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6 Lessons From A Year Without Facebook

6 Lessons From A Year Without Facebook

I check my social media feeds often and compulsively. When I wake up, before I got to bed, whenever I sit on a bus, wait in a line, or eat alone. Sometimes, I notice I am scrolling through a feed with no memory of opening the app, or I log out, only to log in again 5 minutes later. Any small moment of boredom is diverted to checking on the lives of my friends.

That is, I did do those things until January 1st 2015, when I quit. For a year. I had read about the increasing number of studies linking social media to stress and depression, and numerous articles about the benefits of quitting. So my New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to give up social media for a year and see the difference for myself.

It didn’t always go smoothly, and sometimes I would find myself idly flicking through updates. I posted on Facebook once to thank people for leaving birthday messages (it seemed very rude not to), and another time to announce that I was eating a quiche during the Super Bowl, which seemed so important at the time, but in retrospect was a moment of defeat.

However, I cut down my use of social media by roughly 98% compared to the year before, and that was good enough to be able to feel the effects. Here’s what I discovered.

1. I had much more free time

As I spent less time on social media, I found myself spending less idle, unconscious time on other websites as well. Without scrolling through all the links to pictures of funny signs, angry articles about politics, and videos of cats falling off things, I didn’t visit other addictive websites and end up in long chains of clicks.

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I read 40 more books in my year off than I had the previous year, all using time I would otherwise have spent clicking through social media and the links I found there. You don’t have to spend it on reading, but most people would benefit from exchanging at least some of their social media time for something they find more productive or more relaxing. Your fourth visit of the day to Facebook is neither of those things.

2. I was less distracted, and spent much more time taking in my surroundings

There were plenty of instances at bars or coffee shops where a friend would leave the table and I would be briefly alone, suddenly craving my phone. That urge to check in during those moments eventually disappeared and I could absorb the atmosphere of a place or watch the people around me instead, which I found more rewarding.

3. I enjoyed moments more, but missed sharing them later

As I gradually lost the urge to share everything I was doing at the time it was happening, I could better appreciate things for myself. I wasn’t suddenly living perfectly in the moment just because I was absent from social media, but it was a barrier removed. It’s not wrong to want to share the things that have happened in your life, even the small things, but rarely does it have to be right at the time they are going on.

However, because of the rules of my decision, I also lost the opportunity to share with my family and friends the things I was doing after they happened. This year I camped surrounded by wild elephants in Botswana, went sandboarding for the first time, and ate a lot of good sushi. But I didn’t share any of that stuff, just one thing about a quiche.

4. I felt more disconnected, but that made me socialize more

Like many people, I have friends and family spread all over the world, but I don’t know as much about what they have done in the last year. Life without social media was, in some ways, more lonely.

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On the other hand, I was much more likely to email or call them, and more motivated to go out and do something with my friends who are nearby. Social media is similar enough to genuine social interaction that sometimes it feels like too much effort to make real life arrangements as well, but only connecting through a screen is just not as fulfilling.

It’s like filling up on snacks and then not wanting your dinner.

5. Seeing friends in person was more interesting

My friends were often surprised that I didn’t already know their recent news, and I noticed for the first time how often people’s stories about themselves start with “you probably saw that…”

For the first time in years, people had the opportunity to tell me about their lives and see my reaction in person, instead of rehashing old events I already knew from the internet.

6. I missed small connections

Not using social media took away the opportunities for small interactions, such as likes and comments, and I missed these small connections which aren’t present elsewhere. If someone I knew from college had completed a marathon, or a distant relation passed their driving test, I couldn’t comment to congratulate them, and I wouldn’t have known about it anyway.

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That’s a whole range of positive social connections which I lost without social media.

How to use social media in a better way

The dangers of social media I had read about were very clear to me because of their absence in my year off, but I also learned to appreciate having platforms which allow us to be more connected to the people we know, wherever they are, and to connect with them in more ways than we had before.

The articles about the downsides often ignore all the good aspects of social media and recommend quitting altogether, but that isn’t what I concluded. They are good tools, we just have to learn how to use them properly.

I never want to go back to checking my Facebook newsfeed 7 times in a day, and I never want to again miss the atmosphere in a restaurant because they have wifi and I can post about it online instead. But after a year without social media, I am ready to return in a more cautious way.

From my battles in quitting for a year, here is my top advice.

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1. Quit altogether for 30 days

Just one month is enough to see it for yourself — the people in this Danish study noticed a difference in a week — and monitor the changes with a one-line summary each day.

2. Turn off notifications

No one posts on your wall in an emergency, and you don’t need more reminders to log in.

3. Delete the mobile apps

It puts a small barrier in your way, and is the easiest way to cut down. You can still use the web browser on your mobile devices with bit more effort.

4. Limit yourself to one session a day

When you only have one session on social media each day, it is more of a conscious decision. If you feel the compulsion to check again, remember you can tomorrow.

5. Allow yourself to share anything you like, but you have to wait at least 1 hour

You won’t be distracted from the things you are doing when they are going on, but also won’t miss out on sharing them later.

6. Seriously, quit for 30 days

There’s no end of reasons and research to tell you it’s a good idea, and there’s no better way than to find out the difference for yourself.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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