Are you in control of your social media or is it controlling you? 

Are you constantly distracted from your work by the alerting sounds of tweets, dings and rings, not to mention a burgeoning number of inbox messages that just can’t wait to be read?

Do you have a hard time tolerating the suspense of whether or not you got new followers, new messages, new mentions – and you just have to check?

 Are you feeling increasingly anxious over not having enough time in the day to keep up with Face book, Twitter, Twellow, WordPress, Pinterest….need I say more? Can you Digg It? 

Are you headed for the new mental disorder of the Social Media Age called “Idisorder?”

If these questions ring a bell, ding, tweet, or otherwise, then you might be suffering from some form of social media addiction – or at least – obsession! Before you search online for a Social Media Anonymous group, here are some essential tips to help you curb your social media addiction and stay focused and productive amidst the tantalizing buzz!

First  Tip – Forgive your parents. Your parents warned you to watch out for people who followed you. They had no clue that at some point in your life, the more followers the better! There is no way they could have imagined that you would end up going at great lengths to figure out how to attract more followers, rather than get rid of the ones you already had! As they groomed you for success, they also could not have imagined that your life success and productivity could be undermined by a quest to “like” and be “liked,” never mind a chirp here and a tag there. They tried their best to instill self-esteem in you so you would think you were special no matter how many people liked you! Even watching the Jetsons did not provide them with any clue! So, along with the other stuff you might need the help of a therapist to forgive your parents for, forgive them for not providing you the tools to prevent social media obsession. After all, they did their best signing you up for things like soccer camps and enrichment programs – which taught zero skills on how to avoid losing yourself in “the buzz!”

Second Tip – Remember that Silence is Golden! Procrastination undermines productivity, and the constant tweets and pings lure you away from focusing on your work. Even if you were not much of a procrastinator to begin with, it is just too much fun checking on your latest “likes” and “friends” or who commented on your latest discussion thread on Linked In. To limit the lure of all these enticements, turn off the sound of your computer, and silence the twitter and email alerts on your cell phone! Turn off the Instant Messenger!

Better yet, if you have work to do that does not require you to be online, get offline and give it a rest! Remind yourself there are many healthier sounds to hum along with. Choose background music that can inspire, soothe and motivate you to stay on the task at hand, rather than be distracted by sound effects that only serve to lure you away! As you shut off your alerts, close down programs and take your email accounts offline, your chunks of productive time can increase significantly. If you want to set alerts to occasionally take breaks but your sounds are shut off, just use an old fashioned alarm clock or kitchen timer!

Third Tip – Silence your Inner Buzz! Social media is a procrastinator’s friend.  Amidst the buzz, you might not realize that underlying procrastination is perfectionism. People who are perfectionists are full of negative self-talk that nags at their confidence. Perfectionism tells you that you need to be “the best” rather than simply “do” your best. Procrastination due to perfectionism makes the stakes too high to prove how good you are, and it makes it hard to be efficient and productive. So beware of the buzz of your own negative self-talk! To complicate matters, there are just so many old friends and classmates on Facebook that were not even as smart as you, and it is hard not to be distracted about their stellar accomplishments!     Even if you never saw yourself as competitive, this can be very distracting when your need for approval from your work boss as well as your inner boss undermines your confidence and focus. Tell yourself that “good enough” is not so shabby and it does not mean you are being a slacker! Comparing yourself to others, anyway, is a recipe for low self-esteem, and now with Facebook, you have a new world of others to measure yourself against!

Why don’t you just be yourself since everyone else is taken?

Fourth Tip – Set limits on the time you spend with Social Media. The best way to cure obsessions and addictions is to give yourself some structure so you can “break the habit.”  Self-discipline is not a dirty word – it can truly set you free if you prioritize your goals and “to do” list.  If you make a choice to be disciplined rather than being caught up in “have tos,” you will feel less like a rebellious teenager protesting authority. If you view the ability to set limits on your time as offering a new freedom that can help you clear your head and set balanced priorities, you will learn to set better limits on your time and energy. The key to setting limits with your Social Media is to use tools that streamline your time rather than create more work for yourself. There are many apps that are designed for helping you become more organized and productive, like Buffer, although some people prefer the archaic pen and paper method in which they write out their “to do” lists and even their long range goals the old fashion way. For those who want help refocusing with the latest technology, there are many shareable apps.

My favorite is Evernote, which is one of the more popular apps that allow you to keep organized and productive. With Evernote, users have the option of putting in all sorts of varied media in one place easily from any device you have. Along with documents that are in one note, you can add video and sound, web clips, photos even from your cell phone, and even handwrite a note to add using your mouse instead of a keyboard. This is great for students who want to video a lecture rather than keep up with taking notes!  Everything you import in your lists and notes is automatically saved and they are easily shared though all your devices and with others. I personally have found Evernote to make my life so much easier in organizing myself professionally instead of personally. It has been extremely helpful in helping me put a lot of my notes, documents, messages, pictures, web clippings, all under one “Elephant” -which is the application’s mascot. With Evernote, I am able to keep all my information in one electronic notebook. Instead of searching through bookmarks and past emails, I keep it all together and can access it all from my phone, laptop and desktop. All my important “to dos” are all together with a simple drag of the mouse into the Elephant icon. Allow your apps like Evernote to work for you to save time and streamline your virtual life. However, don’t let an obsession with apps go too far. Watch out for the somewhat macabre apps, such as Dead Social, that allow you to schedule tweets once you are dead! 

Fifth Tip  – Remember “Grandma’s Rule” As you develop new habits with or without an app, keep in mind that rewarding yourself with a Facebook fix on breaks might be just the motivation you need to stay on target. Grandma’s rule reminds you to reward yourself after the work is done. “First you do the work, and then you do the play.” Rather than always being in the background, Email, Face Book, Twitter and the like can be used as rewards for a job well done and help you stay on track. Using your social media as a reward rather than as an ongoing distraction will help you stay sane and efficient. There are apps for that too, such as Joe’s Goals, which helps motivate by having an interactive behavioral chart to track your habits and progress.

Sixth Tip –Unplug! Let yourself enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Take breaks without your phone, IPad or laptop. When you do, you will be recharged and then more productive in your work and in your life. It might sound counterproductive, but quality time unplugged and away will give you more energy to be productive when you are refreshed. Go outside! Learn to play again! Do something artistic! Find ways to laugh, do something with your hands, ask a friend for lunch and leave your phone in the car or at home. Have a conversation without getting distracted with alerts and rings. How often does an emergency really come up? So – For social etiquette sake, avoid constantly checking on your phone for updates if you are in the company of others. Even a sneak peek sends a message of disinterest! When you unplug, hear the sounds of nature, smell the smells around you, and be mindful and present in the moment. Cyberspace can wait!

Seventh Tip  – Work To Live! Part of being productive is to make sure that you are working to live, not living to work. As you bring down the distractions of social media from a buzz to a hum, you will be more in tune with what life has to offer, plugged and unplugged! Taking time to rejuvenate will make you a more focused and productive person with a healthier perspective. By getting out of the virtual world and into the “real world” – without getting beeped, tweeted, dinged or alerted – you can recalibrate yourself much like a GPS that recalibrates when you go off track. Readjust, and redirect so that you will have not only a more productive life, but a happier and more balanced life too! After all, at the end of your life, are you really going to be asking yourself, “If only I had tweeted more?”

So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this and take a break outdoors!

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