Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How I Handle Social Media: Time Management Tips

Writers are busy people. If you don't believe me, check out my list of the 8 jobs of modern writers. We have to do our own promotion, networking, accounting, sales, negotiating, filing, and, oh yeah, there's that writing bit too. And if we're not robots, we've probably got real lives too--and maybe even a day job to pay the bills. How do we fit in social media?!?


Is there a way to add an hour to the day? Like leap hour?

As a parent of five kids between the ages of 10 years and 10 months (and split between two states) who has a day job and a real life, I can totally relate to this situation. Now, I think everyone has a different angle or strategy for handling time management, but here's what I do.

The Power of Making Lists
First, I make daily task lists--with each day's tasks on a separate piece of paper. It's taken some time, but I've figured out how much I can comfortably complete each day--with a few unexpected daily surprises thrown in for good measure. I try very hard to avoid overachieving each day, because that practice usually backfires and causes me a lot of stress.

When I finish each task, I cross it off my list. Then, I allow myself a few minutes (up to 15) to check my social media accounts. I'll jump on Twitter and Facebook to see if anyone's contacted me first. Then, I also do a quick scan of what's happening in the world via my social media streams.

During these small breaks, I might link to a blog post from one of my blogs. Or I might share an article from another person. Or respond to a tweet. But when my time is up, it's up; and I have to jump back into my tasks list. (By the way, this blog post is on my tasks list--as is my Cub Scouts leaders meeting later tonight.)

It All Adds Up
Over time, these small breaks add up to a big investment in social media. Plus, they are more meaningful, because they are spread throughout the day (as opposed to an hour of social media power).

I consider social media just one part of my day, kind of like checking my e-mail (which is a-whole-nother story altogether). In fact, it's such a routine and minute part of my day that I don't even include it on my task list. I just know that I'm going to do it.

How about you? Do you feel you're investing too much time in social media? Not enough? Be sure to share in the comments.

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Also, here are some other time management strategies that I've found helpful:
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Use social networking tools to succeed in publishing!

Jane Friedman and Alice Pope lead the webinar Using Social Networking Tools to Succeed in Publishing. This webinar covers how to test ideas using social media, learn preferences of editors and agents, stay up to date on trends, build your personal brand, and more.

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

42 comments:

Annie Neugebauer said...

I totally agree with this plan. Small bites are more digestible, so to speak, for both me and those who follow me. I definitely follow a few people who do ALL of their social media stuff at once, and it's a little overwhelming. I much prefer those who I see a little of throughout the day than those who flood everything at one time. So I try to do the same.

It's one of the reasons that I've come to love my RSS feeder, too. I used to just check blog bookmarks, which led to all at once (which made it a lot less fun); now I just check my reader a time or two each day and comment on blogs as they come in. Nice post!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Especially on Twitter, I think it makes sense to spread activity out during the course of a day, because not everyone is on at the same time. Plus, I've un-Followed tweeps who do big data dumps all at once.

hcfbutton said...

One thing I've looked into social media posting-wise is targeting when your main audience may be reading your posts. If most of your readers are in Vancouver, then it makes sense to post at 3pm EST so you can hit the lunch crowd out west.

I've also found Michael Hyatt's take pretty awesome: http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-become-a-twitter-ninja.html

Karen said...

I've been reading your recent posts on how writers should be doing social networking. I have a Facebook page but it's a personal one my kids got me to set up a while back. I also have boards on Pinterest. Then I am a new blogger with a few followers. But I'm a wanna-be author that's working hard to get my first book published while trying to get my second off the ground. Do I really need social networking since I'm not a published author yet?
And you mention Twitter a lot. I'm a 63 yr. old grandma and I have tried Twitter but it's so confusing to me. I'm not sure how to do hash tags or how to interact with others. Is there a "Twitter For Dummies" out there somewhere that could help an old gal learn some new technology?

Elissa Field said...

The one thing I have not yet been pleased with, in managing my time with social media, is I have not yet found a service I like for monitoring my twitter streams. I tried TweetDeck, but it was slow and ineffective. The result is I am scrolling through the full stream, not sorted threads, which probably makes me take more time.

On the other hand, I get so much of my news and great info from twitter, the investmeng of time has been worth it.

Do you have a suggestion for services that work better than tweetdeck?

Gerry said...

Thanks for these time management tips. I'd asked a question about it in the platform challenge today. I'm where Karen (comment above) is in terms of wondering just how much of the social media scene I need when I'm trying to find an agent for my first book, revising the second, and rounding out a story collection.

My problem is that I'm not disciplined where email and Internet are concerned. Your suggestions re a task list and limiting online time are good ones I'll try to follow.

R. E. Hunter said...

Blogging and reading other blogs is sucking up way too much of my time right now, making it hard to get other work done. Haven't even touched Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, ... that I'm told I should be doing. I don't see how I'll get any writing done at all with those added on.

Beth Stilborn said...

I so appreciate this, Robert. Time management is something I have trouble with, as I'm too apt to answer the siren call of the internet with all its temptations -- email, facebook, blogs.

