I Went On Buzzfeed Instead And Learned How To Write Amazing Titles For My Posts.
Not really. OK, maybe a bit really, but that’s honestly not the point of this post.
My love–hate relationship with social media is well documented. Mostly it’s love, but I can’t deny it takes up a hell of a lot of time I could probably use more productively. I usually start my day with social media. I check in on my personal friends and family on Facebook while I’m having my breakfast. Then I start looking at Twitter while I’m brushing my teeth, and depending on how active my US Tweetmates have been overnight, that can continue after I’ve dropped the kids off at school. Then I check in on my work-related Facebook groups. And then, finally, I start work.
I enjoy this routine, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the healthiest thing. When I’ve been on a difficult deadline, I often forego those a.m. checks and dive straight in to editing, and I have to admit I seem much more productive when I do – not only do I have more time available to me, I seem to get more work done in that time, meaning I also get chances to do all those things that so often fall by the wayside, such as housework, life admin, and occasionally having conversations with my children that aren’t me just yelling at them to put their shoes on.
And as much as I love social media, I can’t deny that it doesn’t always affect my mood for the better. No matter how efficient you are with lists and filters, you can’t escape the odd bit of real-life news, and so much of it is often enraging. And the sheer amount of information that fills my timeline takes an enormous amount of energy to process. Social media makes me feel happy, entertained and supported, but it can also make me feel angry and tired.
Last week, I had quite a lot of work to do, and also a few family commitments. I needed to get stuff done, and have enough energy left to really enjoy my downtime. So, a challenge: how will I feel, and how productive will I be, if I stay off social media every morning for a week? Absolutely no Facebook or Twitter before the clock strikes 12. For any reason. The thought of it made me shake a little. Which is probably exactly why I needed to do it.
OK, so not a great start, as the actual first thing I do is pick up my Kindle, see I have Facebook notifications, and immediately go to check them. I’m in the middle of reading a post I’ve been tagged in (an edibuddy sharing my sweary dictionary), when I remember that I’m supposed to be staying off until lunchtime. I immediately put it down and go to wake the children.
I manage to leave the house a whole two minutes earlier than normal. Go me.
Coming back from the school run and resisting the temptation of my usual routine is hard, but I the mild panic over how much work I have to do this week is a good motivator. I have a really productive morning and felt great.
But it’s slightly shameful how excited I am to log on after lunch. And how easily distracted I am once those browser tabs are open. Safe to say the afternoon is not quite as productive as the morning. Oh well. It’s still only the first day, right?
Oh, it’s a struggle today. I’m very tired, having stayed up late wrapping birthday presents for my elder daughter. So I don’t really want to start work until I’ve woken up a little more, and the urge to faff about a bit until my brain is ready is very strong. But we’re going out for birthday tea after school, so I have less time than normal today, so I don’t really have time to wait to be ready. I do a little bit of internet banking instead, and I promise myself if I have a good morning and get to the end of the task I’m in the middle of, I can have a nice curl up on the couch with Twitter at lunchtime.
I find myself distracted anyway. I usually blame social media for distracting me, but perhaps it’s also true that some days I am just too tired to focus properly. However, without social media, when my mind wanders, I’m forced to make it wander towards things like changing my energy supplier, which I really need to do if I don’t want my bills to jump up by £30 a month, so I suppose it’s a win.
Today I have a gap between dropping the kids off at school and my hair appointment, so instead of going somewhere to get a coffee and look at Twitter, I go swimming, which I haven’t done in months. So that feels good. Then I go to the library to work, and even though they do have wi-fi, for some reason I am less easily distracted when I’m there. By the time I get home I’m strangely not really bothered about “catching up” with Twitter, so I have a quick check in and get back to work. Although when I log on again later in the evening, I spend far too long blankly looking at Tweets about Love Island (I don’t even watch it) and go to bed far too late.
I slip up today. Probably because I’m so tired after last night’s Twitter fail. I get a twitter notification on my phone and immediately go to check it. Oops. I practically throw my phone across the room and start work. At 11.47, I’m waiting for PerfectIt to do its thing, and I saw a notification earlier from my accountability buddy, so I decide to check Facebook. I figure this is me being efficient and using dead time.
And I feel OK about this slight bending of the rules, because I am much further forward with work than I expected to be this week. And I feel like I’ve broken that spell, the one that makes me need to read every single tweet since I last logged on. Because a lot of the people I follow are in different time zones, this takes ages if I do it first thing. If I wait until lunchtime it’s pretty much impossible, so I’m learning to let go. I’m actually kind of thankful for the feature that shows me random stuff from hours ago now. Dear God, what have I become?
Really easy today. Helped by the fact I’m doing a first read-through of a developmental edit on my Kindle, so I’m not at my desk. In fact, it’s 3.45 and I’ve had to make myself go and check Twitter, because I know I’ve been tagged in a thread and I want to get my mentions under control, and I know if I don’t have a quick check-in now, and I’ll end up on here all night. This morning, I used the time that ordinarily would have been social media time to wander round Home Bargains, which is much better for the soul. But more expensive.
I think about not sticking to this for the weekend, because hey, it’s the weekend. But then I remember I’m freelance and very often work weekends, although I’m not working much this one, so I might as well keep it up. Although I do slip up again by checking a Twitter notification out of habit (why didn’t I turn those off?) But instead of scrolling through Twitter during my daughters’ swimming lesson, I read a little of the work-related book I’ve been slowly reading for ages (Into the Woods, by John Yorke, if you’re interested), and I feel it’s a much better use of my time
Today is even easier than it has been, because I don’t actually get out of bed until 10am, and then I have a few errands to run before my daughter’s birthday party. I take a quick half an hour to flick through Twitter after lunch, and while it’s nice to sit and have some time that isn’t running around after the kids or working, I actually lose interest quite quickly. I go on Facebook and Twitter again later on, but I decide to go and have a glass of wine and watch The Handmaid’s Tale instead.
And now it’s Monday again. I did it! (Mostly.) Yay me. So did I celebrate by hopping straight onto Facebook this morning?
Actually, no I didn’t. And I didn’t even have to try to stop myself.
Every time I make a conscious effort to cut down my social media use by developing a new routine, I realise something slightly scary – Twitter, especially, has such a hold on me. But it’s breakable, and once I do break it, I regain so much more time, energy, and productivity. The problem is it’s easy to slip back into bad habits, especially as giving up social media completely would probably have a detrimental effect on my business (aside from the invaluable support of the online editing community, I can trace most of my clients either directly or indirectly to social media). So I need to stay engaged, but I need to do it in a healthy way, and I think not starting my day with it is probably the way to do that. If I start my day distracted by all the funny/weird/sad/happy/frustrating/terrifying things social media can throw my way, it’s much harder to find the focus I need to get all my work done, engage with the people who are actually in the house with me, and do things like housework.
Well, maybe. I’m not going to hold my breath on the housework thing.