This is the last in our series on Social Media Time Management, but you'll really find that these are less ideas about managing just social media and more ideas for managing online life in general. It's a balancing act. And ultimately, you're in the driver's seat.
1) Manage Disruptions
The key to managing disruptions is to have daily priorities. Sounds simple, but isn't. Pick three things that you have to get done today, and focus relentlessly on those. (Hint: they should always be tied into your bigger picture goals, or you're wasting time). If that means you have to say "I'm blogging for an hour", do that, and let nothing but emergencies stand in your way.
Realistically, unexpected stuff pops up. Document it, find a home for it so you can address it later, and give yourself permission to forget it until the time comes where it makes the priority list. If you have to address it now, take note of what you're working on and come straight back to it when you're done.
2) Control Information Overload
Stop trying to be everywhere. Just stop. In social media, information overload is yours to own and manage. Pick your two or three social sites and, unless your JOB is to spot the next big things, stick with them. Adopt new tools or strategies only when there is a compelling business reason to do so.
Subscribe only to the blogs you read, and unsub from the ones you don't, without apology. Delete email you aren't going to respond to (be honest), and never use your inbox as a to-do list (see #6). Turn your IM off when you're trying to work. Lots of ideas getting in the way of execution? Create a parking lot for them so you can capture them and get them out of your mind. Visit this once a week, and see if any ideas on the paper warrant a move to reality.
3) Leverage Tools
Use a desktop tool like TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop, CoTweet or HootSuite to streamline your Twitter use. Blog using a fluid tool like WordPress that has a suite of plugins to make your life easier, and use the scheduling function to write posts in advance. Make folders in Google Reader so you can prioritize your blog reviewing depending on how much time you have available.
However, resist the urge to automate your interactions. Automate and consolidate everything you can up to that point, but the engagement on social sites needs to be you, not a robot. THIS is where you need to spend the time.
4) Annotate and Share
If you don't have one already, get a Delicious.com account and use it for your bookmarks. I say bookmark freely, even if you never get back to reading it. If you want to find something, it's easier to go back to it. If you don't, your links can be a valuable resource of information to others (and you can send them to your specific tags if you get repeated requests for the same information).
Use sites like Slideshare.net to share your presentations, and get ideas or frameworks for ones of your own. Try Flickr Creative Commons for sourcing images and sharing your own. Get to know and love the collaborative power of Google Docs or Zoho, so you don't have to send stuff around in emails. Leverage your intranet or project tools like Basecamp to share information. The less time you spend looking for stuff, the more time you have to DO stuff.
5) Sometimes Templates are Okay
If you're asked the same question several times a day in an email, write up a little framework of a response that you can personalize for each recipient, but that contains the bulk of the information you need to share. Same with Twitter. No, this doesn't mean an autobot, this means having a set of standard links on hand or responses to common questions that you can respond to as needed without having to recreate it every time.
Build an FAQ page on your site to point people do. Create sharable documents that contain frequently requested information and have them on ready five in a folder for easy access. Build your tags in Delicious so that you can send people there for broad categories of related information, like statistics or case studies.
6) Wrangle Task Management
When you're processing email or items in social media, every time a task pops up, you need a place to put it. I use Things for Mac, but there are lots of programs that will work, even the (gasp) task list in Outlook.
When you're overwhelmed by what you're supposed to do (say, the notes from a seminar you just attended or the volume of stuff in your inbox), process one thing at a time and ask yourself "What do I need to do with this as a next step?". Whatever that task is, create an item for it on your task list and archive the rest of the information for later reference. Bonus step? Tag the items on your list that are doable in less than five minutes so you can take time each day (say, 35 to 45 minutes) to plow through a handful of those.
7) Communicate Expectations
Sometimes, you don't have the answer. Sometimes, you don't have the time to get to something right now, but you will at some point. Honesty and humility go a long way to helping manage expectations for responsiveness online. Try these:
- "I'd love to get that information to you, but I need 48 hours. Will that be okay, or do you need it sooner?"
- "I don't have the answer to that, but I'd like to send your request to someone who does and have them respond. Is that okay?"
- "Hey there, I got your note but need a little time to respond. I'll be back to you within the day."
- To your boss, perhaps: "I'd like to complete this project, but here's the information/resources I'm missing to get it done..."
This is another reason why it's crucial to infuse some humanity into your conversations online, so folks know that you're just a person over there, not a superhero or a robot. You need time to spend with your kid, feed the dog, spend with your spouse, read a book. Yes, you should still do those things. Being sure that folks know you're responsive in a reasonable fashion but not going to be able to handle things 'round the clock is super important.
8 ) Establish Routines
If you have regular tasks and tactics to focus on, you'll want to try and carve out time for them. Some examples:
- Reviewing and responding to email
- Listening and Monitoring (unless you have a dedicated staff person for this)
- Reporting and Analysis
- Checking in on social networks - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Forums, Community sites
If you set aside specific hours in your day, turn off other distractions. (Yes, it's okay to close your email program). Put your phone on Do Not Disturb or let it go to voicemail. Even 30 minutes of focused time on a single task, on a regular basis can ramp up your productivity. It is NOT "inauthentic" to set times to interact on your chosen social networks. It's all a matter of balancing priorities.
Please. Get offline. Go outside. Take a bath. Play with your kid. Go to the movies. Or go to an in-person event or Tweetup. There is nothing that will derail your social media efforts more than never walking away from them.
You need perspective from an unplugged view so you priorities stay in focus. You need time to scribble your goals on paper, or just think. Productivity isn't always about how many balls you're juggling. Sometimes, it's about very careful editing of how you do - or don't - spend your time.
So, I'm sure you have tips and tricks for how you manage all of your social media efforts. Where do you draw the lines and say enough is enough? How do you prioritize, and are you allowing yourself to set realistic limitations and goals? I'd love your thoughts in the comments.
image by st_a_sh
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