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3 Ways to Keep Social Media from Taking Control of Writing Time

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The newest craze around the internet seems to be Pinterest. Everywhere I turn, I see posts lauding the benefits of the site and telling us how to make the most of it.

I’m not nay-saying Pinterest. In fact, I joined some time ago and am having a blast with it. I love using it not only to share more about myself and my books (via pictures), but I also love the capabilities Pinterest has to inspire, encourage, and brighten the lives of all those my pins touch.

However, the thing about any social networking site is that as good as they can be, they have the potential to detract us from our limited writing time. Add Pinterest to Twitter, personal and author Facebook accounts, Goodreads, and blogging, and we could literally spend hours a day drifting from one place to the next.

Sure, we can and should enjoy social media. I’d likely spend time on social media sites even if I wasn’t an author. But . . . let’s face it. Writers who are serious about publication have the added pressure of building an online presence. So, many of us are likely doing more online than we would do otherwise.

But as I always say: Writing HAS to stay the priority. Or what’s the point?

We’ll only waste a LOT of time building an online presence if we don’t have a well-written book that can really WOW our readers. Because honestly, readers aren’t going to care a whole lot about what we have to say on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest if they think our books are garbage.

So how do we keep the MAIN THING the main thing?

With my dive into Pinterest, I’ve realized that I need to keep a grip on my writing productivity. I have to be the master of my time, rather than letting Pinterest or other social media take control of me.

Here are three things I’ve been doing lately to make sure my productivity doesn’t bend the knee to social media:

1. Turn off the temptation during writing time.

When I have writing time, especially uninterrupted writing time, I try not to let anything else tempt me away from opening my WIP, putting my fingers on the keyboard, and plunking out my daily word count.

The internet can tempt even the most self-disciplined of us. When I’m writing, I’m usually most distracted by my emails as they come in (and lately also with Pinterest). So, what do I make myself do before I start writing? I completely shut off those two things so that they aren’t an easy click away when I get stuck on a hard sentence or scene.

Know your temptations. If you can’t turn the internet off completely (which doesn’t work for me because I listen to Pandora while I write), at least turn off the sites that the biggest distractions.

Author Media also put together a list of inexpensive apps that can help writers quit wasting time. If you’re really struggling with turning off tempting sites, then you might consider downloading an app that can help you gain self-control.

2. Set tangible writing goals within specified amounts of time.

I usually give myself the goal of writing a certain number of words within a 30-minute time span. I post the time and the amount of words I hope to write on a sticky note on my screen. Then every 30 minutes I add a new goal.

I don’t let myself switch on my social media temptations until I reach several consecutive goals. Then I take a quick break to answer a couple emails, tweet, or respond to a blog comment. I use the social media break as a reward for reaching several working goals.

3. Designate time to focus on social media.

As I said, I don’t believe our social media time should overshadow our writing time (except perhaps around the time of a book launch when the marketing responsibilities are at an all time high). Writing should stay THE number one priority.

However, I’ve found it’s somewhat freeing during my writing time, if I know that later I’ll have time to write those blog posts, or follow back my new twitter followers, or respond to emails. I’ve had to build social media time into my schedule, which ultimately allows me to focus better on my writing while I’m in writing mode.

What about you? Do you ever have trouble with social media taking over your writing time? What are some ways you keep social media in its place?

36 comments:

  1. The writing must comes first. I spend less time on social media. Great post, Jody!

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  2. I'm a horrible procrastinator during a rough draft. Social media or laundry, they both distract.
    One helpful thing is that I don't have anything pinging at me when an e-mail comes in, so as long as I don't click Internet Explorer, I'm effectively disconnected from the internet. lol

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  3. I wasn't going to join Pinterest, but I can see so many benefits, especially inspiration for poems, so I'm starting tough by saying I can go on once on a Saturday only. And I've cut down on blogs I visit and Twitter use. Social media de-tox :)

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  4. Writing has to be a priority, you're right. I try to limit my social media time.

