Agonizing over your number of likes on Facebook and Instagram, or itching to get more followers on Twitter and LinkedIn? Don’t blame yourself. Tech leaders have finally begun to admit lately what the rest of us already know: Social platforms are built to be addictive.
Of course, that doesn’t make social media an unalloyed evil. Many of us depend on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn not just to stay in touch with our friends, but in order to do our jobs and advance our careers. So even though social media may be affecting you negatively–whether through a barrage of distractions or social comparisons that can dent your own self-esteem–quitting cold turkey still might not be the best option. Try setting a few boundaries like these instead.
1. Avoid Social Media Before Lunchtime
You already know how important your morning routine can be for kicking off a productive workday. No matter what routine you follow, it should not involve checking your social media updates.
Start your day with productive activities like going for a jog, writing a morning journal, or practice a mindfulness technique to set the tone for your day and stay focused right after getting up. Logging into your social accounts early in the morning will cloud your thoughts and hamper your productivity, and looking at someone else’s vacation pics probably won’t boost your mood. As for that funny cat video, it may be cute, but won’t exactly help you focus on your work.
What will? Try making a to-do list the night before, then forcing yourself to cross off at least three items before checking your social media. By the time you do, it’ll probably be close to lunchtime, and you’ll be ready for a break anyway. But by then, you’ll already have gained a small sense of accomplishment that will carry into the rest of your workday.
2. Mute Or Unfollow But Stay Friends
You don’t need to drop your connections altogether, you just need to limit how much their updates affect you. Chances are there are at least a few people in your network who are simply overactive on social media, constantly bombarding you with updates, video clips, and breakfast coffee photos. None of that content is especially meaningful to you, even though knowing and staying connected with them is.
Facebook lets you “unfollow” friends without disconnecting from them entirely, and Twitter allows you to “mute” people you follow without actually unfollowing them. Take advantage of these features, and don’t feel guilty about it. The goal is just to clear up and quiet down your feeds.
3. Don’t Save Your Login Info
It’s no accident that social media platforms let you dive into the app just by tapping an icon on your phone or by logging you in automatically on your web browser. Since they make that so easy, it’s up to you to make it a little harder.
Change your phone or browser settings so they don’t store the passwords to your accounts. Then, rather than just closing Google Chrome or swiping away your Instagram app when you’re done with it, take the time to actually log out. Yes, it’s cumbersome, and that’s the point! This simple step can go a long way toward decreasing your curiosity to check your social feeds, knowing that it’s going to take you the extra effort of typing in your credentials every single time.
You can also uninstall your your apps from your smart phone to make sure your social media is available only while you’re sitting at your desk. This can also bring down the time you spend endlessly scrolling your newsfeeds.
4. Follow Relevant Groups Or Lists
A final way to reduce social media overload without quitting altogether is simply to better curate your newsfeeds. Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, or create lists on Twitter. The point is to get yourself among like-minded people who can discuss and share valuable information about what matters to you.
Want to lose weight? Follow a fitness or runners’ group. Want to read more? Join a book club. Hoping for some meditation tips and support? Add mindfulness organizations and gurus to a Twitter list. You can also follow or like pages that can help you stay up to date with specific types of information, like news, sports, or tech outlets.
Yes, you’re still a people person who likes to stay connected. But by sticking to these habits, you’ll become more intentional about the ways you stay connected–and the times when you don’t.
Ash Rao is a global talent acquisition expert at Verizon, as well as a certified career coach whose insights have appeared in ThriveGlobal and Social Hire. You can connect with Ash at her blog and on Twitter or LinkedIn.