Instead a disciplined approach to engagement will refocus your energy and still deliver the random delights of online life.
Here's a strategy that works for me.
1. Hone in.
2. Hone out.
3. Enjoy offline, downtime.
1. Hone in
If the information we generated were contained in books then there would be enough to stretch from Pluto to back each year.
The problem? We still have only 24 hours in a day and still need to sleep, exercise, eat, work, and connect with the people we love.
Having online discipline is a must.
Unsurprisingly, the Internet provides with literally thousands of tools that deliver a better ROI on energy. However, in keeping with the less is more theme of this post I am going to suggest a powerful few.
Those lovely links to recent offerings may be enticing, but if like me it’s been a long time since you revisited your online decision-making, there’s probably a lot of irrelevance and the thick black font of “unread” is a silent drain on energy.
I recently experienced the delight of an unsubscribe fest with expected but also unintentional benefits. For one, the process revealed the narrative of my online life and how my interests had changed over time.
Authors I’d followed were still producing great material but that the issues no longer held the same interest for me. Also, I’d learned. Posts on how to set up Twitter were no longer relevant, even though their content is vital for people who are just starting out.
I kept some key subscriptions which means when I open my inbox it looks and feels manageable and as it clears, my brain fills up. Perfect balance.
Unsubscribing doesn’t mean you have to lose those links.
By combining an online reader with a Twitter list you can create a powerful filter that delivers information by author, topic or industry the moment you open your device.
I use Feedly; it brings all my content together in very clear categories.
For business that includes:
1. Social media.
2. Social media law.
3. Social media marketing
It’s such a time saver. If I am on deadline on a social media law piece there’s no need to see what’s happening in marketing. But if I’m in the ideas phase, I can meander wherever I like.
You can also build categories around personal passions like:
1. Brain food.
2. Human behaviour.
3. Style blogs.
One area feeds the other and in both sides of life we need to capture and order information. A single mental destination is clarity.
A tightly curated public list is personal gold but also adds value to the online community. For example, if I want to see who the top Twitter influencers are I don’t need to do the hard yards, I just go to Simply Measured and use theirs. There are lists for everything. Google one.
Only you can see your private lists. How do they help? Imagine you’re recruiting for a new social media role you can add all your top candidates and watch how they behave. Immediate, targeted research.
2. Hone out
Algorithms are those invisible helpers that are always in the background working out who you are and what you like so that they can deliver results that you will click on – relevance.
That’s why, while your initial surf for dark grey boots with tassels and silver tips doesn’t deliver, you wake up one innocent morning to find the perfect pair lurking on the edge of your Facebook page.
While that’s grand the risk is creating a self-selected universe of intellectual blancmange.
Intentionally build in randomness.
This is easily done.
- Actively search for the opposite. After your search for ‘what’s the ROI on social media’ delivers a million results try ‘why there’s no ROI on social media’. Yes, you’ve got to read it too. Agree or disagree is not the point. Data helps us redefine and refine our thoughts. It does not have to be an agreement universe.
- Head to TED. Watch a TED talk on an issue you love then forcibly watch one in an area that doesn’t fuss you. Being exposed to multiple disciplines in fields outside your interest will keep your brain active. As time is of the essence, I do this on a Saturday morning. It’s 40 minutes well spent.
- Build a Twitter list. Curate a Twitter list with interesting people from different fields. Intend to read one full article a week. It will keep you juicy. Here’s one of mine.
3. Enjoy offline, downtime
I love online so much so that it’s become continuous with the way I think. When I’m online, ideas emerge and thoughts refine from click to click as part of the search process. But every day I make sure I take a long walk without stopping to check on my smartphone.
There’s a lot of fear about what technology is doing to our brains – are we becoming distracted, disconnected, sacrificing short-term memory?
We’ll learn more as studies emerge but a quick scan back through human history suggests it’s pretty much same-old-same-old when it comes to human behaviour. Any tool can be used well or badly, you don’t need a computer to distract you if you’re a gossipy type.
What I’ve found is that many people I talk to who love social media and technology are already deliberately factoring in tech downtime, there’s something to that time out that makes the time in so much deeper and richer.
There are no fixed rules for managing online life but creating a discipline that allows for focus and randomness, for time on and offline will help you reset, refocus and reboot online life, continually.
About the author
The Social Executive® Dionne Lew is a professional author, speaker and social media consultant. She is the author of The Social Executive – how to master social media and why it’s good for business (Wiley) and writes for Forbes, Smart Company, Salesforce and Firebrand. She’s rated in the top 1% for global community influence by Kred.