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  6. The virtual world and social media are my enemies. I know I waste far too much time browsing Pinterest, checking Fb & Twitter, and reading other blogs. Sometimes it's helpful (now), but more often it's a harmful distraction. I'm tempted to remove web access from my main computer, my writing base, so I have to walk across the house to play.

    But you are so right — if we have no great work, our social media presence will not matter.

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  7. Love this post, Jody! It very much echoes a lot of my own concerns about social media. I've recently joined both Pinterest and Facebook and there has to be a way to stay active on these sites as part of our career (okay, Pinterest is mostly for fun for me; so many pretty things!) but to keep the writing our absolute priority. You've shared some great tips here. Thanks!

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  8. "We’ll only waste a LOT of time building an online presence if we don’t have a well-written book that can really WOW our readers."

    Well said, Jody.

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  9. This, to me, is one of the hardest balances to find. Especially for the person who is naturally social and enjoys being online. I love all those sites (actually posted yesterday on this subject and asked some tough questions).

    But your point is key - What is the point of all the social media if we're not putting our book writing first?

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  10. If I've got a hot story I'm working on (especially if it's an early draft), I find I'm less distracted by social media than if I'm editing the 6th draft of a project. Editing = boring to me. Writing = more fun than a movie, my husband, and a huge bowl of ice cream (and, yes, my husband knows this!)

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  11. Can't argue with any of those points, Jody. (Not that I want to argue with you, of course.)
    The best one for me?
    Turn off the social media vacuum while I'm writing. No distracting "tweet!" No "beep!" to let me know another email dropped into my inbox.
    Nothing except the sound of me banging my head on my keyboard ... um, I mean, the sound of me typing.
    ;O)

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  12. Except for blogging, I haven't signed up for most of the other social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook. I'm still not entirely sure what Pinterest is. But then again it always takes me a long time to get around to catching up with everyone on those things.
    But blogging does take up a lot of time, especially because I follow more than 80 blogs. One thing that helps me is that I write out my first drafts longhand, away from the computer. That way I'm a lot less tempted to start procrastinating on the Internet.

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  13. You should check out Pinterest's terms of service before using the site. They are pretty ugly - especially related to the terms of service.

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  14. Thanks, Jody! This message is perfect timing for me! I just decided to take May through August off the internet to work on my second book. It is hard not to get carried away with social media. For the last month I've felt God leading me to say no to everything else to get ready to focus on the book. It's amazing how many requests you get when you set your mind not to do anything else. Thanks for the reminder:) God bless!

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  15. I have a Twitter and FB account and was going to get into Pinterest when a friend of mine casually mentioned, "It's SO addicting!". I immediately went in and deleted the Pinterest account. Love the tips you offer here and agree, a writer needs to know her limits. For me, I know I already get too distracted with Twitter and FB alone. Again, thanks for the great advice!

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  16. It's sooo easy to become distracted! When I write on my lunch break, I don't take my phone with me...I leave it at my desk (I work a day job). And I can't connect to internet on my laptop (my place of employment doesn't have accessible wifi), so that works well for me! I get in a solid hour of writing time.

    I'm still having trouble balancing everything. I'm wanting to do more on Twitter but haven't figured out when I'd be able to schedule my tweets...mornings are already full with responding to blog posts, etc., and I get to work at 7. Something's gotta give, and right now it's that.

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  17. Coming from a Pinterest addict, I really needed this! Thanks. I love social media and think the potential marketing power it has is wonderful, but you're absolutely right. It needs to be OFF during writing time.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  18. I decided to give myself a specific time-period to do a lot of social networking between the novel coming out next month and the new one due to my editor in a year. This has helped me organize my brain - I know that 'at this date' I will cut way back on SN and furiously write the new book. Meanwhile, I've been able to visit and seek out things and try things - like Pinterest (which I am not sure about yet).

    It seems to be working so far!

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  19. Yes, I needed to hear this today! I'm a quick social media user...usually on and then off again, but that might take about 30 minutes a pop. I'd always rather be writing, but maintaining that social media presence is important too. Sighing for those pre-technology days...

