How to avoid social media wasting time when working from home

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Bad news here! Cute kitten there! Job alert here! Now that you’ve moved your professional life into your personal space, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the distractions of social media. I understand. I was faced with the constant beeps, tweets and tweets from social media while working from home for 30 years. Dealing with all the interruptions is not easy.

Here’s how to control distractions at home while working.

No, I can’t play at the moment

First, repeat after me: “Urgent is not the same as important.” Just because your colleague pinged you on Slack doesn’t mean you should drop everything and respond to them immediately.

Now, more than ever, you need to prioritize who and what gets your time and attention. Most of you will now have more distractions than ever – the kids wanting to play, that Netflix movie begging to be watched, and your boss who can’t help but try to virtually watch over your shoulder. Practice saying “no, I can’t play right now” or “no, I won’t watch this show” and “no, I can’t take your call”.

You should also establish a daily work plan and stick to it. You can no longer take inspiration from your colleagues because they are also scattered here and there. Sit down and figure out what you really need to do that day, this week, and this month. And then determine how you are going to achieve your goals. Again, remember that urgent is not the same as important.

Part of this daily plan is to maintain your regular working hours. Some of you will be tempted to go to the kitchen for a quick snack, which will last an hour and a half. Others will work themselves to the bone. Both of these issues are real pitfalls for homeworkers. Stick to your schedule. When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to stop, stop.

Disable alerts

Let’s be specific.

First, turn off your social media alerts and notifications. Yeah, I know you wanna answer that facebook messenger note from Aunt Millie. It can wait.

It’s not just for Facebook, instagram, Twitter, and like. This is also true for instant messaging and conferencing services like Microsoft Teams and Soft. I would disable all reviews for purely fun networks. For those who work, you can refine your Soft and Notification of teams so you’ll be alerted when your boss calls, but you can ignore idle chatter.

Like my fellow tech journalist Lynn Greiner observed, “We’re like Pavlov’s dogs, responding to those pings. Remove the stimulus. The first thing I do with any new device is drown out all the howling for attention, except a few critics.” She’s an intelligent woman.

You should also disable your email alerts for the same reasons. You want to focus on what’s in front of you, not what Accounting Joe wants to know about your latest expense report. Try to reduce your email sessions to three times a day with a fixed time for each session, if possible.

It’s the same with games that record countless billable hours. A little game of Solitaire or Fornite Battle Royale to keep you cool is fine. But if you finish your game and find that your lunch hour has lasted three hours, it’s time to put the game away. If you can’t stop yourself from playing, bite the bullet and delete them entirely from your work computer.

Ration your social networking time

Shut down social media and news sites. Again, I know you want to know how your pal is doing in San Jose or what’s the latest from the CDC, but you don’t need to do that 10 times a day. Really, no.

Like my fellow writer Pam Baker put it, “Think of social media as the nosy co-worker who never shuts up – except you can actually shut them up without guilt or excuses.”

Just like email, you have to ration your social networking time. I don’t think you should pick on that. Now, more than ever, we need to know what’s going on with your friends, family, and the world at large to keep our sanity. That said, I would limit myself to three visits per day with a strict deadline.

There is one exception to this. If you find yourself upset by the news — and who could blame you — don’t watch it until your workday is done. There’s nothing you can do if you hyperventilate with every new bad news.

It’s time to turn to software help

What if you just couldn’t kick the social media habit on your own? Then it’s time to turn to software help from programs such as Cold Turkey, Freedomor RescueTime.

Cold Turkey works on MacOS and Windows. In addition to preventing you from being distracted from sites and services, it gives you, with its customizable blocklists, the ability to stop specific activities. For example, if you can’t help but search for “funny cat videos”, you can block that specific search. You can also use Cold Turkey to shut down local programs, like this game you can’t stop playing.

Freedom does similar work on Mac, Windows, and Chrome OS computers and Android and iOS smartphones; it offers you a great power of customization so that you can adapt it perfectly to your needs.

RescueTime is the only program that works on all major desktop and Linux operating systems. What sets it apart from its competitors is that it tracks your activities. With the data it collects, you can create detailed reports on the time you spend on work, social media, games, online shopping, and more. It also tracks what you use and when. This allows you to see exactly what you are doing.

For example, you may know that you visit Instagram every day at 4 p.m., but did you know that over the past week, you’ve been spending more and more time there? Or did you know you were working hard in Excel every morning when you really should have been writing a report in Word? Setting it up correctly can take time, but no other app is better at helping you block out distractions and giving you a clear view of exactly what you’re doing while you’re sitting at the computer.

Put these tips and, if necessary, these programs to work and you will find yourself much more productive. No, working from home isn’t easy, but with help you can master it. Good luck.

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