Writer, Brand Thyself: Time Management

“I don’t have enough time,” is the major argument most people seem to make when faced with participating in social media. While we all have varying amounts of free time at our disposal, I suspect a lot of the problem is more the perspective than the actuality. Social media is only as time-consuming as we make it – no more, no less. There’s a lot to be gained from it if we admit that it will only “suck up” as much of our time as *we let it*. This is a quick overview of how I spend my time online. I’ll be doing an in-depth post for managing each type of network in the coming weeks, and those will include my specific strategies for not getting bogged down with any of them. Hopefully you’ll find a tidbit or two that will work for you.

Things you should know about me and my schedule:

– I work 8:30am to 5:30pm, 40 hours a week for a local government “entity”. I get two 15 min. breaks and 1 hour for lunch per day. My boss is lenient…as long as our work gets done and comes first, personal stuff is okay at work.

– My “office hours” for writing are 10:30pm to midnight (or later, if I’m on a roll), Tuesday through Sunday. Mondays are manicure nights. Weds. is a later start time.

– I’m a night person who does not have kids – just two dogs and a husband (and various small critters).

Daily Social Networking “Schedule”

Blogging (takes the most time)

I write my posts at least one day ahead (more if possible). I schedule them to post automatically at 8:00am every morning. I try to get back once during the day to reply to comments…which I have emailed to me as they come in. Most of my blogs are set up to auto-post a link to twitter when a new post goes up.

I read 7-10 blogs per day, and only recent posts (within the past 24 hours). I use my blogroll (left side) and my dashboard reader to identify blogs with recent updates. I do this whenever I have a few minutes at work – I read quickly, so I can read/comment on a blog within about 5 minutes (or less). At the end of the day, I visit the blogs of any new followers/commenter’s, and if they interest me, I follow back. When I find a post that really strikes a chord, I take a minute to add a link to my “Notable Posts” draft for the week.

Twitter

I peek in on twitter periodically through the day, but with the rare exception, don’t post during work hours for professional integrity (it’s a far more public arena than comments on blogs). If I see something interesting go by during the day (link, or tweet to respond to), I mark it as a “favorite” so I can revisit it after work. I also favorite amusing links to “re-tweet” for “Follow Fridays”. More on that later.

I twitter in the evenings after dinner until it’s time to workout, and have Tweetdeck open again while I’m writing. I check into #amwriting and #writegoal when applicable – I consider it the “water cooler” I visit periodically while working. I have notifications turned off though, and just check it occasionally.

Facebook

I deal with this similarly to Twitter, on a lesser scale. I check in periodically through the day, but don’t participate until after work. I normally check this at the same time I’m twittering early in the evening (while I’m watching TV), and respond to messages, check out links/photos, update my status, etc. I used to play the games…but honestly, I just get bored with them after awhile. I’m not playing any at the moment.

Those are my regular “haunts” online at the moment and the approximate time I spend on them…I have a few others, but time spent on them is very minimal (they’ll be included later). I’m still considering whether I need to set up a presence on MySpace or other online networks.

There’s one rule I adhere to with every network I’m on – and this “rule” can be applied no matter who you are, or how much time you have or don’t have. In my opinion, it’s the single most important thing to remember for social networking.

Don’t try to “catch up”.

When I read blogs, I only read previous posts that I missed if I have a ton of extra time, and the post title/blurb really catches my attention. On twitter, I never look back more than a screen or two to see what I might have missed – I just jump into the timeline when I sign on, and jump back out later. I don’t log into Facebook and scroll more than one page down to see what I missed…I just stay in the moment, and comment/like/click on things that happened during the time on that particular page. When I follow someone’s blog, I follow them on twitter and if it’s an option, friend them on facebook too – so I have the best chance at catching them “somewhere” throughout the day. But if I miss ‘em, there’s always tomorrow. Social networking is an “of the moment” activity (much like offline networking), and with all the new things going on, it’s just not efficient to try to “catch up” with all the various streams of information. I think a big reason people get overwhelmed with social networking is that feeling that they’re “falling behind” if they don’t stay connected with everyone all the time. Once you get past that, you can relax, and just enjoy connecting with people “in the moment” – the moment that you choose.

Of all your social networking activities, what do you spend the most time on? Do you constantly feel the need to “catch up”, or are you content to just experience social connections “in the moment”?

Next week: An in-depth look at blogging.