Earlier this week we looked at WHY we tend to obsess over social media – clicking over to Facebook or scrolling through Instagram every time there’s a lull in our work. Today we’re looking at HOW TO STOP. It’s not quite enough to tell yourself that you will only check it twice per day…I’ve got 6 conditions that need to be satisfied in order for scheduled check-ins to be successful!
As I said in this blog post (go read it if you haven’t!), our reaction to social media notifications is similar to a drug addicts response to building drug tolerance. So how do people effectively overcome a drug addiction?
Pin that image so your fellow girlbosses stop wasting their time too!
If you took the first step and started building awareness around your social media distraction then you’ve moved it from unconscious thought to conscious — that’s huge.
So how do we solve the problem?
The next step in problem solving (after understanding the problem) is to look at other similar kinds of problems and investigate the use of its solution. In the case of checking social media every time you start to feel a little stuck or bored, addiction is a good comparison.
In my searching, genuine relationships appear to be the best form of recovery from addiction.
- a way for the addict to gain better self-awareness,
- the support + connection a person is usually seeking under the surface, and
- purpose to following through.
All three of these characteristics are also key to handling any kind of stress well. So it seems plausible to use these solutions for our issue with digital notifications and their effect on our creativity + productivity.
Related: How to turn self-doubt into an asset
Putting the plan into our context
You’ve likely heard others talk about scheduling when they check social media. I think this has an area of validity so if we add a few things to it, it can serve you well in your business. Here’s when I think it works:
- You understand the the compulsion to scroll through pictures is due to chemicals in your brain, not because there is anything life-or-death happening.
- You are well-connected to other people whom you feel understand you and support your work.
- You have meaningful work that is making progress.
- As you establish the new habit, you are self-aware of what triggers your desire to jump on Instagram and actively talk to yourself about why you don’t need to do it.
- You choose a constructive + creativity-boosting alternative after recognizing you feel stuck or you’re doubting yourself.
- You practice having an abundance mindset: social media can wait./
By satisfying these conditions and forming a plan for when they are not satisfied, I think scheduling one or two specific times when you are checking on social media can be highly effective. You will need to test out what you need after you’ve finished. Meditation or a walk or less-demanding work may be necessary to help you transition back into focused + creative tasks like writing. And this can be applied to other areas as well like email and text messages.
So let’s walk through those conditions.
You understand the the compulsion to scroll through pictures is due to chemicals in your brain, not because there is anything life-or-death happening.
Stress in your work can trigger your fight-or-flight stress response. If you’ve conditioned yourself to mentally check out whenever stress arises – even if just for a little while – you’ll need to build awareness around that behavior. Starting with recognizing that it’s a chemical surge in your brain that is directing your attention to social media. Your brain has been wired to see it as a solution. Whatever reason you tell yourself for why you need to check instagram for the twentieth time today is really just an excuse.
Unless of course you actually do have a reason – but then it’s not just a distraction, right?
You are well-connected to other people whom you feel understand you and support your work.
Social media can be a great connector. It can also be a cover for real-life-isolation. Whether you are introverted or extraverted, you need people. Our brains are even programmed to seek out security within a tribe. So if in real life you are feeling insecure in your relationships, the pull to social media – where your followers are praising your work and seeking your engagement – will be stronger.
On the flip side, if you are investing in real-life community — people whom you see face-to-face or talk with over Skype — social media is going to be an easier distraction to overcome.
You have meaningful work that is making progress.
Purpose is a major influencer. As a business owner you probably had a big reason to put yourself through all the stress of working for yourself. You probably have a future vision in mind that keeps you going when you think about quitting. Are you letting that through in each project you take on? Are you creating a course simply because someone told you to or is it serving your bigger vision? If it’s in line with your bigger vision remind yourself of it! Keep it front and center as you work so you can channel the stress of the struggle toward creating your best work.
If you are struggling and your project isn’t making progress you will be more likely to move on to less important tasks, like instagram or twitter. It’s discouraging to feel like you’re not getting anywhere. Rather than force yourself to struggle (or disengage from the project), look again at the problem you are trying to solve and the outcome you want. Do you have all the information you need? Is there someone you could reach out to who has the skill you’re trying to hack?
As you establish the new habit, you are self-aware of what triggers your desire to jump on social media and actively talk TO yourself about why you don’t need to do it.
Stephen Covey talks about how easily we get distracted by urgent, unimportant tasks. He concludes that a sign of a highly effective person is that they focus on the important tasks (and know how to distinguish between types of tasks). What you really want right now is the expected outcome of your project or task – so figure out a way to get that rather than letting yourself get distracted by social media.
You’re not solving the right problem when you disengage from an important task to do an urgent / unimportant one. You’re just wasting your energy.
Related: 4 mindsets hurting your business
You choose a constructive + creativity-boosting alternative after recognizing you feel stuck or you’re doubting yourself.
Your creativity is stalling and you’re losing focus because you feel stuck, you’re doubting yourself, etc. That is the worst time to get on instagram and start scrolling through perfectly styled images! Your brain needs a break. So reduce the stimulation and step away. Get present and take a few deep breaths.
Better to go outside and spend 30 minutes people-watching then to scroll through images in rapid fire.
You practice having an abundance mindset: social media can wait.
It’s not going to be gone forever. People won’t revoke their likes just because you haven’t responded yet. It can wait.
Really. It can wait.
Not indefinitely – in fact you know exactly when you will get to it. Because it’s scheduled. (And hey! With all the new algorithms, you don’t have to worry about missing your favorites in your feed!)
When each of these conditions are met, you can and should be successful in scheduling 1 or 2 social media check-ins throughout the work day. These will likely be longer because you’ve got an outcome in mind so you aren’t just endlessly scrolling.
As far as the time of day you check, I recommend afternoon and evening based on what I know about trying to create after consuming rapid-pace media but being home with kids all day I’m still working on fine-tuning my own schedule.