How to Stop Twitter Becoming a Waste of Time

twitter-waste-of-time.jpg“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”

Comments

  • January 7, 2009

    Thanks to Twin Toddler Dad, I found Problogger. Check him out. http://tinyurl.com/8jhxw4

  • January 8, 2009

    Nice post.Indeed if we dont have any set objectives about what we are going to tweet about then it can become a waste of time.It has happened to me.Sometimes I have tweeted for 2 hours and then at the end of it i realised that i was just wasting time.So i have set time when i will access my twitter account.I do it in the afternoon,evening and at night

  • January 8, 2009

    This was a great post! Although I am really fond of the “rabbit trails” mentioned, I have been trying to stay more focused and to tweet on topics that I decided to share about when I started being active here. Cannot do the timer thing – too intrusive, for me, but I do try to check and post only 2-3 times daily, usually.

  • January 8, 2009

    Dugg! Good article. http://digg.com/arts_culture/How_to_Stop_Twitter_Becoming_a_Waste_of_Time

    My problem with wasting time is that if I spend too much time off of Twitter I feel like I might be missing some really interesting tweets and I just can’t disconnect from Twitter :\

  • January 8, 2009

    Hi,

    One of the only ways I can manage both Twitter and email is to use the application “Freedom” which shuts down my internet connection for a prescribed period of time.

    http://www.ibiblio.org/fred/freedom/

    Shaun Dakin
    CEO – The National Political Do Not Contact Registry
    @EndTheRobocalls (biz)
    @IsCool (personal)
    @FakeObama44 (fun)

  • January 8, 2009

    Thanks for the tips! I was hesitant to join Twitter because I was afraid it would be just another possible way of wasting time. I joined anyway and have been enjoying the shared info and conversation of the community. However, my initial hesitation was well founded. It is an extremely easy way for me to “lose” time. I’m going to use your suggestions so I can keep using Twitter and also have a highly productive day!

  • January 8, 2009

    I’m with @ashtynevans on this one – I reward myself with time on Twitter for tasks completed. It can become a total obsession!

  • January 8, 2009

    I agree with the statement Don’t follow too many people. Following only those people whom you think are worth following is a nice option. It saves time. Scheduling time for tweeting is also a nice option. I use twuffer.com for that.

  • January 8, 2009

    An old saying ‘a bad workman blames his tools’ comes to mind. I sometimes use Twitter as a ‘water cooler break’ but if someone is spending all his time at the water cooler, surely the fault lies with the person, not the water cooler, right?

  • January 8, 2009

    Excellent tips. I turn off Twhirl when it’s time to focus on design work or when I set out to write blog posts.

  • January 8, 2009

    Darren,
    Gosh, I just can’t believe that you, a top blogger, is impulsive.

    For me, a rising blogger, I am totally not impulsive.

    Whoops! I gotta go, as I just thought of a tweet to post…and I must do it now beca
    Joel Libava
    Cleveland

  • January 8, 2009

    Honestly, I leave it up all day but I only look at it when I need a break or have something to Twitter. I do find myself Twitter at random times sometimes but mostly during work day and relevant to work itself.

  • January 8, 2009

    Thanks for this post. I am at a stage where I think I am just wasting time. I turn my twhirl on, and can scan topics and who is on, then what next. I am trying to be more purposeful. This post will help me. I like the idea of setting time aside, specifically for twitter. You always have good stuff. Thanks again.

  • January 8, 2009

    Conversation on certain niche is good. Sometimes have fun out of the topics is not that bad also. Nice suggestion!

  • January 8, 2009

    Thanks for those advices, I believe that groups in Tweetdeck are the best way to avoid some time-to-time interesting tweeters. What I do in order to keep this “addiction” controlled is unfollowing some people once in a month. Cheers!

  • January 8, 2009

    It’s true. It’s easy to let Twitter interrupt you work. I let my Twitter app open but learned quite to ignore it. I check you once in a while – my five minutes off – what is going on and look up if some of my favorite people on twitter twitted something.









    Most of them are well known. Are they all wasting there time. I think not!

  • January 8, 2009

    I consciously decide (or try to) when to fritter away time on twitter which I define as having a series of snappy personal exchanges with followers who are willing to play with me in that way. I’m calling this my Twitter Tea Time and literally sit down with a cup of tea and a cookie. Okay, more than one cookie!

