Simplifying Online Life

One of my favorite goals to implement this month was the 'online work day off.' It's a very fine line when you create online content as your job - you can easily be 'on the clock' for many more hours than you would be in a traditional office setting, because social media and e-mail is at your fingertips at all house of the day. It definitely makes you feel like you need to respond and otherwise take action as soon as you get a notification, but that's just not sustainable.

Let's get on the same page about one thing from the outset - social media exists to generate profit for corporations. Not for any of the other reasons it may claim, like connecting us and thereby making the world a better place. Profit. Just profit. Yes, it may provide some utility, but just some, and it exacts a cost. It's been intentionally designed to trigger primal responses in us with things such as likes and followers. So make no mistake - if you don't intentionally use social media, it will use you. You need to know your goals with using these platforms so you get something measurable out of it if you're going to spend your precious time and attention.

So simplifying my online life, this social media trap included, is just a part of my mission to simplify my entire life. And that means setting clear boundaries, the first of which was this weekly day off. It's not easy - people push back. But it's absolutely necessary, for work related online time but also for the purely social and personal stuff.

How to Set Boundaries

1. Set Expectations. ASAP. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes. So if you're going to start managing your online life better, set expectations with other people. If you're an online creator, tell your Instagram followers you'll no longer be posting daily. If you own a shop, tell clients that e-mail responses can be expected in two business days, not the same day. And if you're just plain old quitting Facebook, just ensure the important people have your cell phone number and email. They probably already do. The rest don't matter, I assure you.

Expectations I have set? Quite a few, but here's some examples: The podcast is live once a week; I don't have social media beyond Instagram and I won't be getting it, so don't expect me anywhere else; Patreon clients get priority response, otherwise e-mail or Instagram DM response can take up to a week.

2. Be Clear and Unapologetic. If you're going through the trouble of setting the boundary, be clear about it. It's perfectly acceptable to say 'I don't take client meetings on Sundays' or 'I don't check my phone after 8 pm.' Also, don't apologize for it! Or explain why. Giving reasons is just opening a can of worms. People then think your no is negotiable if they can fix the reason behind it. You just seem unsure in your decision. So set the clear boundary and stand firm in it.

3. Know Your Deep Work. Boundaries for the sake of simplifying are wonderful, but you really should know why you're trying to protect your time and energy. It's much easier to protect when you know what you should be doing with your time, and that looks different for everyone. It's what ever work moves the needle forward for you. If you're a blogger or author, that's writing, if you're a coach, that's client meeting times. I record podcast episodes and creating/list products for sale online, among other things. But it's certainly not scrolling Instagram and responding to every question the moment it comes in. The goal needs to be protecting as much time as possible for the 'Deep Work'. Essentially, the better you can protect your time and energy so you can focus on this deep work, the more effective you'll be during your work hours so you can work less of them. The ultimately in simplifying online life - staying off it.

Things I've Implemented This Month

Work Day Off

I don't care about the daily Instagram check in and you know what, no one else does either. It's not like Instagram pays you. And yet, I found myself checking the app every single day. Which may not seem like a big deal or something that would take a lot of time, but it did, because I would end up posting and responding to comments and questions that had come in, and just generally wasting time. I had to include it in my work day off to give myself a break from the content hamster wheel.

Work Hours for Social Media Usage and E-mails

I've been working on setting and following my time blocks all month. Time blocking can be incredibly useful for setting time boundaries on tasks that could, theoretically, go on forever. Engaging on social media absolutely falls in that category. So I set a daily (but not every single day, see above) time slot for these things, based on my energy levels. I'm a morning person, so I'm careful to guard this time and fill it with the things that need my best brain power (creating content from scratch, for example) or that I really don't want to do and absolutely will skip if I push it to afternoon when my energy levels fall (exercise, mostly.) E-mails and social media? Those are simple tasks that can be done after all the important stuff is finished. I do an Instagram check in around lunch time, and respond to e-mails sometime in the afternoon. Just once a day for both. Sometimes I check Instagram in the evening but it's a habit I'm trying to break!

I'm not perfect at any of it but my online presence has definitely been simplified, and I've enjoyed the benefits. Have you set boundaries on your online time? How do you manage this potential time (and emotion) suck?

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