Ah, social media. Such a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, it’s a really great way to stay in touch with friends, make new friends, and learn. On the other, it’s very time-consuming, distracting, and hijacks our emotional and mental state at inopportune times.
In this episode, let’s dig into five strategies you can use to make your relationship with social media more in line with what you want.
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Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!
Ah, social media. Such a love/hate relationship. Now, on the one hand, it’s awesome. It’s a great way to stay in touch with friends, make new friends, learn. I’m really not a person who knocks social media. I actually am very active on Instagram in my business, and I actually really love it. I genuinely do. I think I have a small enough community that I have a really amazing set of women who I get to talk to there, and that’s a place that I really enjoy being. So no knock on social media.
On the other hand, huge time suck and a weird time suck because I think we go in kind of thinking, “I don’t have enough time to do anything.” So then we are on Instagram before we know it or we realize we’re there and 45 minutes have gone by, and we still walk away thinking, “I don’t have enough time,” and maybe a little bit of guilt in there of, “I can’t believe I just spent that much time on Instagram.” So let’s just take a step back and really talk about some strategies that can allow us to use these platforms for what they are awesome for but also use them intentionally in a way that we’re good with.
So, on that note, here’s the first of five strategies we can talk about.
First Strategy: Think Through How Much Time You Want to Spend on Social Media – 1:42
Really get clear on how much time you want to spend on social media. I feel like sometimes we’re like, “Ugh, I can’t believe I spend this much time.” But we don’t really get clear on what is an okay amount of time that I’m good with. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to strictly enforce it. I’m not gonna tell you to calendar it. I’m not going that route, but I think it’s good to kind of take a step back and be like, “Look, I do want social media in my life. How much time am I cool spending on it every day, and would I calendar, would I put it in my schedule.” Again, I’m not saying to do that. I’m not that crazy. [Laughs] I mean, you could if you want. Go for it. But I’m not telling you to do that.
What I want you to hear more is let’s be intentional about it. If I’m spending roughly 20 minutes a day on Instagram, if I’m okay with that, then let me just stop with the guilt and beating myself up for being on Instagram and just be okay with that. If it’s more like, “I’m on it for two hours. That feels like too much for me. Why don’t I shift to more like 45 minutes, and we’ll see how that goes, and over time I might want less, I might want more,” whatever it might be. There’s no judgment here. But just getting intentional about how much you want to spend. Part of that is just because you’re gonna use it, so let’s release ourselves of the guilt of using it and just own our decision to use it for a particular amount of time every day, roughly.
Okay, so that’s the first thing I wanted you to think through is, “I’m gonna use it. How much time do I want to spend on it? How much time would I like not to spend on it,” and then we can talk about how to get there.
Second Strategy: Consider When You Don’t Want to be on Social Media – 3:07
The second strategy that I think will help you get there is also thinking about when do you not want to be on it. So not just the amount of time but whether there are days of the week or times of day that you do not want to be on it, we can get creative here.
So for me, now, I might be different than you. I use Instagram in my business, so I am on it more during the week, and I feel like I want to be there because I use it for my business, I really enjoy being there, and I want to be there. That said, on the weekends, I want to be more present. Don’t get me wrong, I will default to being on Instagram a lot, especially when I’m kind of bored watching children and that kind of stuff. But I don’t want to be. That doesn’t mean I, by the way, preach fully being present with your children and staring into their eyes all weekend long by any means, but there are other things that I would rather be doing than having them see me staring into a phone all day long. I might pop in a headphone and listen to something while I’m watching them in the backyard and things like that, but I just don’t like how much I’m on Instagram and sucked into that on the weekend, and I think it’s good for my own mental health to take breaks on it.
So, be intentional about when you don’t want to be on it and then consider deleting the app. Now, just make sure you know where your password is, you have it. But if you do, you can easily bring it back. I think it takes me 3 minutes max, maybe 30 seconds to get it back on my phone whenever I bring it on. I calendar on Friday at 5:00 PM: delete Instagram and my business email off my phone. And then, I don’t have it calendared. I bring it back whenever I want on Sunday evening or Monday morning.
