The impact of social media on productivity

How I earned thousands after removing social media distraction

Warning: smug post ahead. #sorrynotsorry

My billable hours have exploded.

More billable hours = more money, right?

My billable hours have increased so much I’m earning thousands more each month.

And this isn’t because I suddenly have new projects thrown at me or I’m working ridiculous amounts after hours or on weekends.

Nope. It’s because I found more hours in my day after discovering the impact social media was having on my productivity. I’ve made some significant changes and am working more hours during my available time.

Time auditing

To make productivity improvements, first, you have to know where your time is going. Really going.

RescueTime is a way to track the time you spend on your computer, tablet and mobile phone. It’s not for the faint of heart though. You might need to prepare for shocking results. 

If you had to estimate the time you spend on productive tasks vs unproductive tasks, you’d probably:

  • overestimate the time you spend on productive tasks
  • underestimate the time you spend on non-productive tasks

It’s a bit like counting calories. That slice of cake wasn’t THAT big, right? I was only looking at Insta for a few minutes, yeah?

After installing the RescueTime app on your browser and other devices, you’ll see exactly how big that slice of cake truly is.

Social media impact on productivity

Social media and productivity
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When I started tracking my time in RescueTime, I found it hard to look at the results because I’d buried my head in the sand about how much time I was wasting on social media, mostly on Facebook. 

My hours on social media were embarrassingly high. Like 20-25 hours per week. 😳

That’s around 80-100 hours per month. That’s a significant part-time job. That’s like a whole bakery of cakes I denied the existence of.

And to think of all the times I’d imagined what I could do if I were gifted with a few extra hours a week… 🙄 

I considered what my reward would be if I cut down on social media. 

It’s not hard to figure it out. Multiply 100 hours by my hourly rate and that’s… well, a CRAP TONNE of cake.

How I improved my productivity … and bank balance

In June, I implemented a self-imposed social media ban until after 6 pm.

No checking social media during lunch, before breakfast, or while waiting for the kindy bus to pick up The Monsta. No peeks between tasks or on the loo (don’t judge). A total ban.

By implementing and sticking to this rule, my billable hours have exploded.

I triple checked my timesheets at the end of that first month when it came to invoicing time. I thought I must have left my timer on all day and night across a few days because my invoiceable hours had increased by around 40 hours. Nope. I actually worked those hours.

My social media hours plunged to around 7 hours per week. That’s still a lot of time when you think about it, but what a difference it’s made to my day. I’m only using it a third of what I once was and none of it during office hours, which is usually 11 am to 6 pm. It’s like I’ve clawed back 2 full working days each week.

Blocking social media has increased my focus and productivity. 

I used to ‘reward’ myself with a ‘quick’ check of Facebook in between tasks or when I felt like I ‘deserved‘ a break. I was juggling a few projects and finding it hard to switch between them. My concentration was shot. Some days I felt like I was stuck in an industrial cake vat, wading my way around in circles in cakey goo. I was miserable.

That ‘quick’ check rapidly descended into 10 or 20 minutes as I got pulled into the algorithm-generated vortex of Facebook. Multiply those 10- or 20-minute breaks by 5 or 6 times a day and it’s not hard to see the source of my extra billable hours.

Social media bans – weaning vs cold turkey

I’ve never been a weaning kind of gal. It’s all or nothing for me. I used to smoke and one day I quit. No patches. Nothing. Once I made the decision, that was it. I’ve not smoked a cigarette since January 20, 2002.

The hardest part of my self-imposed social media ban was the thought of implementing it. It was the same with smoking. For me, thinking about doing it was actually harder than doing it. It made me feel anxious. The FOMO felt real. Knowing that I felt so anxious gave me even more impetus to wrestle social media’s hold over me. I don’t like the control it had in the same way I hated the control cigarettes had over the structure of my day and how I wasted 5-minute blocks of time about 15 times each day.

Maybe going cold turkey or having total ban during work hours won’t work for you. Maybe you manage a Facebook group or an Instagram account for clients and need schedule time to be on there during your working day. Or perhaps you’re in a group where jobs come up that you can pitch for so you need to be there to make a living. Maybe you’re not as controlled by the algorithms as I was and you can switch off easily.

If you’re considering reducing the time you spend on social media as a way to improve your productivity, figure out what works best for you. We’re all wired differently and what worked for me might not work for you.

Preparing to implement a social media ban

I knew I had to have some sort of system in place to help me avoid social media during work hours.

I now schedule posts to my various channels for late in the afternoon so I wouldn’t be tempted to check responses and engage with followers during the day.

I didn’t think I’d be tempted to view Facebook or other sites (and I haven’t been) so I didn’t install a browser plugin to prohibit social media sites during work hours, but that’s something you could consider if you’re worried you might risk a peek.