  • January 8, 2009

    I think a morning scan is the most effective time that I use Twitter. This provides me with food for thought for the day, and an opportunity to engage in conversation throughout the day.

  • January 8, 2009

    It’s all about your focus–Twitter becomes a distraction for me becuase I feel like it’s always controlling what I’m reading when I need to be focused on getting stuff done.

    I can’t personally have TweetDeck up on the screen all the time b/c it’s just too easy to read, just like IMs. But if I’m reading my RSS feeds and tweeting out interesting stuff I see, this is perfect time to keep it open. But otherwise, get down to real work and just text in your tweets if random thoughts pop into your head.

  • January 8, 2009

    Another great article, Darren! I don’t consider any time I spend on Twitter to be a waste – I try to make my use as effective as possible – I’m there to network and build meaningful relationships.

    For those of us working from home it’s a virtual office with virtual colleagues and I value the companionship. Sure, it’s easy to get drawn into meaningless chatter (just like in the ‘real’ world) but, if you limit yourself to the most productive stuff, the time spent pays off.

    I do agree with Krishna though, and the statement about not following too many people – that really can be a problem. I limit friends to those who share my interests and values, and don’t automatically follow everyone who follows me.

  • January 8, 2009

    These are some great tips. So many people are wasting time Twitter every day. They do not know how to use it correctly and so they’re getting nowhere but wasting time. Hopefully people will take these tips to heart and implement them today.

  • January 8, 2009

    Thanks for this post, Darren. What I have found most helpful is to ask myself, “Why am I spending all this time on Twitter?” (or checking email, or whatever other distraction has me NOT focusing on what needs my focus). What is it in me that needs this distraction? What is not being satisfied? And are there other (more productive) ways I could satisfy that, so I’m not wasting time?

    Sometimes it helps, and sometimes that part of me just says, “Oh go away – I need this distraction” – or more to the point, like a kid who doesn’t want to come inside from playing, it says, “Just 5 more minutes?”

    Hildy

  • January 8, 2009

    Twitter can be counter-productive in the workplace or the academy. An employer or school may have good reason to forbid it. –Ben

  • January 8, 2009

    I’d also add, learn to easily spot the avatars of the people you know offer content you are drawn to and filter the rest instead of reading every tweet. Scan.

  • January 8, 2009

    Very timely and valuable information. Thank you for helping me and all of us “save time” with Twitter!

    ~Phil Johncock
    Tahoe/Reno
    http://twitter.com/PhilJohncock

  • January 8, 2009

    Great post! I’m a “flitter”, as well. Fortunately, I’ve been able to structure my twitter time. When you’re in a startup phase, as I am, you simply can’t flit away valuable (literally) time.

    Alan

  • January 8, 2009

    Guilty as charged. I waste way too much time just jumping from here to there, looking for interesting tweets, @replies, if I have any directs, new followers, etc…

    I like the idea of setting aside a small piece of your day to review, respond, interact, then be done. Easy to say, hard to do. Setting a scheduled time to tweet would also make sense so that others will know when you are regularly present, if they have something about which they need or want to talk to you. Sounds like adding your twitter schedule to your profile might be the next new thing. ;)

    Thanks for giving us all something important to think about.

  • January 8, 2009

    Twitter … it certainly is ADDICTING! Great post – thank you!

  • January 8, 2009

    I like the batching of time and tasks (efficiency) and not following too many people (quality and not quantity). The 80/20 rule is very helpful too.

  • January 8, 2009

    I’m also a ‘compulsive’ twitter… tehe.. Starting to get better with my Twitter time mangement. Using Groups in Tweetdeck makes it easier to structure and keep up with intresting tweets. When do you actually know that you are following to many? Some follow 100’s, and some follow 1000’s.

  • January 8, 2009

    I reward myself for getting a work-related task done; in between tasks, I’ll take a short break and check Twitter. So if you see me tweeting, it’s because I’ve been productive (usually).

    I also follow people deliberately; instead of following everyone who follows us, I check out their profile first and see if they tweet anything I find interesting or useful.

    I’d rather have fewer, more meaningful relationships on Twitter than thousands of completely shallow ones.

