The PhD voice

5 steps to stop using social networks at the office

Hello! April’s almost ending and I still haven’t written all I wanted to! AAARGHHHH! I try to keep up and maybe when I finish some busy work schedule I’ve been having I’ll start writing twice a week =D I will be like the most “giffable” person ever, Ashley Wagner, when that happens!
So I love challenges. I am currently on a “gluten-free” challenge, #glutenfreeapril. I cut off on my biggest food addiction, bread. But why am I talking about bread in a post about social networks? Because I was going to give up bread, and instead I did social networks…at the campus.
Well, in February and March that time of the year called Lent came. Either you’re Christian or not, I think Lent is always a good excuse to think about something you want to let go of. Since I wasn’t ready to give up bread, and after having read the things people give up the most for Lent, I thought of…that’s right, you know it, social networks where they are not so needed. If you have a social network account, you work wih computers somewhere where it is not forbidden, you probably have already been trying to accomplish a task and are in a rut, and you go mindlessly scrolling to clear your mind for a bit. Well, I thought I could do without this (and for some reason the “not impressed” famous meme comes here)
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But did I really need to do this?

Some facts about social media in the workplace. On a negative point, a study by the University of Maryland states that working Americans lose one quarter of their workday browsing social media for non-work related activities. This is a lot, and for some people social media is so addictive that there are even rehab centers for them! However, on a positive note, some people are social media managers for the organizations they work with, there are tons of groups related to work topics and for some people scrolling improves productivity by being a mood booster or talking with a loved one. What do I think? I did not see any benefits of scrolling myself, and if I wanted to stop for a bit, I could go to a newspaper website or read other blogs, so I wanted to make more of my breaks when I spent them in front of the computer.
On these 40 days, I got ready not to go to any social network. I would check my notifications and answer to what I had to before leaving home and check things back when I returned. Not even during lunch time, because I wanted to be completely present in the lunch hour with my colleagues. As a result, I did not go to Facebook a single time during 40 days. Not even during weekends where I need to work, sometimes from home. I admit having gone briefly to Instagram and Twitter by clicking on a webpage but I closed it shortly after. Steps for success, if you feel this is something you could do?
  • Plan and describe your tasks well. One of the major causes to go to social networks at work, from my experience, is lack of focus and feeling lost with so many tasks. So write down every task you want to do in very small steps (even down to something as easy as “Write my name on a new Word file” and keep a work log (I was doing this on paper but Evernote works much better for me now). This helps me tremendously keeping my workflow constant.
  • Be mindful as much as you can. Social media scrolling for me is one to the most mindless things ever. So focus on why you’ll do this! I admit having almost fallen into temptation of checking if something was going on Facebook but keeping myself mindful helped me not clicking “Enter”. If stressed, put your cell phone timer for 1-2 minutes and make breathing exercises, or go take a walk without your phone.
  • Don’t take your phone to lunch time unless really necessary. Yes, you know, by the end of the lunch hour it’s very easy to start scrolling your smartphone in search of notifications. But if you are having lunch at your workplace, it’s better to really commit! For me this also helped me forget I even have a social media account during my time in the campus. Of course lunch time is a good time to reply to calls and text messages 😉
  • Have some kind of time management system for your breaks. Finding out about Pomodoro technique really helped me not to despair when something goes wrong. Before, I had breaks but not structured. Now having structured breaks every 25 minutes really helped my mind enter into a state of: “You can have 5 minutes to check whatever you want in no time, so just get your work done so you deserve it”.
  • Check that really funny thing they sent you at home.  It’s a good thing for bonding colleagues when you have group chats where you send each other funny videos or news, and I advocate every group should have one. But if you want to be disciplined, unless the world is going to fall, you can watch that video later. As I said, not even on lunch breaks so your brain knows the difference. Anyway, watch it as soon as you can so that you are up to date.
I can say with confidence, challenge accomplished! What did this change in me? I can focus much more before trying to let my mind off things. In my whole life, now I check my social networks in a much more effective way. Of course I have more notifications to see each time, but I have more time for other things and, even though I might have lost an urgent message someone sent me on social networks, in the end it was not so important. Anyway, one important lesson is that social media is only one way of procrastination, for other people there are others, and the other is that social media have plenty of benefits too for work. I post questions on groups and chats, and I also use social networks to manage my blog. Without them, promoting it and getting to know blogs I identify with would be much harder.
P.S. This post was written without a single social media incursion during the task of writing =p
 What do you think about social media in general and in work? Do you think quitting social media during work hours will make you more productive? Let me know!

Cátia

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