A couple weeks ago, I did a post on Why Writers Should Spend Time Offline. That post spoke more generally to the importance of unplugging, but this post focuses more on day-to-day balance. There’s also a little big of a story behind my motivation for both of these posts.
A few months ago, I realized I was spending way too much time online. Checking my phone and social media accounts had become a compulsion. I also found it was getting in the way of my writing and my life. I knew I needed to do something to right the ship. It turned out that when I focused solely on managing my time on social media, my overall internet time cut down across the board. I didn’t want to ditch social media entirely–there’s a lot I like about it–but I did want it to take less time and be less of a distraction. If you find yourself spending more time on social media than you’d like, here are four tips that really helped me cut back without disappearing entirely.
1) Only check in at specific times each day
This was one of my first techniques. I had gotten into the habit of jumping on Twitter and scrolling anytime I had a free minute. Then I’d inevitably find myself following a thread of tweets, doing more research on something I’ve read, or contemplating a response to a mention. I also found myself mindlessly and taking “quick breaks” from writing or work just to see what was happening. So one of the first things I did was limit the time I went on social media. I picked three times a day–once in the morning, afternoon, and night to check-in online. Each check-in was no longer than fifteen minutes long.
2) Limit the devices you’re logged into
Of course limiting your social media check-ins is a good plan, but it can take some serious self-control. After all, you’re breaking a habit here. I caught myself mindlessly opening Twitter on my browser on several occasions. What helped was to limit the places I was logged into. I work on my computer a lot, so being logged into the social media on there made it way too easy to get distracted and sucked back in. So for me, my phone made the most sense. Now when I use social media, it’s almost exclusively from my phone.
And if you’re thinking, “Well, Meghan, that sounds great, but what’s to keep me from constantly checking my phone?” Here’s tip 2a). Before I started cutting back, I checked social media on my phone so much that I often burned through my battery by the end of each day–sometimes sooner. Perhaps you’ve been there? To keep my phone time and social media time limited, I found it really helpful to play a game with myself to see how long I could make my battery last. For whatever reason, that really helped me stay off my phone and cut down on social media time in the process. I went from charging my phone at least once a day to only every three days.
3) Only log on when you’re posting something
After a few weeks, I had gotten pretty good at my three times a day check-ins and I was ready to take it to the next level. I decided I would definitely check-in once a day to see what’s going on (like I said, I do like social media), but aside from that, I only log on when I have something to post. This was when the habit really broke for me. Now from time to time, I actually forget my once a day check-in.
4) Make your posts purposeful
When it came to posting, I found I spent way too much time thinking of and writing posts. I posted more frequently then than I do now, but I was also sporadic. Some weeks I’d post three times a day and then nothing for a stretch. Once I decided I wanted my accounts to have more of a theme (which is writing), it got a lot easier to post on a fairly regular schedule. That’s not to say that I don’t share other stuff. I do–but I try to focus my regular content on my theme. This has given me a focus and has made it easier to come up with posts.
I also try to plan and write a lot of these theme posts ahead of time, which means I don’t have to constantly remember to write and post. Later app has made doing this on Instagram really easy. Once you have a (free) account you can log in on your computer, type your Instagram posts out, save them, and schedule notifications to be sent to your phone so you don’t forget to post. I used to tap out my really long #WritingWednesday posts in the app, one letter at a time. I love writing those posts, but it took forever! And sometimes my post would be too long and Instagram wouldn’t post it the caption which would make me very sad! Finding this app has made me so much more efficient and saved me a lot of time. I don’t post nearly as much as I did in the past, but I’m much more consistent, which has helped be maintain a good balance.
That’s it for this one!
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Now it’s your turn: Have you had trouble balancing social media and writing? What’s something that’s helped you? What’s something you’ve struggled with? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.