A year ago I took some time off from social media. The break lasted three months and the experience was eye-opening. At the start I experienced a mild and brief depression - no kidding - and sifted through a sea of messages from Facebook reminding me (with photos) of who 'missed me' while I was away. (Creeper much? Yes.) Alas, I returned to the black hole of lost time late last spring, and am presently finding myself drawn to the Facebook app icon like a moth to a flame.
Our household financial budget keeps us from a world of trouble. Staying on the budget path ensures our bills are paid and the fiscal safety nets are there when we need them. I would never walk into a local store without a shopping list and a clear understanding of what part of our budget is being spent. The money in our bank account is a resource that, for obvious reasons, can't be squandered. I realized recently, though, that when it comes to my social media use, I spend my equally valuable resource of time without any guidelines at all.
I click on the Facebook app and spend away.
I need a 'time budget' to keep my life in balance in the same way I keep my bank account in balance.
I've never 'budgeted' time before, but I suppose that principles similar to those that guide financial budgets would be helpful. Let's do this.
STEP ONE: HOW MUCH TIME ARE YOU CURRENTLY SPENDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Financial planners advise tracking your current spending before creating a new budget. My social media habits are elusive and erratic, and not worth the effort needed to track with accuracy. I'm just going to estimate that I spend TOO MUCH TIME on social media right now.
STEP TWO: WHAT ARE YOU SPENDING YOUR TIME ON/WHAT DO YOU REALLY NEED?
I spend time on Facebook connecting with friends, getting information about events and supporting causes I care about. Are there less time-consuming and more effective ways to interact/be informed/stay connected than scrolling through a News Feed?
I spend time on Pinterest discovering ways to enrich my life, my family's lives and my children's education. Are there ways I can be more purposeful in my use of time on Pinterest?
STEP THREE: HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO SPEND/HOW MUCH ARE YOU WILLING TO SPEND?
Unlike paycheck amounts that vary from job to job, we all get 24 hours in a day to make use of.
If I spend 30 minutes a day on a single social media platform (say, Facebook), that adds up to 3.5 hours per week and 182 hours per year. Using this calculation, and if I adjust the 24 hour time period for sleeping (making the average day a 16 hour day for argument's sake), I'll spend nearly two weeks of productive time on Facebook every year.
Add 30 minutes a day on Pinterest and I've got 22-ish days of productive time spent on these two platforms each year.
This isn't altogether a wasteful or unproductive use of time if it truly has VALUE. Unfortunately, I'm often spending MORE time on social media than the scenario above and receiving LESS VALUE for the time I'm spending.
STEP FOUR: MAKE A FIRM DECISION ON HOW MUCH TIME TO SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND DECIDE HOW YOU WILL SPEND IT.
Decide on your time allotment, and then decide if you will access social media once daily for 30 minutes, twice daily for 15 minutes, etc. Add in allowances for your blog, marketing needs, etc. Will you access your accounts on desktops, laptops, tablets or phones?
STEP FIVE: IMPLEMENT YOUR TIME BUDGET AND GIVE YOURSELF ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SUCCESS.
Find a friend to keep you accountable to your commitments in the beginning days of your budget-following and in the future when you find yourself falling into old patterns of time use.
Need some help keeping yourself personally accountable while using social media on your phone? Click HERE to check out this simple life hack I use to stay on the straight and narrow.