But here I am scrolling through social media again. How did I end up here? Well technically, I called this "working." I was just going to take a short look at Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (you fill in the blank), for some business or writing ideas, but what inevitably happened? I'll tell you what. I once again fell down the dark social media hole descending into the land of distraction. So here we are.
I know I'm not the only one, right? You start off looking for ideas or checking email and one thing leads to another and 2 hours later, you have not accomplished anything (except finding out who ate brunch at that new restaurant or whose baby just turned six months). Now clearly, I'm no expert in completely preventing this spiral into the social media abyss, but I am here to offer a few ways to get back on track and back to work before you fall too far.
Suggestion # 1: Don't pick up your phone.
I know, I know, this is a simple trick. You have heard it before and to be honest most of the time I completely throw this one out the window. But, if you have any willpower whatsoever, resist the temptation to check your phone. If you need to check your email or you just absolutely have to take a look at Pinterest for some inspiration, open a new tab on your computer. One, this takes a little more work than just pressing a button for the app. You actually have to type in a website address. Secondly, you constantly have your work in front of you giving you that guilty stare. I have found that I am far less likely to get lost in new Facebook updates when I can clearly see the open blog post tab giving me longing looks. The guilt is enough to get me back on track.
Suggestion # 2: The minute you find what you are looking for, put the phone down immediately.
Make it a rule. We all know how difficult it can be to get that shiny glimmer of inspiration, yet when it is competing with that red notification number, the temptation to click on it sometimes wins. Occasionally I'll check my Instagram feed and see something that sparks the title of a new article, but scroll through thinking I will find something else, and instead end up reading an article on the top 5 ways to cook a burger because it was the next picture in my feed. Why????! Now instead of finding more inspiration I lost the original spark and am completely off task. So, I have made a new rule. The minute I feel that muse tapping on my shoulder, I immediately put the phone down and start writing. Even if that means just getting a title and the first two sentences. Chances are, I’ll keep writing and get much more done than had a kept scrolling.
Suggestion # 3: Instead of picking up your phone, pick up a book.
Yea, I know this sounds contradictory but it works. Here’s a little story to help clear it up. At the beginning of the year I decided to do a round of the Whole 30 diet plan (well it’s not a diet, but you get the point). I read the book that described the plan and one of the most significant points of the book was that eating more whole foods and meats gives your body the nutrients that it needs in a smaller amount of food. Chewing a steak instead of a bag of chips also gives your body time to register that you are full. On the other end, when you eat junk food you just keep eating and eating because your body is not getting enough nutrients from that food, so you eat for a longer period until you get the amount of nutrients that you need and your body can finally shut down that hunger signal.
That is the difference between picking up a book or scrolling through social media.
You may absolutely need a writing break. We will call that hunger. So, your choices are to eat a good hearty piece of steak (the book), or grab a bag of chips (social media). The book will give you ideas, help your writing, satisfy you at a certain point and give you the break you need. The YouTube videos sure taste good and go down easy, but what are you actually gaining? They will keep you hungry and searching and even if you do learn something, it will be in small increments and not enough to satisfy you until you have spent 3 hours watching. Think about it, are you more likely to spend 3 hours watching YouTube videos or 3 hours reading a good book? I’m going to go ahead and say you tire of the book after a few minutes and go right back to working.
The great thing about these tips is that they can apply to any entrepreneur or freelancer. Hope this post helps you resist that urge to get lost in social media purgatory.
How do you avoid the temptation to get off task? I could always use more help. Share your tips in the comments below. Now, if you are reading this from your phone....put it down and get back to work!
Happy Writing (or working)!
Tashara Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Austin, TX. She enjoys connecting people, writing, traveling, people watching and doing all of the activities listed above, simultaneously.