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I did a video interview with Social Web Café the other day and Deb made a comment on just how much I have going on at the same time and we talked a little bit about efficiency, automation and being able to manage so many channels, blogs and tasks at once. I thought about the things over the years that were inefficient and required trimming as well as the items which helped me focus to become more productive at all my various tasks and responsibilities and one of the key items was focus. Focusing on the task at hand without distraction is probably the most significant way to be efficient now.
I was always prone to massive distraction, having a bit of a hyperactive issue (probably some mild undiagnosed ADD and ADHD) I tend to think about fifty things at the same time and constantly task switch, I call it task switch because humans truly aren’t capable of multitasking. Our brains are like single thread CPU’s and we merely keep changing focus constantly when we choose to do multiple tasks at the same time. This leads to incredible inefficiency and you are never 100% focused on one task but instead let’s say 2 tasks get 70% of the full attention if you attempt them at the same time, I won’t say it is an exact 50% divide but the brain does have a hard time doing one thing, quickly switching and doing something else, switching back to what you were originally doing and repeating.
This is especially a disaster in writing/blogging and in programming/scripting, where being distracted or being interrupted can ruin a train of thought, a groove if you will and leave you spending minutes trying to remember where you were at and where you wanted to go with what you were doing. This is one reason why Social Media as great as it is for bloggers can be a huge inefficiency for those who are trying to work on producing content. You need to know when to turn off the distractions, even if they provide meaningful value to complete the tasks at hand.
Here is a list of ways to improve efficiency at least while writing/blogging but can apply with some adaptation to other areas of work as well.
Dedicate a Time Frame
Set a time where you will work on something and then you will do nothing else but work on that item. I do this at my day job, if I need to put myself in Do Not Disturb and spend 30 minutes doing nothing but working on that Power Point presentation for management. I also do the same thing when blogging such as not checking emails or Facebook for a good 1/2 hour while I do nothing but test a product or write a blog post. This one alone is a good example.
Music Sets the Mood
When writing for me, sometimes music can really put me into a writing groove. Find something that matches your mood and preferably if you are require attention to detail then something that doesn’t have vocals like a soundtrack is perfect as you don’t try to sing along or hear the lyrics which can interfere with you writing words. If I get some good tunes going I can often just churn out a good 3 or 4 blog posts in an hour or even write documentation at work or something like that. This is ideal when you can be uninterrupted without any calls and can dedicate some time and at least 30 minutes to working on something.
30 Minutes Like Candy Crush
You notice how I keep coming back to 30 minute segments? It is like Candy Crush which is a game I never played actually but I have read about how it teaches people to escape for those 30 minute segments of play. You can break your day out into 30 minute blocks of efficiencies and plan ahead to be really efficient. How about after dinner one night, you try and think about your next day, break your 8 hour work day (assuming 8 hours) into sixteen 30 minute segments and figure out what you will be doing each of those 30 minutes. Say for your first 30 minutes you will get through as many emails as possible, then you will stop checking all emails and the next 30 minutes you spend working on another task. If some tasks can’t be done in 30 minutes, take a full hour and remember to add 2 15 minute breaks or 3 10 minute breaks to re-charge, walk around, run around the block, or jog up and down some stairs if you are in a multi-level building to get the blood flowing.
Automation is Key
Despite the appearance that we are everywhere all the time, we need to rest, sleep, have family time and our own time away unplugged. This is where automation is key as when you are an online presence your content is accessible 24×7 and your audience is also 24×7 just because you published an article at 6am doesn’t mean you can’t set up some scheduled tweets or social media promotions at 8pm to make sure your audience in distant time zones just starting their cup of coffee can’t see what you wrote in their morning news feed.
I leverage tools like Hootsuite Pro, Gremln, to make sure content is queued for all hours of the day and night. Hootsuite also has a hootlet tool where you install on your browser and just click and autoschedule articles you visit for later, it works very similar to Buffer but can reach far more networks on the cheaper plan. Buffer has some better limitations on number of shares per day however to prevent too much automated sharing.
Hootsuite lets you connect 50 networks on the pro plan and this allows you to broadcast your articles or information into everything from LinkedIn Groups to Facebook Groups and fanpages. It even lets you hook your blog RSS feed and auto publish it to your Google Plus Business Page too.
Finally, I don’t freelance social media communications but I do freelance some graphic design work, some written articles when I need something specific covered and none of my main freelance writers are available and when I need some extra promotion or marketing for something. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to do everything and knowing where to spend and re-invest some of your earnings from your online ventures can help improve efficiency and free you up to create the content. I have heard of people even hiring VPA (Virtual Private Assistants) who can sort through emails, bring important items to attention, do research and collect information, run surveys, and more.
Bottom line, is think about each day as slices of time and dedicate those blocks of time to doing 1 task at a time, don’t try and converse on Facebook and Twitter and write a blog post at the same time. You will end up not putting your best into your written work.