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Twitter: Use it Productively

Twitter: Use it Productively
twitter public timeline

    Have you heard of Twitter [twitter.com]?

    It’s the funniest thing. It allows people to answer, in brief, the question no one was asking: What are you doing, right now?

    Hundreds of random people keeping other random people up to date on their random day-to-day business. Twitter is the no frills, no hassle mini-blogging tool that’s really catching on. But why?

    Two minutes ago someone posted “waking up, showering, looking for socks”. Before I question how it was possible for this person to write such an update, I ask why he feels compelled to share? Well, like almost all the current Twitters out there, I’m still figuring out what it’s good for.

    How can we use Twitter productively?

    First, let’s look at what makes Twitter different from, say, a blog or a chat room.

    1. It’s simple.

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    I don’t need to spend time figuring out how to use it. Set up is quick and so is the ability to update.

    2. It’s social.

    We’re adding friends, and keeping track of other people’s updates as ‘followers’. When you visit Twitter, your friends’ updates are shown along with yours, in chronological order [with avatars].

    3. You can update from your cell phone.

    OK. This is interesting now. I can send updates, as well as receive updates, as text messages on my mobile. Instant Messenger and Gtalk included.

    4. RSS Feed Enabled!!

    Now we have a product.

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    Those are the elements that make up Twitter. It’s easy, fun and versatile. How do we use it for good and not wasteful evil?

    Twitter as a ToDo List. Particularly useful while I’m away from the computer. I can send Twitter an SMS of something to do when I get back home. Or just something to remind myself of something; a song to download or an an email to write.

    It’s basic but requires a few extra functions. One being tagging. At the moment it’s very linear with the most recent tasks starting at the top and working back. There’s no room for prioritizing, or sorting – with tags.

    Also I can’t cross a task off after completion. I can, however, Trash the item, or mark it with a star as a favorite – which is the closest I’ll come to tagging.

    That said, now I have a ToDo list where I can delete completed tasks, and ‘star’ important ones that need to be done soon. I can’t ‘star’ anything from my mobile, but it’s a start. Also I can’t use Twitter for reminders from my mobile because there is no future TimeStamp feature. If I can schedule an update to appear at a certain time, I could have reminders come up on my mobile when I need them.

    Keep in mind that I am able to subscribe to my updates via an RSS Feed. In my feed reader I can have a ‘ToDo list’ from Twitter. Handy? How about we expand on that…

    Twitter for People Management. This idea is a little more out of the box but focuses on the social aspect. I can keep track of my friends, family or housemates from one feed so everyone is up to date.

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    RSS feeds are social. Let’s share them. Not only can I subscribe to my own updates, I can subscribe to a feed that aggregates all my friends’ updates. So when I post it appears in the feed, when Bill posts it appears in the feed. This is most useful when we’re dealing with 3 or more people.

    We can be organising a night out while at work, or keeping everyone in one house up to date with everything. “Out of milk”, “I won’t be home tonight”. I could send a group text message, but this way I only need to send it to one place. Twitter makes sure everyone gets the message, whether they are on the computer or out and about.

    Twitter for Business Management. This is very similar to people management but we can focus on the versatility of Twitter. Because we are now able to carry out a group conversation over the internet and mobiles simultaneously, managing a group of people can be a little easier.

    My business partner, who is scouting locations for a photo shoot, can keep me and my photographer up to date with his progress. While he is shooting off updates from his mobile about good and bad locations, me and the photographer can share our thoughts online, while my partner stays in the loop.

    Twitter also allows you to send Direct Messages to a particular user. So if my business partner needs to run an idea past me, personally, without our employees reading in, we can do it.

    Then after all is done, we can head back home and look over the updates. Choose what’s working and discuss everyone’s Twittered ideas.

    Twitter as a Newsletter. Say you run a video store. You don’t blog because it takes up too much time and you don’t really have much to say. Maybe you don’t even have a website. What you would like to do is keep your client el informed on a few things without all the hassle.

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    Twitter allows you to post directly to a feed. Without a website, you can have a feed your customers subscribe to and receive updates from. For instance, new videos that have just come in, or day-only sales, closed on the holiday etc. Plus, you don’t even need your computer to do it, SMS! Now you’re communicating with all of your video rental members while you’re in the store, or out for dinner!

    Although you can’t tag updates or friends, you can turn on and off your IM or Mobile notifications person to person. If you like adding friends but only want to receive SMS updates from only certain people, you can do that.

    twitter header

      Twitter is an interesting application, and it’s making some waves. It seems like the idea is there, and it’s working well, but the purpose isn’t yet established.

      These are the guys that brought you Odeo, probably the best option for podcasts on the web right now. Twitter is a remarkably simple idea that is executed perfectly. However, to really be able to stretch it’s usefulness, some extra features could be added.

      Tagging, for instance, would expand this application greatly. Why is it on the web if you can’t tag it with something! I can subscribe to certain users’ feeds but I can’t subscribe to certain groups of users’ feeds. Plus I can’t sort my own updates.

      Mobile phone updates are feature thin too. This is, to me, a stand out feature of Twitter. Without this I may as well be in a chat room or on MSN – or emailing with attachments and no word limit! However, if I could tag [if only as a favourite] updates from my phone, or send a certain ‘group’ of friends messages specifically, we are looking at something more than glorified group texting.

      twitter update

        I think Twitter is an exciting move towards a universal publishing platform. There’s no learning curve or intimidation. We don’t need to be twittering away, updating the web with our most mundane of activities, “I am writing on Twitter about writing on Twitter…”

        Use it productively!

        What Are You Doing? [Twitter]

        More by this author

        Craig Childs

        Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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        Last Updated on July 8, 2020

        3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

        3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

        It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

        This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

        Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

        When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

        This is why setting priorities is so important.

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        3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

        There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

        1. Eat a Frog

        There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

        Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

        When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

        2. Move Big Rocks

        Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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        You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

        If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

        For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

        To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

        In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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        3. Covey Quadrants

        If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

        Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

        1. Important and Urgent
        2. Important and Not Urgent
        3. Not Important but Urgent
        4. Not Important and Not Urgent

          The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

          Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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          You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

          Getting to Know You

          Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

          In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

          These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

          More Tips for Effective Prioritization

          Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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