Want to Succeed? 7 Easy Ways to Be More Focused and Spend Less Time on Email & Social Media

Coach Focused and Happily Working

Does this sound like you:

In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it. Robert Heinlein

Before I made a habit of regularly planning out my week and days, I would sit down at my desk and it would be lunchtime before I knew it. All I would have done is check social media, my email and maybe completed some small trivial activity that seemed useful, but wasn't a priority.

That's because without focus, both email and social media can easily become time-sucking 'black-holes'. No sooner have we 'finished' our emails than another one 'pops' into our inbox. And with social media there is a never-ending stream of both trivial—and genuinely interesting—posts, articles, infographics as well as updates from our friends and family. In fact Social Media has been specifically designed to tempt us to click on the next item and the next and the next...

All too often, we're wasting precious time that could be spent growing our businesses! And that time is NEVER, ever coming back.

So if you want to succeed you MUST be ruthless
with the time you spend on email and social media

Here are 7 Easy Ways To Help

1) SET CLEAR GOALS for your week & PLAN OUT EACH DAY

We can't be focused unless we know what our priorities are. And your goals are the best tool to set your priorities.

  1. Create a sub-set of Weekly Goals from your Monthly or Quarterly Goals.
  2. Then review your Weekly Goals EVERY morning (or the night before!).
  3. Lastly, write out your top 1-3 priorities. These are the 1-3 most important things to get done the next day (eg. on a post-it) and make sure this is somewhere obvious on your desk.
    • Tip: Block out the time in your schedule or day-planner for these 1-3 priorities.
    • Advanced Tip: If you've always got lots to do like me, try planning your next week and blocking out time in your schedule a full week at a time. I do this on Fridays, so I come into the office focused and ready to go!

Your daily plan helps you focus—because now you know what your priorities are. And this gives you a reason to pull back on time-wasting habits like social media and email. And bonus—it also gives you a clear reason to say "No" to others when you need to!

To explore the importance of planning and working on your priorities first, read this Coaching Tools 101 article: The Urgent Important Matrix - What is it and How To Use it!

2) Make ALL PERSONAL calls, messages, email & social media OUTSIDE of WORK hours

That means only when you're on a planned break (lunch, coffee break), before or after the work day.

This may seem overly rigid, but this stops you procrastinating and avoiding work by getting caught up in social activities.

Especially when it comes to Social Media, I guarantee you'll get more done if you have this as a guideline.

3) Have a SOCIAL MEDIA Posting PLAN—and follow it!

Having a posting plan allow us to make social media work for us, not the other way around.

For example in the early days my daily goals for LinkedIn were to "Like" at least one thing, "Share" one thing, and make one "Post" with similar goals for Facebook, Twitter etc. I would work through my plan systematically. My goal was to get familiar with the platforms, learn and make connections.

These days I have a regular posting schedule for what to post on Social Media, on what day, and when.

Social Media Plan Example:

  • MONDAY: Question of the week
  • TUESDAY: Themed Inspirational Quote Graphic
  • WEDNESDAY: Free Tool
  • THURSDAY: Article of the week
  • FRIDAY: Friday funny cartoon
  • SATURDAY / SUNDAY: Journaling Prompt / Affirmation

TIP: Once you have a plan, you can post ahead of time 'in bulk' (a week or a month all in one go) and then just 'pop' in for a few minutes to answer questions/reply to comments.

A (specific) plan means you know exactly what you're posting, when. Which also means that you know when you're done AND when to stop!

4) Use a TIMER for EMAIL and SOCIAL MEDIA Tasks

There are plenty of online timers like this one at TimeandDate.com. Of course there's one on your phone too. And I like to use an "old school" photography darkroom timer!

You can:

  1. Use a timer whenever you're doing personal Social Media or Email (when you're on a break!) to stop this from eating into your work day.
  2. And/or use a timer whenever you're doing work-related Social Media or Email to keep track of time, and as a reminder to pull you back if you've gone off down a rabbithole!

5) Block out DEDICATED TIME for your Business EMAIL and Regular SOCIAL MEDIA

We all have all experienced the cosmic rabbit hole of time when it comes to email and/or social media. That sinking feeling suddenly realise half your day is gone, and you haven't even started _____ yet...

So I recommend that everyone blocks out specific, regular times in their diary on a daily basis to deal with email, messages and social media.

Because Social Media can also be a business tool, consider what your goals are. Are you looking to build relationships? Brand awareness? Run a group? Find joint venture partners? Start a conversation? Get people over to your website or an event you're running? Then block out your time accordingly.

Email example:

I check my email twice a day:

  1. I do a quick scan of email first thing in the morning. I only do urgent email at this point (and really, what's truly urgent?). If there's nothing urgent, I leave it until later.
  2. Then I have 30 minutes blocked out at the end of every day—usually at 4.30-5pm. On Mondays I allow longer for extra emails from over the weekend and replies to my newsletter.
    • TIP: Doing email at the end of my day encourages me to waste less time (as I'd like to leave the office!), and it also then doesn't take up valuable project time!

Action: For email and social media, block out regular times in your schedule (allocate specific times of the day or week to do specific things) and try it out. Then keep honing your email and social media schedule until it works for you.

6) Deal with the EMAILS in your inbox IN THE ORDER you RECEIVE them

No 'cherry picking' the most appealing or easy emails!

When we pick the easy or interesting emails and read or answer these first (I used to do this!) we simply end up time pressured to do those important or urgent emails later. And sometimes, dangerously, that important email gets lost in our busy inbox.

Instead, work through email in the order you received them—starting with the OLDEST first.

7) "TOUCH" EACH EMAIL Message only ONCE

That means as you read each email or message, decide there and then what you'll do with it. Take action, then file or delete it. This might mean you:

  • Read, decide no reply is needed and Delete.
  • Reply, then File.
  • Print it, then File.
  • Forward to someone else with request for action, File, and either Delete or Set a Reminder to follow-up.
  • Run out of time? Set a flag or reminder to come back to it. The follow this process.

So you decide what to do for each email, do it THEN File, Set Reminder or Delete.

Or alternatively you could read each email, dither around, move onto your next email without actioning. Don't file or delete anything. Your inbox will fill up, and you'll need to come back to each email later and read it again—a complete waste of time.

So, try to "touch" each email just once.This way your inbox stays clear and under control.

TIP: This can also be applied to your Social Media messages.

Wrap-up

Without discipline and goals around social media and email, we waste precious time we could spend on growing our business. Guidelines like these above help you maximise the time for your important business goals—instead of drowning in trivialities.

This may sound rigid and boring, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rules like these make us super-focused and give us more time (and energy) to work on our business priorities.

And. Of course, rules are made to be broken. Perhaps your brain is fried and you need some mid-morning tweeting to help you relax, or a phonecall to connect with a friend. Great. But make sure it's a conscious decision—and that you're not getting sucked into an online black hole.

So, why not pick ONE (or more) of these tips and challenge yourself to stick to it for a month? Then watch your productivity go through the roof!

PS. I'm assuming you've already switched off your email and social media notifications? (that's those little bings and pop-ups that tell you when you have a new message etc). If not, I recommend switching them off as your bonus tip - those little bings and beeps are destroyers of focus and productivity!

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