Are you sitting down? Good. Because guess what. *takes a deep breath* ‘Time suck’ is in the dictionary. This may not stun urban word-anistas, like Natalie Hartford, but it was news to me. Close your eyes and ponder the term. What leaps to mind? Lemme guess—Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? All-things-internet?
The Urban Word Dictionary defines ‘time suck’ as: “Something that’s engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children.” Example: “Facebook is a time suck! I posted a funny picture after dinner and all of a sudden it’s midnight!”
Hmm… But no one is tying us down before the keyboard, or forcing our eyes on the screen. We may feel compelled to abandon other responsibilities and lose track of time, but if a child cried out from a nearby room, we wouldn’t say, “Quiet, kiddo. I’m on eBay.” We’d rush to his or her rescue. In other words, time sucks are voluntary—more like investments than stealers.
Unless you A) have a compulsive psychological disorder involving social media, or B) are being held at gunpoint by an internet-mongering psychopath (in which case, please visit 911.com) there are many ways to keep TS at bay and still reap the many benefits social media has to offer.
7 Ways to Dodge Social Media Time Suck
1. Approach it like a pro. Social media is a lot like L.A. nightlife, minus the swanky outfits and over-priced drinks. When I was working as an actress, the scene was part of my job. But my goal was networking, not partying. So I never—okay seldom—partied too late or too much. Doing so would’ve given the wrong impression and sabotaged opportunities. The same applies for authors on social media. Like parties, social media is fun. But if we approach it like a party, our professionalism might tank.
2. Prioritize. Think of your time as an up-side-down Christmas tree. (Use a regular pine tree if you wish. I prefer the sparkles.) The widest part of the tree represents what matters most and what demands the most time. If you’re an author, your craft and career are likely top priority, as far as work goes. Building a social media platform is an important component, but the most important is producing quality work and growing craft-wise. Don’t let social media steal that away.
3. Step away from the net. We all know when we’re helping our platform and when we’re simply procrastinating or surrendering to the TS vacuum. When the latter happens, un-plug. Take a break. Eat a healthy snack. Turn your wireless off. Step…away… If you feel incapable, seek professional help. (I mean that sincerely. Therapy’s a great thing.)
4. Strategize, time-wise. After blogging—arguably the most important web presence for authors—the top three social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. We have limited time to spend on-line; best we use it wisely. Popping over to Google+, Linked In and other sites can help, but spreading ourselves too thin turns even modest efforts into TS. Invest more time into the most popular sites and less into others. Basic, right?
5. Strategize, timing-wise. I’m a morning person, so I prefer to get my writing in early. As much fun as it would be to post creative, witty or otherwise sharp blurbs on Facebook during my peak brain-time, I’d rather invest that sharpness into my craft. If you’re groggy during morning hours, social media can provide a great warm up; save your juice for later. In other words, find and commit to timing that works for you. (If you’re someone who can’t help but be sharp, creative and/or hilarious at all times, timing is less of an issue—lucky duck!)
6. Link it up. Remember those three social media superstars from #4? We can link them all together—a huge time saver, if used appropriately. Since I’ve linked my Pinterest account to Facebook, I’ve had more dialogue and connectivity going on via both. My Facebook fan page is linked to Twitter, so anything I share on the fan page goes out to the Twitter-verse. Don’t overdo link-ups, however, as we don’t want to spam our friends and readers. Spending quality time on each platform is important.
7. Keep your goals in mind. If we lose sight of our goals, little will hold us to them. Distracting-TS-ers will seep in, robbing us of dreams we’re fully capable of reaching. If goal-focus doesn’t come easy for you, keep reminders near your computer—inspiring photos, quotes or affirmations. Connecting with supportive friends can also help. So while over-doing social media can detract from our careers, lean on friends—on the web or in-person—as needed.
Extra Tips & Tricks:
- If you don’t have time to read blogs throughout a particular week—or even if you do—read Gene Lempp’s Blog Treasures. His Saturday morning mash-ups feature the “best of the blogosphere” from the previous week, and they never disappoint.
- Pin on Saturdays. Pinterest activity rages on Saturdays, when other social media quiets down. So if adding pinning to your already-full plate seems daunting, save it for Saturdays.
- If you are prone to social media TS, set a timer. Dan Taylor, a Vienna-based social media consultant, offers this and other great advice in his post, How to Avoid the Social Media Time Suck.
- Consider joining Triberr. Not sure what it is or how to use it? Check out Jenny Hansen’s great post, My New Time-Saving Social Media BFF—Triberr.
- Use Twitter lists. Roni Loren sold me on lists in her post, Picky, Picky – The Danger of Authors Being Too Clique-y on Twitter.
- Take your computer out for coffee. Okay, sounds sort of sick. But seriously, social networking in social settings can help shake things up, put us in a sociable mood, and prevent day-long Facebook/Twitter-thons. (Once you run out of coffee, go home. )
How do you avoid social media TS? Have you mastered time management? Any tips or challenges to add?