By Shawn McGowan
In a JobsIntheUS.com poll, 42 percent of our job seekers said that they spend one to three hours per day on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This isn't surprising considering a Nielsen study released earlier this year showed a monthly average of time spent on Facebook alone at seven hours.
Whether you're looking for a job and using social media to network your foot into the door or you're a thought leader in your professional community with a demanding networking schedule, staying on top of a distracting, endlessly updating, real-time atmosphere can be daunting to say the least.
News, job openings, industry studies and rousing discussions are hot and trending one minute and cold the next. With constant contact from family and friends, links to side interests and hobbies around every corner, staying focused is a challenge for even the most disciplined multitasker.
In a space like this, how are we to make way for productivity? In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, when discussing the third habit - time management and prioritization - he says, "Manage from the left [brain]; lead from the right [brain]."
Structuring our time and creating some concrete guidelines to go by can afford us the opportunity to get more done and be more creative while doing it, even in the most distracting environments.
Here are three tips to keep your goals in sight, stay efficient and avoid the constant distraction that is social media.
1. Devise a Plan
Develop a solid plan and write it down, even if it is a brief outline with a few key items. Consider what you hope to accomplish, what activities will contribute to achieving your goals, what tools to use and online communities you will need to be present in.
For example: If your goal is to be a prominent professional networker in your area and field, you may want to make yourself present on LinkedIn, especially on relevant groups where discussion is taking place and strategically gain contacts through group participation, personal messages, informational interviews and other activities.
2. Set a Routine
Break your plan into tasks, identify where your efforts will be focused and allot yourself time to accomplish them. Find a time management tool that is comfortable for you such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar. Create a weekly schedule, however loose, and make time to focus on only your elected tasks. Creating events such as "power hours" with reminders in Outlook is a favorite simple tactic of mine.
As in the above example, to achieve LinkedIn attention perhaps breaking your time into discussion hours where you propose questions, craft thoughtful replies, or share relevant content with your groups might be useful.
3. Limit Distractions
As distractions invariably pop up, try to keep your goals top of mind and stay tough on yourself in adhering to your tasks at hand. Allowing for a five or ten minute window between tasks to cycle quickly through emails, Twitter responses and direct messages, LinkedIn messages, or Facebook notifications, can be an effective way to attend to urgent matters while staying on point (another from my bag of tricks).
When off-topic links, videos or other distractions arise, find a familiar way of parking them, such as browser bookmarks, Delicious, Instapaper, Evernote, or a good old fashioned paper notepad. This will keep you on task until you have time to catch up on extraneous items of interest.
Social networking has quickly become the preferable mode of communication, research, and networking with companies and industry leaders/experts to gain employment. In a climate that breeds distraction, regimenting your time and focusing your energy in your social media endeavors can ensure you are getting the most out of what you are putting in.