Social media can be a productivity sucker, there’s no denying it. But quitting it all together isn’t necessarily the healthiest approach. In fact, it’s not even possible for most people building small businesses from home. As a freelancer, you rely on your social media presence for everything from creating brand awareness to finding new clients and offering customer service.
Still, these sites are devilishly addictive, meaning you may hop on Facebook to share your latest blog post or product release, but then an hour later, that “quick peek” at your personal account has sucked you into an infinite scroll.
With more and more articles surfacing every day, revealing the tricks and strategies used by the social media giants to make their platforms addictive, many pundits have been promoting abstinence, suggesting that our lives would be so much better if we avoided social media altogether.
Though this may be true for some people, it’s not as simple for others.
The benefits of social media
One of the perks of being a traveling freelancer is that you make friends all over the world. However, this also creates one of the drawbacks – you rarely get to see a lot of them. Digital nomads live in a perpetual state of missing people, and social media is a wonderful way of lightening this load and keeping in touch with far-flung friends and family members.
On the business side of things, most freelancers have at least one client who prefers to communicate via social media. You’re also able to connect with other freelancers and offer referral work when you have excess or when a client is looking for an expert in a different field.
However, there is a healthy and an unhealthy way to use it. And the healthy way is hard to pin down. We’ve probably all been guilty of opening Facebook first thing in the morning before our eyes have had a chance to adjust to natural light let alone the violent glare of a screen. Then there are those days where your hand just reaches for your phone and opens the apps without you even thinking about it.
When the automatic attraction of social media starts to feel a little creepy, it’s not uncommon for people to quit the apps entirely (with and without the cringe-worthy posts announcing it), their abstinence lasting for various stretches of time.
If you’re sick of swinging wildly back and forth between social media extremes, then the simple system below should help. It allows you to stay in touch with loved ones on social media, avoid all the mood-killing traps and triggers, and take advantage of its addictive nature to get a sneaky little boost of happy chemicals.
To test the strategy for yourself, here’s what you need to do:
Batch your social media content creation
If social media is central to your brand or blog promotion strategy, then you need to be posting consistently. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be posting on the platforms every day.
With tools like Loomly and Sendible, you can dedicate a block of time at the start of every week to scheduling your social media posts, and even customizing them to suit the different platforms you’re on.
Batching tasks is a proven time-saver, and by making the switch from daily posting to a once-per-week scheduling session, you cut out the temptation to get sucked into pointless scrolling.
Each social media automation tool is different, with unique add-ons and customization options, so it’s worth taking some time to research them and find the one that suits your business best. They all offer free trial periods, making this mission a whole lot easier – try a few out until you find the one that fits.
Engage with your audience once a day
Of course, social media is about more than just sharing content. You need to engage with your audience as well. However, if you’re revisiting the sites too regularly throughout the day, you’ll prevent yourself from being able to settle into a flow state with your work. Every time you get stuck on how to phrase a sentence or feel uncertain as to what project to start on next, the temptation to scroll through social media will arise.
Though a few minutes here and there might not seem like much, letting social media interrupt your daily schedule like this can add up to a massive drain on your productivity and concentration levels.
To take control of your workday, it’s best to decide how much time you’d like to dedicate to your social media channels in total. Then choose a time of day, and set a timer. The ideal place to fit this in your schedule is at the end of your allotted work time. Social media doesn’t take a lot of mental energy, making it an enjoyable way to transition from work time to relaxation time (a line that can be difficult to draw when you work from home).
Whether you’ve allowed yourself ten minutes or an hour, get going and use your time wisely. Reply to comments on your posts, share content your audience might appreciate, and be sure to offer them encouragement, humor, and all-around good vibes.
When your business-focussed time is up, set a new timer for your personal social media engagement. This allows you to drop your brand’s persona and step into your own, thus marking the shift from work time to rest time.
Once your time is up, that’s it. Don’t wait around for notifications to roll in. Log off and then forget social media exists.
Do a quick notification check at the start of each workday
Avoid doing this the moment you wake up – it’s healthier to allow your brain to boot up naturally with things like meditation, exercise, and wholesome food rather than lurching into social media while you’re still half-asleep.
Once you’ve ticked all these boxes and are feeling properly awake, allocate a small window of time – no more than 5 or 10 minutes – to checking your notifications. You can do this in the reverse order to your end of day social media routine – starting with your personal pages and then switching over to the business pages to mark the shift into your workday.
This step is where the magic lies. If you limit yourself to one notification check every day, any reactions or responses you get to your posts and comments will give you a noticeable surge in happy chemicals.
By doing it just the once, you’ll get that fabled social media high while simultaneously saving yourself from the tolerance that builds when you incessantly check back all day. And by having a single session focussed on sharing positive posts and comments with your friends and fans the night before, you almost guarantee that you’ll have at least one dopamine-triggering like or reply to give your morning a boost.
Leave social media alone!
For this healthy social media routine to be truly effective, you need to limit your morning notification review to a 5 or 10-minute window, save any replies or reactions for your scheduled nightly timeslot, and convert the happy little high you got into a productivity booster for your morning.
If you succumb to temptation and allow yourself to check back repeatedly throughout the day, you’ll find the high you get from any likes or comments will diminish, and whenever you check and find no notifications, you’ll actually leave the page feeling worse than when you opened it.
Resist temptation and reap the rewards!
An important exception to the social media schedule
Though it’s going to be worth your while to avoid constantly checking the platforms, it is essential that you reply in a timely manner to any direct messages from customers.
For this reason, it’s important to make your preferred communication channels and response times so clear that it’s foolproof. Though you can easily check on direct messages without opening the main app and scrolling, there are some other options you can consider.
For example, Facebook’s Messenger app allows you to create custom auto-replies, meaning you can let people know when they can expect to hear back from you and offer them alternative contact methods if their query is urgent.
Take some time to make your communication guidelines clear, and you’ll have happier customers while also enjoying fewer interruptions in your day.
Do you have any questions about social media and productivity? Or perhaps some tips that have worked for you? If so, please feel free to drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.