January 12, 2014
I have a lot of different responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. I’m guessing you probably do too.
Family and home responsibilities, like loving my wife, paying bills, and taking my dog on walks.
Personal responsibilities like sleeping enough, exercising, chasing my own goals, and making time for intentional sanity.
Work responsibilities - now there’s a big (and awesome) list. In particular, let me highlight two types of work I do, at work.
As a company, Whiteboard employees recently read 99U’s Managing Your Day to Day, an excellent book about building an effective creative routine. We’ve all adopted a good number of practices proscribed in the book to start out the year, and let me tell you, it has been fantastic. A few simple thoughts on these practices, as they will inform what this article is really about.
Note that this is making space for the creative work, where nothing is needed. Quite a few successful creative folks agree that it’s best to do this kind of work in the morning, so we’re trying it. The basic concept is to avoid getting into response mode, as we tend to allow problems and tensions to linger, but instead to start our day out with a clean brain after sleep, which will theoretically encourage what Cal Newport calls deep work.
At some point during the day, your routine needs to shift away from working and onto the other parts of your life, like hiking or relaxing or basket weaving. This allows for you to not only fulfill your family and personal responsibilities and/or projects, but also forces you to do only the most important things for projects while you are working on a day to day basis.
With these two thoughts in mind, we must also realize that the rest of the world isn’t on our schedule. So, emails will come in at night. (Ignore them until 2PM the next day.) People around the world will continue to live their schedules, and in fact even in the United States, people on one coast will have a different schedule than I will.
So, in a very narrow sense, people are asynchronous from one another.
Before you continue, if you think social media is useless, then you can stop here and hopefully still gain something from the article. No one else needs to hear why you’re quitting Twitter and Facebook and throwing your phone away and selling your car and moving out to the back woods to get away from the noise in the world. (You already told us… on Twitter and Facebook.)
If you take social media to be important to your job (it is for mine) or for your personal aspirations (again, it is for mine), then you should understand that schedule is everything.
First of all, professional engagement on social media isn’t about people wanting a glimpse into your life. (Unless, of course, they are particularly interested in your personal affairs. Generally not the case for me, other than my mother.) Instead, it is about what your followers can gain from you.
What we have to understand is that our followers don’t gain anything from us if they don’t see relevant content, but content isn’t enough on it’s own; it must also be timed well.
Open your Twitter timeline, and leave it for 20 minutes. I can almost guarantee, unless you follow a small number of people, that tweets from 20 minutes ago have effectively been buried in those 20 minutes.
So imagine that your next opportunity could come from a Twitter follower who is 4 hours separated from you, time-zone wise. How can you engage with this person in a meaningful way?
As far as social media goes, the answer is to post whenever they are looking.
This has absolutely nothing to do with my segmented work schedule; no one cares that I’m not posting to social media until after 2 PM except my family and my coworkers.
So how do I maintain my sane, segmented daily schedule while also increasing my chances of meaningful engagement on Twitter?
Buffer is a tool that allows you to setup a regular tweeting schedule. You fill up your queue however you see fit, and let Buffer auto-tweet for you. And here’s the kicker:
All of your content discovery and sharing can be done in a single block of your day.
Let me rephrase:
You can now engage with social media asynchronously instead of treating it like a chat room.
Let me re-rephrase:
You can now have a constant presence on Twitter without inundating your followers and sucking your time away from other (more) important things.
If you aren’t getting how this can be insanely valuable if done properly, then you probably need to try it for a while to learn.
Use a tool like Buffer to write your posts and share content for a limited, concentrated block in a day. Experience the peace of limiting social media distraction throughout your day, and the benefit of increasing intentionality and regularity of your online presence as a result of smarter computing.
(Disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with Buffer, nor do I receive any benefit for touting their service, but it is in my opinion the prettiest and generally the most popular tool for this particular use case. If I’m missing the mark here, please let me know.)
Written by Jonathan Cutrell, engineer and podcast host amongst other things. You can follow him on Twitter at @jcutrell.