I really like this. I really encourage it. You know, those screens on your iPhone you can have five varieties of apps in your phone? I’ve found, for me at least, if I just move it to a different screen, it’s amazing how fast my muscle memory will be like, “Swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, click.” So I have to get it off my phone entirely, and I really like doing that. So just throwing that out there for you. You might be the reverse. You might say, “During the week I don’t want Instagram on my phone, so that when I come home I can really be present with my loved ones or go out with friends and not be on Instagram and things like that. And on the weekends I’ll bring it back in.” Whatever you want to do, just really think about deleting it when you don’t want to be on it. That is really the only way it’s worked for me to not get on it.
Third Strategy: Recognize What Drives You to Social Media – 5:27
The third strategy is a little bit more just like in our heads, and actually the next two are, but I think they’re really important. They’ve been kind of game changing for me. The third strategy is recognize what drives you to social. I realize that when I get stressed out by something I need to do, jumping on social media is a lot easier than just doing that thing, just because it is. It’s just an easier place to be. It’s more mindless. It’s not heavy lifting for my brain versus the other thing that I ‘m stressed out about or overwhelmed by is harder. So my brain is picking the easier option. But, I mean, we all know this. Avoidance just leads me to looking up 20 minutes later with even less time to do the thing that I still need to do, which is way more stressful.
So realizing that I’m turning to social media when I am stressed helps me spot when I am doing that and be like, “Hey, nope,” and guide myself back to the task so I can just be done with it. There’s something weirdly powerful about being able to recognize that about yourself. So, for me, I’m able to just be like, “Oh, yeah, I’m doing that thing. Let me go back to doing the actual thing I need to do so that I can just bang it out and get it done with,” and then be done with it because I hate things looming over me, but if that’s not enough for you (which totally fair), maybe give yourself something else you could do instead to help alleviate your anxiety.
So let’s say if your options are do the thing or social media, and you’re having a really hard time even when you catch yourself moving away from social media, have some things that you can do instead for a period of time that help you get off social media, maybe not do the task but do something a little bit more that will get you in the right place or be at least a more useful use of your time than being on Instagram because this kind of relates to the next point, but we’ll get there.
Some ideas that come to mind are making a hot cup of tea. That would help make it a little bit more appealing to do that task. Or, if you’re like me and you get really nervous, if you’re having a hard time settling to do something because you’re nervous about doing it for whatever reason, physical puttering is really good for me. So if I can get up and clean up a room really fast or tidy up, do something physical, even take my dog on a walk quickly, obviously getting outside helps, too, but doing anything physical where I’m moving around gets that nervous energy out for me more and then I can kind of settle down a little bit more.
Another thing that I’ve realized has caused me to go to social media is boredom. I mean, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but if I’m in line at a grocery store or I’m waiting at a stoplight in my car or I get bored watching my kids because they’re doing the same thing for the 20th time, it’s amazing how that’s when I will find myself reaching for my phone. It’s like I can’t just be bored, or at least I go through periods where I do this. Sometimes I’m totally fine, and other days I do it before I even realize I’m doing it. I don’t like being bored, and so, I’m going to social media for something.
Cal Newport talks about this, really trying to help yourself get more comfortable with boredom and just giving yourself breathing space and observing what’s going on around you more, just from an interest standpoint, not from a you should observe what’s going on around you, you might see something interesting. He has this great idea of when you’re doing something as kind of being intentional about, “What do I want to think about when I’m doing this thing?” So when you’re sitting at the stoplight, even trying to direct your own thoughts of, “What do I want to noodle on that I’m having an issue on at work or in my personal life or I just want to think about this,” and try to intentionally guide your thoughts where you want to go.
This is a little bit beyond, obviously, what I teach, but I think it’s really interesting if you can try and substitute in something in those boredom moments, that might be more appealing and help you not just sit there kind of weirded out by the silence. [Laughs] But giving our brains some breathing space and not just constantly inundating our brains with information can be really powerful, and I really see the value in that. So that is something that I am working on is being okay with the boredom, with the quiet moments and things like that. This relates to the fourth strategy.
