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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yesterday when I went do do a Google search I noticed the big blue arrow ppointing to my Google+ page.  Like some victim in a pavlovian experiment I clicked on the link and and hour later found myself wondering what I went to Google to search for in the first place.  Sucked in.  One hour lost.

Are you on Facebook, My Space, Friendster, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Spoke, Xing... the list goes on and on and on and on...  Do you spend hours looking at photos, videos, status updates and more and more and more?

Do you find yourself in an ever growing pit of social media quicksand sucking your time away?

Do you ever ask yourself what is the point of it all?

If you do then I have a simple framework embodied in two simple strategies that will help you gain control:  treat social media like you treat TV.

TV Strategy #1:  Set goals.  Write them down.  Put them up.

We don't normally think about goals for television but we make decisions on these unstated goals all the time.

Consider television and my Mom.  My Mom is 92 and she doesn't like to read so television is a big companion for her.  My Mom watches the 6 'o clock local news.  She doesn't watch the national news.  She wants to know what the weather forecast is.  She also has a few "favorite" shows she watches diligently. Sometimes when i talk with her on the phone in the evening and ask her what she is doing, she replies, "I don't know, there is nothing on TV so I am crocheting."  Now we all know that statement is not true.  My Mom doesn't see static snow when turning on the TV.  What she means is "There are things I want from TV and now there is nothing broadcasting that meets my needs [a.k.a. goals]."

What do you want from social media?

So is your goal to be entertained?  If so, entertained how?  Educationally entertained as in Frontline on PBS? Or mindlessly entertained as in reruns of Hogan's Heroes?  (If your goal is to be entertained you should not be surfing social media during "work" -- too many people have entertainment goals but claim they need to be on social media for other reasons).

Is your goal to communicate a message?  (Ah, so you are primarily a sender and not a receiver?)  What is that message?

Facebook now let's you choose -- for each person -- the level of information you want.  Other services will be following their lead.  But you can't choose unless you know what you want.  Write down your goals and put them up next to your computer screen so you see them.  This is really really important.  

You want to move away from a passive pavlovian response to how you spend your time to an active purposeful response and putting up a card with a written goal or goals will help you get control back from the corporate psychologists who are tracking your every mouse click.

TV Strategy #2:  Set time frames.  Track your time.  Buy a kitchen timer.

Unlike TV the show is never over.  These social media sites are more like the "marathon" weekends we sometimes encounter on television -- you know the ones where they broadcast every episode of the Twilight Zone or the top 20 of Criminal Minds?  IF it is a show that you "like" [kind of meets a goal] or "love" [really meets your goals], there goes your weekend.

Set daily and weekly times that you think prudent for your goals.    These times might be upward focused or downward focused.  For example, if your goal is to establish yourself as an "expert" in human resources, you might upward focus your time on social media so that you are "answering one question on LinkedIn once each week in detail enough to stand a good chance of being voted "best answer."  Conversely, if your goal is to be entertained you might downward focus your time so that you are not spending more than 15 minutes each night being entertained by Facebook.

In both instances, you will want to track you time.  But it is the downward focus -- when you are limiting your time -- that you want to be most diligent.

When I was younger we couldn't watch TV until our chores were done and our homework was done.  And even then it was only for a prescribed amount of time.  In these days of uber-connectivity, that framework is harder to create.

Get a kitchen timer.  And use it.  

Sure you could use your cell phone or some app from Apple.  But these options require extra steps and as a coach I can tell you that the more steps there are in some process the harder it is to do.

Simpler is better.  Don't even go digital.  Get the wind up kind.  And glue is to your monitor.

We all come with a built in expiration date...

We only have a certain amount of time on this earth.  We can't get the minutes back once we spend them.  

Are you spending them wisely?