“Twitter is a Waste of Time” – it is a criticism that has been leveled at Twitter many times over and while I’m one of Twitters biggest fans I’m also in agreement that Twitter can be a compete waste of time. I’ve wasted time on Twitter and I’ve seen many others do it. In fact recently when I asked my followers about the topic I found that most people could relate to the idea of wasting time on Twitter.
So how do you stop yourself from letting Twitter become a waste of time?
Below are a few of my own tips on the topic – interspersed with a few tips and comments from my own followers on Twitter.
1. Know Why You’re Using Twitter
If you don’t know why you’re using Twitter it is highly likely that you’ll either not use it beyond your first day or two or you’ll use it in such an unfocused way that you’ll end up wasting time with the medium.
Set aside a few minutes to think about your goals and objectives for using Twitter. You don’t need to over think it but identifying what you want to achieve helps you to be much more effective as a Twitter User.
@timbursch – “Have a purpose for being here and tweeting. Don’t follow too many rabbit trails.”
2. Batch Tweeting
The days that I’ve wasted the most time on Twitter have generally been those days when I allowed myself to be on and off Twitter all day without any real structure. My personality type is that I tend to be quite impulsive and flit to one thing to another on the spur of the moment. The problem is that I can easily get to the end of a day and have completely wasted my time.
I’m aware of this and know I need to work on it so these days I set aside short bursts of time especially to work on specific tasks and activities.
So instead of jumping on Twitter for an unspecified time I set aside 20 minutes at the start of each day to ‘Tweet’ to my hearts content. Then I set aside batches of time for other activities. Later in the day I’ll put another amount of time aside for Twitter and then another one before I head to bed.
I find that when I take this ‘batching’ approach with my day that I’m able to really focus and be much more effective in all of my activities (not just Twitter). I’ve written a little more about how I use ‘batch processing’ to make me more productive here.
@tlyons – “I limit my time into bunches. Like email. Morning check, scan, Afternoon check scan, Evening check Scan.”
@rocksinmydryer – “Set specific time limits for yourself, and then stick to them.”
@obamafoodorama – “Choose a specific time to tweet, whether it’s an hour or every 3 or twice a day.”
3. Discipline and Boundaries
Of course batch processing calls for discipline and to ensure it works there are times when the temptation to ‘just have a quick look’ is too great. So like many of my followers mention below – one of the best ways to ensure you don’t waste time on Twitter is to switch it off, shut down twitter clients or even get offline altogether.
@tarynp – “close my twitter apps… All of them! & set timer/alarm@30min intervals to allow brief twitter check ins… Or disable Net.”
@thelight – “1)log in only when you have totally free time 2)set a time limit 3)log in when u r netsurfing”
@SarahSingforhim – “set aside the first or last five minutes of the hour to check in, and set a timer!”
@Matt_Siltala – “I just tell my wife to not let me go near Twitter for “x” amounts of hours and she is happy to oblige”
@soniasimone – “Sometimes I have to just create a temporary boundary. Something like “no Twitter before noon.” Helps me get back on track.”
@acclimedia – “The only way for me is to exit Twhirl and close the Twitter and search.twitter.com tabs. Too tempting otherwise.”
@jankoonline – “You absolutely have to shut it down so you can concentrate. No other alternative. It sucks your time away from you!”
Interesting to see how many of them use some sort of ‘timer’.
4. Keep on Topic
Having identified WHY you’re using Twitter in point #1 above you now have a framework for staying on track. The hard part is staying disciplined and undistracted in your use of Twitter.
My own approach with keeping on topic is to not be too hard on myself but to keep the majority of what I Tweet to the topics that I’ve set for myself to Tweet about. This means that I do at times touch on more personal topics (what I’m doing socially, family stuff etc) but attempt to keep most of my tweeting to the topics of blogging, twitter, social media etc.
Of course how much you allow yourself to get personal and off topic will vary from person to person and will depend upon what you set your goals as in step #1.
@drflower – “Tweet with a purpose and a theme…use the 80/20 rule. 80% purpose 20% other.”
@ajlovesya – “make twitter productive by focusing on all tweets related to my business/blog/sector.”
5. Leverage it to Your Own Property
One last tip that I’ll give is to not just invest your online time into Twitter but to develop your own online home of some kind. The problem with investing all of your online efforts into Twitter is that you could well be investing yourself into something that will not have lasting value. While we’re seeing Twitter grow in popularity at the moment it is bound to have its ups and downs in popularity. It is also bound to have ups and downs in terms of how much you’re interested in it too.
What happens when you lose interest in Twitter or when (heaven forbid) it dies as a platform or becomes unpopular? All the time and energy that you put into building your Twitter profile up could have been largely wasted unless you’ve found a way to create a place to connect with your followers outside of Twitter.
I recommend doing this not just on another social network but to build something of your own – on your own domain if possible. Whether it be a blog, a lifestreaming page, a static home page or some other type of website – having your own home means you have control over it and are investing something that you will always be able to determine how it is used.
Don’t be afraid to invest time into Twitter (and other social media sites) but also consider what you’re building online that might last beyond Twitter. For more on this – I’ve written a little more on how I use social media sites like Twitter as ‘outposts’ and my own blogs as ‘home bases’.
A Few More Tips from My Followers
@dalesio – “Don’t follow too many people. Too many people will create noise and will distract your from the real conversation.”
@malcolli – “Great topic! I use groups on Tweetdeck while at work. Pay attention to certain group alerts only to avoid too much wastage.”
@Gayla – “I use search 4 keywords & tagged favs 2 speed up when short on time”
@hnuttall – “I consider whether my current task requires my full attention. I only sign into Twitter when I can afford distractions.”
@ashtynevans – “Its all about prioritizing. I try to use Twitter time as a reward for tasks completed if I get things done I get more time here”