Fourth Strategy: Be Aware of When Is/Isn’t the Right Time to Open Social Media – 9:44
I heard somebody else say this. I don’t know who it was, but it really stuck with me. Social media has such power to dictate what you feel and think about, and so, you just need to be really wary of when you give it that power and who you’re following so that you’re giving them that power.
So kind of two things:
One is I realize, let’s say I’m gonna give a presentation, like I’m gonna do a workshop, and I have 20 minutes to kill because I got all my prep work done, and the Zoom links are working and everything like that. You have to be really wary in those moments when you’re just killing time, that if you go on social media, you are opening yourself up to get really riled up about certain things. The easy thing that comes to mind is politics and things like that, and I feel like now on social media you might not even intend to go read the news, but you go on social media and you get some element of it, and that can really hijack how you’re thinking and feeling in that moment, and if you are trying to eventually go pivot into doing a workshop or doing some big thing for your work or being present and happy with your family at home or whatever it might be, and you suddenly are inundated with this stuff that gets you really riled up, that’s a huge bummer.
I don’t know why sometimes we don’t think about it that way, and so, then we’re just victim to our emotions getting hijacked in this weird way, where I think if you can really understand that that really is a realistic possibility when you go on social media, you’re more intentional about when you open yourself up to that. So for me, now, if I know, “Hey, I really want to be calm and collected and feeling solid and feeling like myself,” going into whatever it is (work or personal), that’s not the time to go onto social media and to open myself up to that because I don’t have control over what I’m gonna see there always. And so, you need to be aware of that.
The second subpoint of this is that you can have some control over what you’re exposed to. And so, what I throw this out is I don’t encourage living in an echo chamber of people who agree with you all the time. At the same time, if there are people that you hate following, that you don’t like them, but you’re following them for whatever reason (and there’s no judgment because we all do it), take control over what you can control, and unfollow them or mute them or whatever you need to do so that you are not letting yourself get riled up, you’re kind of facilitating that by following them actively. Just be wary of that. Think about if someone’s really bothering you, even just on a smaller scale you find yourself being annoyed whenever you see their stuff for whatever reason, consider muting or unfollowing.
There is a level of control that we have that sometimes we kind of forget about, and you are not at the whim of whatever’s going on on there, and so, unfollow or mute. There are people that I really love following (especially news sources) on Instagram, but there are times where things are going on in the world that I need to be more in control of when I open myself up to reading about those things, and if I’m just on Instagram and their stories or their feed things come up, and that’s gonna make me feel upset — it’s not against how they’re reporting it. It’s the fact that it’s happening — then I need to take some control and mute them for a period of time or get that off my timeline.
So I’m just sharing that with you in that we have to be aware that when we open up social media there are some wonderful things on there. We can learn fun things. We can see fun people. There are a lot of things that can bring joy, but there are a lot of things that are not bringing joy, that are doing the exact opposite of that, and we don’t always know when that’s gonna happen, so we need to be aware that sometimes it’s not the right time to open up social media and also unfollow people when you need to to make sure that you aren’t opening yourself to getting hijacked emotionally all the time. So take that for what you want. [Laughs] I hope that’s helpful!
Fifth Strategy: Get Clear on What to Do Instead of Social Media – 14:01
The fifth strategy is really getting clear on what you do want to do instead of social media when you don’t want to be on social media. So let’s say you notice (it’s kind of helpful to think about), “When am I going on social media for long periods of time?” For me, this tends to be the evening time, when I’m tired, my kids are in bed, I have these things I want to do, and yet I sit down on a couch because I’m zonked, and I can really scroll social media at that time and a lot of time can go by.
