What would your dream workday look like? Mine would go as follows: I come to the office, turn on my computer and one by one start doing the tasks on my to do list, having a clear mind flow and giving 100% percent to what I am doing. As I am highly productive, I finish my to do list 2 hours before the end of my workday and go home early.
Sadly I have never experienced such day in my life! I suffer from inability to concentrate, as my mind keeps jumping from one idea to the other and I reckon the level of my productivity is less than 50%. When I do manage to concentrate, I can suddenly start having an urge to check my LinkedIn feed/Facebook/Instagram or an intranet at work. I feel that my mind is blocked, constrained, not controlled by me. Back in 2019, I successfully got rid of a habit to reading news daily, but later I noticed that my attention shifted to more frequent social media checking. I was doing so out of habit, not out of interest. For example, I can’t explain why I was so attracted to checking my LinkedIn almost every hour, as 90% of my connections were people I didn’t even know, promoting their business-related communication, I didn’t care about. As I had more time on the weekends, I was spending more time on my phone, and around 45 minutes on Instagram alone.
I knew I couldn’t continue having myself distracted on daily basis and realised that I have a serious problem. Constant need to distract myself was affecting my ability to not only work on important assignments but also made me incapable to achieve my personal and career goals. It had to change! Here are simple steps, that helped me getting rid of social media checking habit.
1. List your reasons to use social media/procrastinate on a piece of paper
I noticed that very often when I am working on a serious task, some weird and rather insignificant questions come to my mind: ‘I wonder how old is Cameron Diaz now?’, ‘are there any new properties in my city listed? I want to see them’. This random fact check often leads to a 5-minute procrastination session, where I catch myself reading some articles unrelated to the original query. What can you do if you face similar issue? Write down all these questions that pop up to your head on a separate piece of paper and allow yourself to come back to them either after your lunch break or after a certain hour (when you assume you will be finished with your most important tasks). Obviously, at the end of you day, they will look less important.
2. Reward yourself
Psychologist Neil Fiore, Ph.D explores the procrastination habit in his book “The Now Habit”. According to Fiore, the main reason why people procrastinate is the lack of reward for each accomplished task. The brain is not motivated to keep working for a long time, as finishing your tasks will only mean… getting even more to do! Thus, first you need to plan your rewards. What would you like your reward to be? Watch the newest video of your favorite content creator? Read some gossip? Have a piece of chocolate? Choose anything. But remember, you can only do it/get it once you perform a task.
3. Develop clear metrics system
If you want to track your progress and see your improvement clearly, you need to track your ‘misdemeanors’ (such as checking Facebook for 4 minutes, reading news for 5 minutes, etc.). Sometimes you will not remember what time exactly you entered Facebook, but hey you have Ctrl + h function to track your search history (it also works as a wake up call – I am always embarrassed to see how many random people profiles I scrolled on Facebook during a day!).
At the end of the day you can count the time you wasted during your workday and do some push-ups/sit ups/anything that requires effort as your punishment.
4. Start with a short-term challenge
Such as: a week without Facebook or Instagram. I did this challenge with a friend of mine, so it was much easier to complete. It was so tempting to check my accounts every single day, but I kept reminding myself that once it’s finished, I will be able to catch up and view all the stories and read all the posts of my favorite people! Plus, I could not give up the challenge when I was in it with someone. This social media free week helped me realize that my addiction is under control, and I do have a lot of willpower. The challenge motivated me to pursue this goal even further, so on Sunday, once the challenge was over, I decided to take the step further and deactivated my Facebook for a week! I only had the messenger left, so I could be found by anyone who needed me.
5. Find 10-minute workout to do
I realised that after 10 minutes of exercising (I do abs for 5 minutes and legs for 5 minutes), I get an energy wave and could concentrate more on my tasks for the next hour or so. In a way, it helps building up your will power and motivation to work.
You will probably realise that the biggest reason why you are interested in checking your social media accounts multiple times a day, is the need to escape your current occupation, which may be an intense or boring mental task. And that’s normal. But those who learn to control their habits, achieve the most. Start now!