    Laura Christianson
    Co-founder, http://www.heblogssheblogs.com
    Business & Corporate Blogging Services

  • January 8, 2009

    Keeping on topic is quite difficult sometimes when your topic is as broad as mine. Well actually I’ll have to reassess mine. Thanks for the advice mate.

  • January 8, 2009

    No. 5 is right on. Enough said.

  • January 8, 2009

    Thank you for pointing out to make sure you keep your blog, other social sites going etc….At first I found it challenging and now I feel like I have a handle on keeping these balls in the air. You are right….keep the focus.

  • January 8, 2009

    I’m bookmarking this post so I can return to it later. Lots of helpful information here, esp. on boundary-setting.

    Writers can use also Twitter strategically to boost their productivity.

    You may find a recent blog post of mine, “Using Twitter to Beat Procrastination and Boost Your Writing” helpful.

    Coach Marla
    http://www.TheRelaxedWriter.com

  • January 8, 2009

    Fantastic post! The idea of having an online “home” away from Twitter is important. That was my biggest take-away from this article. (And, of course, the focus and time-saver tips were fantastic, too! :-) )

  • January 8, 2009

    I thought the point of twitter was 2 waste time, with the odd bit of useful info thrown in

  • January 8, 2009

    Another great post.

    Twitter, as with anything on the web, takes a lot for me to stay focused and not wander off into never never land.

    I can go in with a task on my mind and easily be led off in an entirely opposite direction and accomplish very little.

  • January 8, 2009

    No one has mentioned that before placing restrictions on how you use your time on twitter, it might be an idea just to observe yourself doing so. Self awareness is a key to understanding how much of your time is devoted to twitter, and what that time is used for.

    Darren, this also fits in with understanding what your motivation is for using twitter in the first place. If you don’t know the how and the why, you aren’t going to get much value out of it.

    There are many good stats mashups available. Take a look at how you use twitter, before you modify your behaviour to satisfy some externally imposed value based judgement.

    This might be a contentious point, but I see time-managment, or any adherence to prescribed productivity ‘hacks’ is going to reduce your ability to enjoy twitter and to learn from the experience.

    Buddha once said that it’s not wise to hinder a man escaping from a burning house. He was responding to his father’s wish for him not to act on foolish impulse. His argument was that life is enough of a prison, and death will snatch us away before we have a chance to fully appreciate its wonders.

    Enjoy your time on twitter, don’t take it too seriously and you may learn something from it about your self.

  • January 8, 2009

    Not kidding about a waste of time. I lost a day. I thought today was Jan 7th.

  • January 8, 2009

    Good Article. I wish more people followed the 80/20 rule. Sifting through the noise for the ‘real’ conversation is challenging.

  • January 8, 2009

    Very good common sense suggestions. I just commented on my own twitter-lash suggestion a need for a semantic short hand similar to SMS for content/category filtering.

  • January 8, 2009

    I was reluctant at first to use Twitter, thinking it was just another fad and time bandit but I gave it a try and have loved it since. Made many new offline connections from those online. I use it more for networking so to me there is never a waste in that but I am careful with my time.

  • January 8, 2009

    While I agree with Neil to a very small degree (that twitter is used to waste time), with the use of tools like twitterurly.com we see it emerging as a highly effective mass media tool.

  • January 9, 2009

    Maybe I should clarify – I mainly use twitter mainly for fun – to fill the odd 20 seconds here and there (ok, 10 minutes). However I have also gained alot of useful info from the people I follow, which I use in work and life.

    Twitter can be what you want it to be, but a waste of time is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • January 9, 2009

    I’m about to hold a Twitter seminar next week. I’m definitely going to include this!

    It’s fun, it’s valuable, it’s life-altering, but it’s also addicting and consuming. Thanx for these tips for managing it.

    Now, back to my regularly scheduled day. :)

  • January 9, 2009

    I use tweetscan to search for keywords when I’m too busy to use Twitter. Then, I go back and read what I find interesting later, when I have a chance. I hate the feeling that I’ve missed something important!

    BTW: I love that you offer a place for our Twitter ID in your response area. :o )

  • January 9, 2009

    Twitter is a wonderful service, but its effectivenes is depend on ‘man behind the gun’. This post gives me deep explanations about how to use twitter effectively. Awesome. Thanks.

