Tame The Beast: How To Use Twitter So It Doesn’t Suck Up Your Time And Attention

By James Mallinson – Follow him @jmallinson

As useful and fun as Twitter can be, it can also be both addictive and a major distraction. Many times in the past I’ve tried to write a blog post or work on some other big project and I’d lose my focus because I had Twitter open and kept getting drawn to it, wanting to tweet something, see what others were tweeting or just reply to somebody. Of course, this is a common and well documented problem with most social media sites, but I’ve found Twitter to be particularly bad, if for no other reason that it’s so simple and quick to use.

It’s now increasingly documented that multi-tasking, and just generally allowing distractions into your life is a poor way of getting things done. If you’re tweeting while trying to do your work, that work will take much longer and require more effort to do. If you don’t want to waste your time like that, try implementing these four tips when using Twitter:

Set limits

stopwatchThe first, and perhaps most effective measure is to set limits. That could involve having particular days on when to tweet, setting time limits or even tweet limits (how many tweets you will make per day). Rather than dipping in and out of Twitter when it calls to you, putting aside perhaps an hour a day or choosing Saturday to use it when you know you’re going to be least busy, means you can really give your tweeting the attention it deserves, and thus shut it out of your mind the rest of the time.

Identify what you want to achieve

You like Twitter. You use it regularly. Why? Why are you craving all those followers and tweeting fifty times a day? So many people use Twitter without understanding what they’re getting out of it. Are you trying to promote a product? Make new friends? Interact with interesting people? Identify what you want to get out of your Twitter experience so that you can tweet with purpose and focus. Tweeting for the sake of it is a very easy-but-bad habit to slip into.

What value are you offering?

Sorry to say it, but the vast bulk of tweets are irrelevant. Tweeting every little thought and activity you have and do is pointless (and it has indeed caused Twitter a lot of ridicule in the past). If you think a little before each tweet as to whether it has value, meaning and worth, both to yourself, your followers and the wider audience, you will make your overall Twitter experience and the time you put into it much more satisfying and meaningful.

Cut out distractions

When I originally downloaded Tweetdeck, as useful as I found it to be, it was initially also a big attention whore. Beeping every time it updated, refreshing every couple of seconds… it was so distracting, it was difficult to not be drawn away from whatever else I was doing. I’ve now tamed it to the point where I can look at it when I want to. The same goes for whatever app you use, including any email notifications you might get from Twitter. And of course if that doesn’t work, just use the golden rule – close Twitter until you’re ready to use it!

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  • September 15, 2009

    Different people are going to be able to manage it in different ways but for me I have to turn it off completely as I know that the slightest little break in my work and I will be popping in for a look. The fact that you will then spot a link and go off and read that makes it all the more wasteful. Don’t really agree about using it on Saturdays though as there is hardly anybody online.

  • September 15, 2009

    It’s hard to keep myself from tweeting about every little thing that’s happening throughout the day. You’re absolutely right when it comes to identifying what you want to achieve (then focus on that when it comes to your tweets) and pay close attention to the values of your tweets.

    I try to either retweet interesting information, answer questions, share my blog posts, and share my thoughts on particular subjects related to my niche.

    … but it’s hard to do the right thing, and if all my tweets should be related to my niche or not. About an hour ago, I sent a tweet about how to get tickets to the Depeche Mode concert in Gothenburg, which has nothing to do with why I’m using twitter (but sometimes I just want to share interesting information, not sure if that’s a good idea or not).

    - jens

  • September 15, 2009
    Ramki B Ramakrishnan

    I open twitter only when i can; most of the times i end up tweeting whenever i catchup on my RSS feeds. This happens mostly in the evenings (i am +5:30GMT) because of this i miss lot of interesting stuff.

    Wondering if i can configure twitter on my google reader…

  • September 15, 2009

    I don’t spend enough time on twitter for many of the reasons that you mentioned about the quality of posts. Good advice though.

  • September 15, 2009

    I have 3 Twitter Account so I only allow myself 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening to Tweet. Anymore than that and it’s a waste of time and way too much twittering for my followers to read and respond.

  • September 15, 2009


    I was really terrible with my Time Management on Twitter.

    Now I use Mind Mapping for my Twitter approach. Works well for me. Not 100 % perfect yet dough.

    I see you point with some of the third party application. Every time I check them out I tend to get distracted, and spend a lot of time figure out all the features the program has to offer.

    Dough gaining new knowledge take time. But for me one of the keys is to learn saying ‘NO’. You can’t just figure it all out by yourself.

    Have become much better now with my Mind mapping process to schedule my daily activities.

    Cheers.. Are

  • September 15, 2009

    Thanks for the suggestions and information’s.
    I hope 10 Tips to save time on Twitter helps you

  • September 15, 2009

    I think you’ve hit on a big point – there’s a time and place for everything. And when you’re right in the middle of a deadline, or trying to finish your blog posts for the week, it’s probably not wise to be trying to tweet at the same time. I’ve scheduled time for Twitter on a daily basis, otherwise I know I’d just be consumed by it. Thanks for the insights!

  • September 15, 2009

    that is why is called twitter. people get adicted to twitting all the time. though i think that those that realy want to do their work (e.g. bloging) then i’m sure is not that hard to just turn the twitdeck off.

  • September 15, 2009

    Did you see John Chow dropping all of his followers except 113 so he could use twitter with his PDA? It’s a big change in the usual Twitter follower strategy. I have one account that I don’t add follows unless I really want to follow someone.

  • September 16, 2009

    Yes, you give the right points.

    I try to limit my time on Twitter also.
    I seldom use Tweetdeck in order to reduce distractions although it is a great tool. Most of the time, I check the tweets of my good friends on Twitter and seek for useful information.

    I’m looking forward your posts always :)

  • September 16, 2009

    Waste less time by not tweeting at all, for god’s sake. It’s pretty damn likely that whatever you were going to read or write was pap for or by morons anyway. Just get back to work.

  • September 17, 2009

    Tom – thanks for the laugh.

    Time and attention management are the biggest problems we face . All the tools in the world won’t help with something we need to develop from the inside. I have timers, pop-ups, schedules, but I’m still sucked in. This will be the biggest hurdle for most people.

  • September 18, 2009

    It is pretty hard to stop myself from using twitter! and if I have some work to do and to finish I never try to open it because it may cause the delay of all the stuff I am suppose to do.

  • September 27, 2009

    I’m not addicted yet to twitter but reading this helps me prepare and manage my time using the internet for other stuffs and twitter.. thanks

  • December 3, 2009

    This is a very helpful post because I am finding myself falling into a virtual quicksand trap time-wise trying to keep up with my Twitter growth & goals. Social Media in general can be a major time drain, and posts like this are good reminders of how to manage it all!

  • March 11, 2010

    Twitter growth & goals. Social Media in general can be a major time drain, and posts like this are good reminders of how to manage it all!

  • April 20, 2010

    you give the right points thank you.

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