Social media at work

6 top tips to limit the distraction

As we continue on our mission to break down the top 11 productivity killers and help you boost your time management skills, it’s time to tackle social media, something we’re all guilty of wasting time on. So let’s kick the habit and recapture that wasted time with these productivity tips.

Social media has become an extension of ourselves, the endorphin-releasing ‘like’ buttons and never-ending stream of old friends photos and hilarious cat videos can suck us into an addictive hole and affect our work.

While some might say the solution is to block those distracting sites at the office, it’s so ingrained into our day-to-day lives that preventing employees from browsing their feeds could actually do more harm than good in terms of productivity.

In fact, a study by Millennial Branding and American Express found 69% of Gen Y workers feel they should be able to access social media at work without restrictions. Taking away social media entirely is not the best solution if you want to keep morale high and retain your best people. 

The temptation to take a sneak peek at what that buzz was can be intense when you’re bored at work and the fear of missing out (FOMO) can occupy best of us.

6 tips to stop social media from destroying productivity

“My worst productivity killer by far is my iPhone. If they banned any kind of smartphone at work I’d be so much more productive! Everything from Facebook to Twitter (which I only ever go on at work), checking the latest news on an app, looking through photos taken at the weekend, Internet shopping, & calling the husband (who is actually really busy at work!) I even ‘save’ jobs to be done on the Internet for when I’m at work! I’m a lone worker in a clinic so can pretty much get away with being permanently attached to my phone!”

– Lynda, Healthcare Manager

As Lynda highlights in our top 11 productivity killers article, social media can seriously drag down productivity, but cutting it out completely isn’t the answer and, quite simply, isn’t realistic. That’s not to say we can’t learn how to create healthy habits around smartphone usage and control the need to check in every five minutes to help boost our time management skills.

1 Keep your phone tucked away

It seems simple, but it goes back to the basics of any addiction and temptations: it’s much easier to fall off the wagon when it’s right there in your eye line. It may seem extreme, but for some it really is an addiction. When you can see those notifications popping up, the instinct is to pick your phone up, but if you can’t see it… you get the point.

Don’t leave your phone sat next to you on your desk or even in your pocket where you can feel the vibrations. Stick it away in your bag or in a drawer or – in a really extreme case – give it to a trusted colleague who can look after it until later.

2 Give yourself dedicated breaks

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 34% of people who use social media at work do so to take a mental break from their job.

At TallyPro, we know how distracting social media can be while you’re attempting to get something important done, and that’s why scheduling yourself dedicated breaks to check your feeds will help improve your productivity, as well as your mental state!

Danny Bennett, a self-employed graphic designer, said he often finds himself mindlessly picking up his phone in the middle of a project, but finds that putting it away until it’s for a break is the way to keep it under control and productivity in check. He said: “I aim to schedule a few moments each day to take myself away from my desk to catch up on what I might have missed, or read the news or go for a walk. If I don’t, I find myself spending so much of my time, really, doing nothing and just sat on my phone procrastinating.”

Step away before you pick up your phone. By doing so, it also gives you a small reward to work towards, which could boost the amount of work you’re actually getting done, as well as keeping you on task!

3 Track it for the best time management skills

Do you actually know much time you are spending on social media? Keep a record of every spell you spend on Facebook, Instagram and the rest, whether it’s a minute here or a quarter-of-an-hour sesh going through your Twitter feed. It may surprise you to see just how much of your eight-hour working day is dedicated to your employer and how much to social networks.

Keeping a track on working practices and making decisions based on real data rather than hunches is always preferable to guess work. Firms that use time tracking software such as ours can make better business decisions and improve productivity.

4 Delete apps from your phone

Whilst you can access social media sites from your desktop or laptop, the temptation is significantly less if your phone isn’t constantly lighting up and reminding you of their existence next to you. To access sites on your computer, you need to actively type in a web address and navigate away from your current work. In contrast, your work can still be up on the screen whilst you check your phone each time it buzzes.

The research by Pew found that while a total of 78% said social media helps them to refresh themselves or allows them to gain information for work or make professional connections, 56% of workers admitted that it also distracted them from work-related activities.

So, if you can manage to get by without the apps on your phone, then this is a fantastic way to get back to your full productivity potential. You still have access to social media sites through your desktop and can use them for a momentary break and to recharge your batteries, but without the apps on your phone, that constant buzzing distraction gets taken away and suddenly you’re flying through the task at hand.

5 Turn push notifications off

If deleting your apps is just too drastic, then maybe turning off all your push notifications would be the most effective and least dramatic change you could make to boost your output during a workday. Let’s be honest, nothing major really happens on Facebook while you’re at work, anyway. It can wait!

“Anything which goes ping. We can be connected to multiple devices and associated apps at any one time and they all compete for attention. But there’s also an expectation of immediacy in our communications now which can make it hard to ‘plug-out’ and focus on the task in hand.”

– Rebecca, Marketing Director

Rebecca, another of our Top 11 Productivity Killers contributors, would definitely benefit from going into her settings on each app to stop those pesky and distracting jingles to change her workday-flow for the better.

So, if you need your phone with you throughout the day, and want the apps to remain on your home screen, then it’s a simple touch of a button to block any kind of alert sending your phone into a tool of distraction.

6 Get yourself to the water cooler

The clue is in the name: ‘Social’ media. It’s a form of socialising in the modern world, but those needs for interaction and human contact can be found at the office. Make an effort to get to know a new member of staff, or connect with your work buddy for mini breaks to keep your need for contact in check.  

We gain so much more from face-to-face interactions in every aspect of life, and here it is no different. Social media can negatively affect people’s self-confidence, self-worth and ability to effectively communicate, but by taking those few moments to get to know someone who you probably see every single day could work wonders for your productivity and your personal skills.

Danny, who often works at home on his own, said it’s difficult to stay off social media because of wanting some form of conversation or interaction throughout the day.

“I try to arrange to meet a friend or one of my clients in person to break up the day a little. I find I’ll often get more done on those days than I do when I spend all day sat at my desk,” Danny added.

We’re only human, and while social media fills some of the need for interaction, nothing quite does the brain such wonders than face-to-face chats. It might even help boost your time management skills.