THE BLOG
05/20/2013 03:00 pm ET | Updated Jul 20, 2013

Overcome Social Media Overwhelm

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As I've gone through the Schedule Makeover process and guided others on the journey to work-life brilliance, I've found that social media overwhelm is rampant. Every day some must-have application pops up or some get-rich method comes out. To combat this time assault, I've developed this four-part method:

1.) Ask Yourself, Why?

Before you engage in any activity, always ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why am I doing this activity?
  • Why am I spending this much (or this little) time on it?
  • Why would someone care about what I'm doing?
  • Who reads this information?
  • Will this win me new clients or preserve my current ones?
  • How does this activity reflect on my brand?
  • Does this activity energize me and focus me on my important goals?

These kind of questions work with anything from networking events to Twitter updates -- basically if you can't see a clear Return On Investment on an activity, you might want to stop or reduce your time doing it. If you simply enjoy doing something, you can still do it on your personal time. But don't waste time on "business development" that produces no results.

For instance, when I worked exclusively as a freelance writer before becoming a time coach and trainer, I did not write a blog. I made this decision based on the fact that my business-to-business clients were not interested in hiring me based on blogging. Instead, my clients cared more about seeing me face-to-face on a somewhat regular basis. At that time, it made more sense to spend a couple of hours a week visiting their offices rather than writing posts.

2.) Stick with a Theme

Just like the most successful novelists develop a reputation for a certain style and subject matter, you need to establish an online reputation that's aligned with your brand. If your main "Why" for engaging in social media is professional, you must pick a theme and stick with it.

When I decided to do time coaching and training for work/life brilliance, I began a blog to establish my expertise and develop my well of online content. To make it a go-to resource, I chose to focus on time investment advice.

Around the same time, I started using Twitter. At first, I would just put up tweets about random articles or thoughts. But after a little bit, I realized it would be much more effective to tweet around a particular topic. This builds my reputation and expert status.

3.) Time Block Everything

The mental state required to effectively process email or scan tweets is not the same as the one you need to write a cohesive article. One of the biggest ways to make writing or any project that requires a high level of mental concentration take forever is to flit between the project and email or social media.

I've found it most effective to answer all of my e-mail and do all my processing at the beginning of the day. Then I can take a little break to get a cup of coffee or stretch my legs and focus completely for a couple of hours on a major assignment such as an article. Once that's done, I take a little break, maybe check email for 10 minutes, and then focus on the next important task.

To stick to your schedule and overcome distraction, try these techniques:

  • If you tweet, decide when you will go on Twitter and for how long, then stop once you reach your limit.
  • If you're a blogger, designate a certain day and a certain time slot or at least number of hours you will spend blogging, then stick with it.
  • If you like to read lots of content, collect it all in a single electronic or paper folder and then designate a certain amount of time each week to review it. Stop when you reach the limit.

4.) Read Less, Do More

With the onslaught of social media, the lie is that you will always benefit from more information, but that's simply not true. By picking the best information, learning from it, and applying it, you will be far ahead of the people who fritter away their lives reading yet another article about Facebook, yet doing nothing.

It will take time to develop the habit of focus when you're used to falling for the lure of mindless social media. But as you decide on what's most important, focus on a theme, and set time limits, you'll start to develop new habits and the ability to maximize the value of your time on and off social media.