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  20. Hi everyone! I think this struggle with finding the balance between social media and writing is going to be a constant struggle for the modern writer, because obviously our online presence is becoming more critical. But at the same time, we have to continue to write amazing stories. Both are important and both take time. We have to find a system that allows us to do both!

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  21. I'm SO easily distracted, so when I'm writing, I must shut off everything! Once I tackle my writing tasks, then I allow myself to "play."

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  22. I'm such a net addict it's terrible. One of my biggest issues is reading other people's blogs. When I come online I check Blogger before anything else.

    Which reminds me... should be writing!

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  23. Excellent post, Jody! It's always a challenge, isn't it?

    In my current stage of life, I have a great built-in timer for social media--my son's afternoon rest time. Since he's outgrowing his naps, I don't have the focused writing time I used to have in the afternoon. So now I use it as my online time. I let him watch TV for about an hour (or sometimes a little longer). And then I scramble through my online sites until the time is up. :)

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  24. Great post, Jody! I use a Productivity Coach software to keep me on track. The method is simple, you set time limits for each task (social media sites, writing time, and anything else you have to do) and when the timer goes off, you move to the next thing on the list - no matter what. It's been really helpful for me. I often need the internet to look something up for whatever I'm writing, so I can't shut it off, that would be a huge help as well though!

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  25. This applies to me hugely! I've also just joined Pinterest and find it distracts me just as much as Facebook and Twitter. Great post though which I plan to take note of and quit spending so much time on the social networks and more time writing like I used to! Thanks x

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  26. What a great reminder. Lately I've decided, too, that I want writing to be the main priority. All the other stuff is frosting. Fun, true, but not what gets books written.

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  27. Jody - your tip about meeting several writing goals b/f leaving to go check social media is interesting. Something as low-tech as a post-it note? Even I can manage that. :)

    I have no solutions to share; I came in search of answers.
    Thanks for the help.

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  28. So well said! Thank you for your post, Jody. :)

    Twitter was my big distraction a year or so ago. I used Tweetdeck and kept it open on a separate screen. (Bad idea!) Eventually I had to turn it off. I do feel like I don't connect with some of my Twitter friends as much, but writing/work has to be the priority.

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  29. I'm the complete opposite. I get busy writing and ignore social media and all unessential emails. For days, weeks, even a couple months before I come up for air. Then I belatedly remember that there were people on fb and my blog I was supposed to be connecting with. (Sigh.)

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  30. I almost groaned out load when someone mentioned Pinterest to me. Not another social media tool? Not another way for me to waste time with little return and a further negative impacts on my writing.

    Your post is great, Jody, and so timely. My rule now is to pick 2-3 social media applications and stick with them - and them alone. Otherwise it's simply too overwhelming and not good for the writerly cause!

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  31. Great topic. Last year I was spending so much time on Twitter that I had to delete my account! I also stopped blogging and cut down on FB time. Now I'm trying to re-integrate them into my schedule in healthy doses. I suppose disciple is the most helpful. But I also like Russell's idea of limiting your number of sites, and your suggestion to focus on measurable writing goals. One thing I have been working with that I love, is the Pomodoro technique for rationing time. You basically spend 25 uninterrupted minutes working at a time, focusing on one task. Then after a five minute break, you start the next work cycle. I've found it's more productive for me to commit to working for a certain amount of time, then to target a word count. For some reason, the latter makes me crazy!

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  32. Great! I am you so thankful for wrining this!

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  33. Just came across this post while browsing Goodreads. This is so helpful. YES! I have an awful time trying not to be sucked into the vortex of Social Media. LOL. Thanks for the time management tips. It's good to know I'm not the only one who has a hard time saying "No" to Pinterest. :)

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  34. Oh Natalie, you're definitely not alone in your Pinterest love! I had to stop drooling over the desserts on Pinterst last night and shut it off so that I could finish my daily word count! :-)

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  35. I have avoided Pinterest like the plague. I do not have time for another social media site. I can't keep up and write now. yikes

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