As creative business owners we wear multiple hats, it’s just part of the drill. With all of those hats come a fair amount of time taking care of various parts of our business online: email, social media, marketing, invoicing, shop upkeep, and more.
It can feel like it’s a never ending uphill battle, and more often than not we seem to lose chunks of time somewhere in between all of those tasks that we simply can’t account for.
It’s so easy to get lost in the news, or the latest article everyone is sharing, or what another brand is doing well on social media. “Oh, I’ll just check Facebook for a second…”
Ummm, no. That’s just not how it works. The Internet is set up to distract you. And while I love technology and social media, (I should! I help businesses every day with it!) I also understand the serious pitfalls being online can create around time management and the damaging effects it can produce with time loss.
That’s why it’s important to create patterns that make the most of our time online, and be as productive as we can while we’re there. But before you beat yourself up, know that this does not come naturally to pretty much anyone. It takes time and energy, probably something you don’t have a lot of, am I right? I’ve rounded up a few workflow tips, resources, and ways to keep your time online productive, helpful, and enjoyable.
1. Save All Articles & Content for Later: Let me describe something that I bet you deal with every day: login to Facebook or Twitter, click on what looks to be an interesting story, then 3 hours later you’re not sure where the time went and no work has been accomplished. Ooph. OK, maybe 3 hours is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the sentiment. It’s alarmingly easy to waste time online.
That’s where ‘save for later’ apps like Pocket or Instapaper come in. They’re your ticket out of that proverbial Internet rabbit hole you seem to fall into while you’re working. Both services are free online apps (although they do offer premium services) that with a click of a button saves content online to read later, things like articles, websites, apps, etc. Think computer bookmarks with an upgrade and in the cloud, ie: you can bring them everywhere!
What’s great about these services is they work across all devices, offering the ability to save and read later on your phone, tablet, or desktop.
It’s a relief knowing everything can be saved in an instant to read later. How many times have you had 25 tabs open hoping to read those articles later? Stop the insanity, save it for later.
Pro-tip: Another great option for saving content for later is if you own a business that shares content online, this is a great tool to keep your social media streams full with interesting links and resources.
2. Read Everything Later: Now the second part to saving everything for later, is reading it later. See how that works? That’s the key. Every day carve out time where you can really enjoy what you’re reading and concentrate on it. No more sharing articles you haven’t read! Perhaps in the morning over coffee, or an hour before bed, or during your commute.
The exact time period is up to you, but knowing that you have allotted time to read all that juicy content allows you to focus on other things within your business instead of reading everything that comes across your desktop.
3. Work in Spurts & Reward Yourself: Instead of working harder, longer hours where you multitask (and most likely pop in and check social media or your email every 10 minutes…) try working within specified time increments. One of the most popular techniques is the Pomodoro Technique.
This productivity hack is super straightforward: set a timer for 25 minutes, work on one task during this period, when the timer is up, take a 5 minute break to surf the web, check your email, stretch, etc. After you have completed 4 or 5 of these periods (including the 5 minute breaks) take a longer break for 25 or 30 minutes and go for a walk, grab a coffee, or get lunch.
Once you incorporate this way of working into your schedule, you’ll start to notice you get more done, and have more free time on your hands. Because you’re focusing deeply on one task and staying focused, it’s much more efficient. Try it, you’ll be amazed at how this helps your productivity.
4. Create a Content Calendar & Schedule Social Media: Swooping in and out of social media all day is a waste of time, and it sets you up to not only lose time immediately but it takes you away from the heart of your business. You know, the reason you started it to begin with: designing, creating, and making. By scheduling out and planning your social media you can prevent large chunks of time loss from happening.
Create a content calendar to anticipate and visualize exactly what content will be posted, where it will be posted (social platforms as well as days and times), and any special dates (sales, holidays, product launches) that are content focal points for your business. Utilize platforms like Buffer, Sprout Social, or Hootsuite to schedule your social media a few days to a week out.
While Buffer and Hootsuite offer free options, if you want a few extra bells and whistles such as flexibility with the amount of content, or to add extra people, they all offer paid plans. It’s a small price to pay (and also tax deductible) to carve out extra time in your life!
5. Use IFTTT to Kill 2 Birds on Instagram IFTTT is a powerful platform that connects apps, websites, and other resources together with its Recipe system, making our lives a little easier through technology. They have two recipes in particular that are great hacks for Instagram, each consolidating posting and making our workflow much easier!
This recipe allows you to post an image from Instagram to your Facebook Brand Page by using a specific hashtag to trigger the posting. Add a caption on Instagram, make sure the hashtag is in the caption, and voila the image shows up on your FB Brand Page! This tool is especially helpful if you have your Instagram account set to post to your personal FB page, but you would like the option to share images to your brand page every now and then.
Although Instagram allows us to push to Twitter, it only posts 140 characters of our caption and a link back to the image. Without a photo for context, it’s not incredibly enticing to click that link. Use this recipe to automatically turn your Instagram links into Twitter pics with a URL to the original photo. That way your Twitter followers get a visual of what you’re up to, as well as a link to your Instagram account.
6. Turn Off All Notifications: We are all so connected all day long, it’s a little excessive. Give yourself a break and turn off notifications while you work. Turn off wifi on your laptop and silence your phone. If you have kids or need to be in touch with family, any important contacts can be set to bypass the Do Not Disturb setting on your smartphone. Overall though, we can all spare a couple of hours without constantly checking our phone or being notified by the latest ding on our computer screen. The Internet and social media will be there when you are finished with what you’re working on.
What’s great about all of the above suggestions is they’re just that, suggestions. They don’t need to be all implemented at the same time to encourage productivity and time management, you can pick and choose what works for you. It’s not an end all be all solution. As you work more on your productivity you’ll find what works and what doesn’t for you. You’ll create your own hacks and shortcuts. That’s the most important takeaway here — that you make changes.
At the end of the day, this is your business, make it work for you! Your time online should be enjoyable, and the rest of your time should be used to not feel panicked about the amount of time you wasted online. You owe it to yourself and your business to take care of your time together.