the duration of my social media sessions. I ended up planning 10 minutes 3 times a day for a total of 30 minutes of social media interaction.
My final step was to replace the habit of reading social media at lunch or other times with another more productive activity. I knew from my experience I need something that would match the accessibility, distraction factor, enjoyment and entertainment factor to make it an easy switch. The one change I wanted and needed to make was to make the new habit more valuable. I wanted to go from it being a waste of time and not supporting my goals to being something that adds value and DOES support moving forward toward my goals. I chose reading. Not just reading but reading using my kindle app.
To get started I decided to do a social media fast over the weekend. For 3 days I did not open any social media apps. To my surprise, I didn’t miss a thing. When I went back on the Monday morning for my first 10 minute session I realized I had missed nothing. I was still informed about the important things and can easily dip into social media for only 10 minutes to catch up on what’s happening in my community and in the world.
For the next several weeks I would catch myself every time I went to open a browser just to look at social media and ask myself – why? What did I need? Usually it was one of two things. Either I needed break or I was avoiding something difficult. Once I recognized which of the two was the cause, I could choose to either take a break and read, or I could go back to what I was avoiding and figure out what I needed to move forward.
Because this was an easier change than other habits, I can say I’m not addicted to social media. However, I was able to cut back my time on all social media platforms from 2.5 hours to only 30 minutes each day. The result was twofold.
More important than I realized was my happiness. I was less aggravated, less stressed, less annoyed at things in general because I wasn’t stuck looking at other people’s lives and either comparing myself to them or just getting annoyed at some political or social statements. Reading others posts wasn’t always helpful to my happiness. For those who’s perspective and thoughts that are important to me, I subscribe to their work directly. I no longer have to sift through streams on social media to stay connected.
Since I was able to take back 2 hours from my day, I was able to devote more focused time on my business. What I thought was helping my business (social media surfing) was actually taking time and energy away from it. I can still go out to any social media platform and focus on a client’s needs through research or connecting to others, but I don’t need to do more than that. I can go in and get out quickly.
Social media is a great tool. But it can easily become a crutch, a distraction, and a negative influence. Make sure you are using it to benefit your life and business.
- Take note of your mood after you spend time consuming social media.
- Be aware of the amount of time you spend and make sure it supports your goals.
- Challenge yourself to do a social media fast and see how it impacts your life of business.