I turned social media notifications off on my phone last year. Not that it had helped. 🙄

The rewards

While I was initially feeling apprehensive and anxious about the FOMO, it was unfounded.

From the first day of implementing the work hours ban, I started to feel disconnected from social media’s importance, and the role it plays in my life.

People didn’t miss me. No one noticed. And I didn’t miss anything, either. Except perhaps some click-bait article from the deep bowels of my newsfeed that I am richer for not seeing anyway.

Instead, I found greater clarity and focus with social media not distracting me every hour.

My ability to concentrate on difficult tasks has improved to a level where I am now finding myself thoroughly absorbed in my work in a good way.

The main, tangible benefit has been the increase in the hours I’m billing each month. That is a reward in itself.

My experiment has proven that we really can build new neural pathways and change our behaviour. But first, we have to want to. And I REALLY wanted to.

From a social media addict struggling to focus to a productive critter with a long and deep attention span, I am loving my social media ban.

The only downside has been that because I feel so disconnected from my phone now, I’ve often left it behind. Where I was once glued to my phone, I now frequently leave home without it…

I used to think, “If only I could knit time…” Well, I found my knitting needles.

Over to you. Just how big is your slice of social media cake and is it interfering with your productivity?


    10 replies to "The impact of social media on productivity"

    • Amanda Kendle

      The irony of seeing your post while procrastinating on Facebook isn’t lost on me, but I totally hear you. I measure my time constantly and so I’m very aware of how often (and for how long) I fall into a social media vortex; I’m slowly getting better, but of course my work involves regularly getting onto these platforms so it is tricky! But awareness is half the problem I guess. Well done you, though!!

      • Sandra

        Oh, the irony, indeed!

        I imagine it would be so hard for you to manage your social media presence and avoid the vortex when being on it is a large part of your working day.

        Here’s to channelling that awareness and avoiding the vortex.

    • Gina

      I have cut back so drastically on my Facebook usage. I log – in, take care of my business page, comment in a few essential groups, and I’m done. I only check my personal page about once a week. As a book reviewer, I’ve save enough “time” to add in another book each week!

      • Sandra

        Gina, that’s such a great way of looking at it. We could all do with an extra book a week. It’s amazing what extra time means for different people. I need to be conscious of not getting consumed by converting every hour into a paid hour or I’ll burn out in no time.

    • Naomi Lisa Shippen

      What a great idea to impose a Social Media ban during certain times. The trouble is, we can’t live with Social Media and we can’t live without it. Like all things, I guess it comes back to balance. I have learned so much from the writing community in my short time on social media, but I can see how it can be a massive distraction. We all have to be selective with our time and effort.

      • Sandra

        Yes, so true. I’m glad that social media doesn’t directly impact my work so enforcing that blanket ban during work hours is easy enough to do.

    • Patty Scott

      Such a great post! Every time I have gone on a fast, or break, or intentionally left social media, I have felt sweet breezes like the ones you are describing. My income hasn’t soared, but my productivity, presence, and peace have. Do I hate social media? Nope. I love it. Still, I know it’s a time-sucker, and I know how, with continued use, we get ensnared into checking compulsively and wasting so much valuable time. Your post was inspiring to me. I do run some FB groups, and I get support in a few others. That’s a tricky thing. I think your solution (setting a given time and purpose for social media use) is really the answer there. Even the other day I got on to simply post a daily post on a group I run. I saw the little bell for notifications, and like a Pavlovian dog, I clicked. I wonder (just now occurred to me) whether they made that a bell in honor of the fact that they are turning us into Pavlovian dogs. hmmmm. Anyway, after my knee-jerk (subconscious) click, I was led down trails. Twenty minutes later I came to my senses, brushed myself off, and went to make the post. I then got onto my page and posted about the rabbit trail I had gone on … further proving the point that they have me trained well. I am going to take all this awareness and go on another fast asap! Thanks for writing this and encouraging us all to free ourselves if we feel ensnared (or maybe especially if we don’t!). Ps. Your writing is delightful.

    • Sandra

      Thank you, Patty ☺

      I miss Facebook’s old Groups app. It was a good way to check out group activity without the distraction of the Pavlovian bell, as you so eloquently described it.

      There’s a dopamine hit behind those notifications that keeps us glued. But it’s not so hard to build new neural pathways to freedom. Like you, that quick check would descend into 20 minutes if pfaffing on Facebook. I’m so glad I made the change. Sooo glad.

    • Chelsea

      Grea tips! I’ve been meaning to use a time tracking app for a while and keep putting it off. I think this is the motivation I needed!

      • Sandra

        I hope you weren’t too horrified when you saw the results of your time tracking. I found it very motivating.

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