Now, sometimes that is what I want to do. That is my energy level at that time. It’s a way to check out. There’s no judgment. There are times that I want to do that. But I could do it way more than I actually want to do it. And so, what I recommend doing is using your calendar to help our future tired you and know what you want to do instead. So really, let’s say, at a certain period of time at night you’re like, “I really don’t want to be on social media very much. I would rather read this book. I would rather watch this TV show. I would rather call this friend. I would rather take a course that I bought that I really enjoy taking that’s fun for me,” and consider either scheduling that thing like, “Read this book. Take this course,” on a repeating basis until you’re done with that book, or you’re done with that course or whatever it might be. Or if you don’t want to live that — I don’t think of it as rigidly, but that specifically because you’re like, “I don’t know how I’m gonna feel. I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” give yourself a little menu of options.
So you can say, “Check out this list,” and then in the notes section put that book, that TV show, that course, things like that. All you’re trying to do is help future you, who we know is going to be tired, have an alternative to the scroll that’s actually appealing to you, that you’ve thought through and you’re like, “These are things I genuinely want to do, and if I just could give a menu of those options to future me instead of Instagram, then I might be excited.” Because it’s one thing to talk about leaving Instagram behind, leaving social media behind. It’s another thing to give an alternative. It’s not in a vacuum, because if the option is don’t scroll or scroll, we’re like, “Well, I mean, I’m tired and I don’t know what else to do, so I’m gonna scroll.” Where if the option is you could scroll but you could also do these three things that you actually really have been meaning to do and really want to do, you just keep forgetting to do them, then it becomes a different decision. So hopefully that makes sense to you.
Recap of the Five Tips – 16:33
So hopefully that helps. Just to recap. We really want to get clear on how much time do we want to spend on social media? And it’s okay to spend time on social media. I think that’s part of the problem is that we kind of feel like there’s an all or nothing, where if you can be a little bit more intentional on, “I’m cool spending 40 minutes a day on it,” and really just trying to kind of limit yourself to that and then make plans to help you kind of avoid it (tip one) in the times when you kind of throw away a ton of time into it that you don’t want to.
Tip two is when you don’t want to be on the app (more like times of day or days of the week, weekends, that kind of stuff), delete it and bring it back. Just know where your password is.
Tip three is recognize what drives you to social (for me, it’s overwhelm, it can be boredom), and really trying to catch yourself in that pattern is really powerful. Give yourself some alternatives if you need to like going to get tea or going on a walk or physically puttering or whatever it might be. And then also maybe trying to direct your thoughts, if you are not cool with being bored, is trying to just realize some of the benefits, the thoughts that will come to mind and things like that can be so useful when we’re bored, and so, just trying to help yourself practice that.
Tip four is really just acknowledging how much social media can hijack our emotions and being mindful of when we do it. Before we want to be calm, maybe don’t jump on social. Unfollow or mute people you need a break from, whether it’s because of what they talk about or who they are. And then also know, for those moments when you tend to fritter away time on social media more than you want in a way that bothers you. If you’re cool with it, don’t worry about it. Own it. But if it does bug you, then think about what I want to be doing instead and then help future you do that by giving her a menu of options that she can pick from or getting specific about what you want her to do.
All right? Social media’s a weird one. It’s an ongoing thing. We go through phases. You’re gonna probably hit a phase where you’re really good at it, you’re feeling good about your social media use, and then a week later, you’re like, “What happened?” [Laughs] And so, feel free to revisit this episode when you need to, and let me know if you have any good tips. I really love nerding out on this stuff if you can’t tell.
So jump on social media, and if you don’t want to, shoot me an email. But on social media, I’m mostly on Instagram @_kellynolan_, and if you are avoiding social media (which is totally cool), my email is ke***@ke********.com. Send me your tips! Send me things that work for you or problems that I didn’t address, and this is probably gonna be an ongoing conversion because of what a time suck our phones and social media can be. They’re really awesome in a lot of ways. They’re really great when we can be intentional about them, but they can be such a time suck, and so, I definitely want to keep talking about it!
All right, if you enjoyed this episode, if you got a good nugget out of it, send it to a friend. Thank you very much, and I will talk to you soon!
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