I will try your method and see if I can discipline myself.

caryl said...

Good advice! I'm going to try this.

Now, how 'bout helping me turn off the TV?

I was going to leave my comment at that, but actually- working at home is full of so many distractions (including TV) that I'd love to hear any advice you may have about that. And please don't just say, "Leave."

(I apologize in advance if smiley faces annoy you, but it seems appropriate.)

:)

Lara Britt said...

I just made myself a 3-hour sacred morning schedule to combat the overload. By sacred, I mean unplugged. M-F 7a-8a involves running shoes, yoga mat, shower gel & incense. M-F 9-10 involves writing implement of choice, no wi-fi, no rewrites. After that, I feel good. Whatever gets done, gets done. My "day job"is an evening job. So this works for me...or I hope it will.

Lara Britt said...

Woot! Got rid of that beatrix moniker. I was born pre-techie age. It takes me a moment.

Jessie Carty said...

I pretty much do a similar thing. I try to check first thing in the morning but on a teaching day I often can't check in until evening when I do so on my phone. That definitely keeps my time shorter :)

Cecilia Gunther said...

Evening robert, i am new but smitten. I also have specific time bites for each social media type, now that i have added twitter i will need to be even more vigilant, early morning and late evening and that is all.. it is hard though! I love the interaction, as with the farm and the writing I really do not get out much. have a great evening! celi

De said...

I'm a little overwhelmed, and had initial concerns, because I'm already a Pro Crastinator, and highly distract-
LOOK! Shiny object!
-able.
I'm trying to get a similar routine to yours down, where I limit the time reading through/responding to Twitter, Facebook, etc. Also trying to find the balance between promoting my own work, and sharing that of others'. I'm sure in a few weeks it will feel more natural.

Appreciate the nudge, and all the tips, info and help.

De

Bonnee Crawford said...

I think most people my age spend waaay too much time with social media. I do... Recently, I've tried to practice some amount of discipline.

E. B. Pike said...

I think using tools for Twitter can be a big help too. One of my awesome Twitter friends recently shared some great (free) tips that have saved me from impending Twitter burnout.

Tweetdeck is great for seeing what's going on all in one spot and responding to mentions. Ifft can send automatic responses (simple thank you's or whatever) either by DM, or by mentioning in a tweet. Tweetstork automatically helps you find new people to follow based on friends you already have and things you're interested in. Fridayfollow will round up suggestions for #WW or #FF. Also, unfollowing is a snap with Tweetstork or the Manage Filter.

I hope some of you find these as helpful as I did! I know being an attorney full-time and trying to keep the social media boat afloat has been cutting into my oh-so-precious writing time. Anything to streamline the process is a big winner in my book.

Meena Rose said...

I live and die by the GTD (Getting Things Done) method both professionally as a high tech consultant and as a creative writer.

Here is a link to how one writer tweaked GTD to make it work for him:

http://antonyjohnston.com/articles/gtw.php

Beth said...

I work full-time at a veterans hospital and social media during our shift isn't allowed. I don't have a smart phone to use on my breaks, either. That's my challenge--I want to more involved with social media, but my circumstances are a huge stumbling block for that. Any other advice?

Joseph Lalonde said...

Sometimes I feel I'm investing too much time in SM. I need to break the habit of randomly checking and start scheduling times to deal with it. It creates a sense of chaos and brokenness. If I put together a schedule, that would help a ton.

Cameron said...

Not sure what the action is today :) But I am a compulsive listmaker (I use Astrid to do to synch my phone, PC, and Kindle among other devices with my to dos). I only have about 10-20 minutes a day (during the work day) to hit social media, but that is sometimes enough...though I have to force myself to check other sites than twitter... hate you facebook! :)

Cameron said...

Perhaps if I read the title I would realize this is an "in-between" post and not a task. I am dumber now :).

Romelle Broas said...

I don't do enough socializing. So, I recently developed a plan and assigned certain days of the week for social networking, which I allot an hour for. for example, Facebook Fridays, Twitter Tuesdays, Etc. which makes it once a week for each type of media. Your challenge has "forced" me to do it more often. that's a good thing.

I like your idea of allowing 15 mins throughout the day after accomplishing a task. I'm a LIST person so that's a given. Thanks for pointing out the importance of spreading our time for social networking. Great ideas here!

saturnbull said...

I love lists! And crossing items off them! :)

Sorry Gnat said...

I'm not sure I ended my blog with an action call; but I dealt with techy stuff, and i had placed an action call. My friend Eric called from East Coast; i now am out of Bill's Linkedin, will wait 48 hours; establish mine;

I connect with a lot of people in my life, and having lived in other countries - those too; my task is to not get hooked sitting on the computer and doing it all at once.

I have to clear the morning for nothing but taking care of spiritual and physical stuff; if i start checking email, it leads into writing, and then i'm lost for the morning and often don't walk.

i don't get CALL to action-help?

Blyth McManus said...

Robert, your advice and the shared advice of my fellow Challengers is exactly what I needed to take my tangle of sometimes-used social media outlets and start aiming them all in the same direction, so to speak.

