Over the past few months I’ve been really interested in learning about how I can boost my productivity. I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, which I loved, and also attended a seminar about time management. The challenge that I think a lot of people face in the age of “busyness” is how to dedicate the most time to the things that matter to them. About two years ago, I felt like I wasn’t spending enough time reading, which was disappointing since I love to read. To fix that, I didn’t exactly “schedule” reading time. I just updated my Amazon wish list, asked for books for my birthday and Christmas that I wanted to read, and placed holds on books I wanted from the library. Once I had the books I was excited to read, the more inclined I was to do it. When I was more active as a blogger, I didn’t have “scheduled” time to blog, I just did it and let everything else fall by the wayside.
Not only did I want to spend more time reading, I also wanted to work on a few writing projects: blogging, a few ideas for a novel, freelance pieces for magazines. I also wanted to get on/maintain a workout routine. I also work full time, commute to the city, and sometimes take night classes. I feel like I’m busy all the time, even when I’m not. It’s very easy, at least for me, to waste hours of my unscheduled time outside of work scrolling through social media and watching TV instead of using it in productive ways, since I feel like I spent the entire workday trying to be as productive as possible.
Most of the articles I’ve read online about productivity talk about unplugging and stepping away from social media since it’s so distracting. There are many different theories about when to check email, how much time to spend on social networking sites every day, etc. Another source I consulted for inspiration is the “media diet” feature on The Wire, in which different celebrities/important people share what they read and when, and Harpers Bazaar’s “24 Hours With…” to learn how successful people in the fashion industry manage their time. Of course, none of the uber-successful people mentioned spending hours falling through the Instagram rabbit-hole, but if I were being interviewed by a high-profile magazine, I probably wouldn’t mention that, either.
What surprised me after doing all of this unofficial research was that the best book I’ve read so far on time management/productivity actually doesn’t mention computers or social media at all. It’s “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life” by Alan Lakein (and was a recommendation from Kate White’s book, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This.) Alan Lakein’s book poses a simple question: “What is the best possible use of my time right now?”
The problem is that, a lot of times, watching a TV show or reading a magazine *is* a pretty good use of my time, at least indirectly, as it gives me a chance to unwind and absorb new ideas. Social media, used correctly, is a good place to promote my work and make contacts.
I think there’s certainly something to be said for social media’s contribution to our productivity. I get blog post and story ideas and discover new writers, articles and books all the time when casually reading. For me, the biggest takeaway from the time I spent reading about time management (the irony of this is not lost on me) was that I don’t have enough time to read all of the interesting articles I come across each day on Facebook and Twitter. So this is my biggest productivity tip: make a few different bookmarks in Google Chrome (for consistency across your home computer/work computer/ipad etc.) and favorite the articles you want to read, then catch up on them on say, Sunday afternoons. Recently I found myself deleting about half of the articles I favorited, realizing they weren’t as interesting or relevant as I first thought. Since implementing this, I’ve been able to get more done at work without being weighed down by internet article FOMO.
What are your best tips for managing your time and social-media distractions?