  • January 9, 2009

    Hi, just came across this post via friendfeed and had to comment. It is good to see that I’m not alone in my twitter addiction ☺ I have been trying to limit myself more on twitter and trying to focus my tweets more on topics I am interested in or my followers might be interested by using keywords in twhirl or tweetdeck. I also have groups in tweetdeck, however tweetdeck crashes on me more often so I tend to use twhirl more. I enjoy learning about new sites, tools, parenting tips, news/politics and more so I have found twitter a great source to keep up with all these things without subscribing to tons of newsletters. Then if the 140 character tweet interests me enough I’ll favorite/bookmark it for later or retweet it and click the link to read more. Great article/post! Thanks!

  • January 9, 2009

    Before opening twitter, I give myself a time limit, and close the window when the time is up (sometimes) ;-)

  • January 10, 2009

    I like the idea of rotating your Twitter time each new week. For example, one week, I’ll only pop in around lunch time. Another week, I’ll Twitter mid-afternoons a while, etc. You’re continuously exposed to a different crowd this way.

  • January 10, 2009

    Sigh… I this is helpful, but somehow I still feel like I’m missing something re twitter. Of course I felt that way about blogging the first 6 months or so. I know if I keep poking at it my use and comfort will evolve.

    Thanks for helping with that process.

    Anne Wayman, now blogging at http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com

  • January 10, 2009

    thnk you its a great plan and post that make my thing in whit plan i have for twitter.

  • January 10, 2009

    Just like emails, you have to gain control of your time spent on Twitter. I set a specific time which I will spend it totally on Twitter and other social networking platforms. Some of the activities that I will do apart from tweeting are looking out for people with similar interests, follow conversations that I am tracking as well as replying to tweets of others.

    With a limited time rather than tweeting all day long, you will actually tweet good stuffs rather than what you had for lunch which followers in my niche hate. :)

    Wayne Liew
    http://www.wayneliew.com

  • January 13, 2009

    I use Tweet Later for about 15 minutes each morning. (still trying to decide how many tweets). I reward myself with a few Tweet breaks during the day. Then of course if I find something amazing I tweet it.

    I RT your Facebook vs Twitter. I don’t think I can fit in much Facebook.

  • January 15, 2009

    Great point about understanding why you are using Twitter. I had been on it since mid-2007, but didn’t see how it applied to anything of importance to me. It seemed that most of was about boring details of peoples’ lives.

    Relooking at what I was doing online in 2009, I now use it actively to generate links to interesting articles and websites that feed live into my blog. All of a suddent Twitter makes great sense.

  • January 31, 2009

    Define “waste of time”. As Shefaly said, ‘a bad workman blames his tools’. Twitter isn;t the problem. This is the age-old problem of Time Management combined with one more thing.

    If you’re spending your time on Twitter to the exclusion of something else you need to do, you need to ask yourself why the other thing isn’t holding your attention? Bored at work? Procrastinating? Not enough to do?

    If you didn’t have Twitter, what else might you “waste” time on? Television? Talking to co-workers? Email? Mindless tasks? If you’re avoiding what you should be doing, Twitter isn’t to blame. The problem has a deeper root.

    I read Twitter on my daily commute or in the evenings when relaxing. Sometimes it’s Twitter; other times I read a book. During the work day, I dip into Twitter on occasion but, if I find myself turning frequently to Twitter (or email) I know it’s not Twitter causing the problem. I “waste” time in Twitter only when I have an excess of time with nothing else to do in it.

    Ask yourself: why is this all that comes to mind to do with this time?

  • February 11, 2009
    Barbara
    @bartayz

    Great post. My personality is like yours. I need to be more focused and not twitter from one thing to the next.

  • April 23, 2009
    shawn kearney

    yeah. twitter sucks. there is no way for twitter to not be a waste of time. I mean, how arrogant must you be to think that people really care about what you’re doing? Does anyone actually pay attention to other tweets? Do twitter tweeters pay attention to other twitter tweets?

    Twitter is just a waste of technology.

  • July 24, 2009

    Very helpful, I will definitely have to stick to some structure as I tend to go overboard and end up clogging peoples feeds. Re-tweeting this :)

  • April 6, 2010

    I’m surfing internet till I found your website. I’ll visit you again.

    Anyway, visit me for sometime ^_^
    HDTV Buyer Guide

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