Marilyn said...

I'm with Karen - new author-to-be with first book later this year. The social media part stresses me. I spend way too much time on FB with my personal account and find Twitter to be more than I can handle currently with nothing substantial to tweet about. Perhaps this will change once my book is published.

Susan Macatee said...

Sounds like a great plan to me. I've just dipped my foot into Twitter, for the most part because I had a new book release in January and others suggested Twitter as a way to get word out. But I was soon completely overwhelmed. I already have my website, blog, a group blog I post regularly to and tons of email loops. It can get crazy if you let it and leave you little time for writing.

Heide Braley said...

I used to make lists when I sat at a desk every day, but now I make a mental list of at least one project I want to do each day. I don't need a list to remind me of the run-of-the-mill tasks. I like to wake up and pack as many tasks into my first hour of the day so that by 8 a.m. I am ready to get on my laptop. I check my emails, post on my blog, check book sales, answer facebook stuff, spend some time reading other blogs and other sites. Then I step away and work on that project - usually something outside dealing with my yard involving physical labor. I can imagine new stories when I am moving and walking, so that later I am ready to put the words on paper.

Lynn said...

I'm a list maker, just never thought about adding FB, Twitter, etc., onto that list. Thanks for all the info Robert!

Dianna said...

Good to hear I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Maybe somebody mentioned it here and I missed it, but I like bufferapp.com. I've tried Tweetdeck and found it distracting. I spend 10 minutes each morning loading Buffer and then ignore my own sites as much as possible the rest of the day until I'm done meeting deadlines.

Skipperhammond@gmail.com said...

I like THINGS for Mac and iPhone for task management.

Debo said...

Very good write up

Anonymous said...

Checking email "whenever" is a problem for a lot of people since it actually wastes considerable time. Perhaps it should be scheduled along with the SM. IMHO.

Kristina said...

Absolutely! Years ago, I went to a Franklin Time Management seminar and learned so much and REALLY worked it for a long time. On that list, follow with A, B or C. MUST be done, SHOULD be done, COULD be done if time allows. And little symbols indicating that you've delegated, completed, etc.

I'm totally out of control now. Part of it for me is that I get determined to find out an answer and there is just SO MUCH information. Maybe you could help me with my latest. What short story or vignette contests are scams and which are not? If I submit a short story, how can I know for sure that later, should I write a book that I haven't given away the rights to MY OWN BIOGRAPHY? Love your blog!!

Chelle Jones said...

Yes, this is a good time management tip-one that I definitely need to take heed to.

I have the skill of planning but its so easy to get off track with networking sites luring at your fingetips.

Thanks for sharing!

Louise Behiel said...

I need to get back to daily lists. when I had a paper day planner it was easy but now with a smart phone, it seems more complicated, for some strange reason. but it works so i need to do it.

Kerrie McLoughlin said...

TOTALLY will be doing this. I'm the mom of 5 (10 years to 2 years) homeschooling and have a traveling husband. Time is valuable, I don't have a lot of time to write, and I spend too much time checking blog stats and flipping Facebook when instead I could be writing THE $1,000 query. It's like self-sabotage when used too much! Make a list, set a timer. Got it.

Sue Jackson said...

My lists are essential! I have one long on-going list that I use to jot down any new tasks that need to be completed, and then I make a daily list like you do. However, I am terrible about overcommitting to too many tasks in a day (and then I feel bad about not completing my list), so I limit my daily list to an index card - that helps to limit how much I can write on the list. I use brightly colored index cards and carry my daily one with me for quick reference.

I find social media can easily distract me from what I need to do, so I try to avoid it in the morning, which is my most productive time (kids in school, more energy, fewer family commitments, etc.). So, one of my goals is to avoid Blogger and Facebook in the morning. I give them each a quick check after breakfast, then close their windows until late afternoon.

Staying caught up with e-mails is a huge challenge, though!

Sue

www.suzanjackson.com

Anonymous said...

I handle social media by not being part of social media... Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. I spend my time writing...not trying to get "likes", "followers", and such. I write...serve my clients... and not one client was gained through social media...and I make a living as a full-time freelance writer. Social media is over-hyped...Mike

Norma Huss said...

I make my list on the computer, then when I complete a task or whatever, I bold those words. Love to see a line of BOLD!

Some days I spend too much time on social networking, and some days I spent no time on it. Then I get behind on the e-mail lists and delete a bunch unread. And Twitter? It's something that just seems to pass in the night. If I want to catch up on any of that I go to the hashmarks.

Valentina Hepburn said...

I'm so disorganised and frankly I wonder how I've managed to get my novel up to 75,000 words. The problem I have is other people. They think because I work in a home office I have all the time in the world. The opposite is true. I have a Twitter account which must have given up the will to live lately, because I just don't have time to think about it. I have a Facebook page ~ ditto. I don't even have the time to make lists! And I kind of agree with Mike above. I think S N is over hyped too.

Penny said...

Got this down better now. When I get tired or bored with a task I move on. or if I feel I am wasting time. I move on. Lists and Timers. Very important.