In today’s 24/7 digital world, social media can become overwhelming. Here’s how to find the signal in all the noise.
(Editor’s Note: The TalentCulture community mourns the loss of its dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. The following is the last post she contributed to the TalentCulture blog, only 10 days earlier, and is a personal tribute by Meghan M. Biro. Judy’s message and life are a lesson for us all.)
The unthinkable happened during the first week in January.
TalentCulture CEO Meghan M. Biro went missing. She hadn’t returned a tweet from me for more than three days. Unheard of, I tell you.
Naturally, I was concerned about her well-being. I actually considered contacting Boston area hospitals. But instead, I did what any good friend would do. Resorting to an antiquated strategy, I picked up the phone and called her.
“Seriously Judy, I’m taking a break. I don’t want to burn out,” Meghan told me.
“What? A break from your BFF?” I almost blurted. Then, a calm washed over me, and instead I said, “Good for you.”
This sparked a conversation about how busy professionals like us can continue growing and navigating our social networks without compromising our stress levels. Connection and communication have taken on new importance in today’s 24/7 world of work. Those who manage the energy and minimize the stress are able to stay ahead of the competition and sustain high performance. But it’s not easy.
Everyone manages a social network differently. It’s an intimate and personal process. We all have close connections with whom we can exchange ideas and openly vent. That’s typically not a burden on our time and attention. But in this era of digital exuberance, our social circles are growing rapidly. We need to find the signal in our niche, while filtering out the noise of a much broader network. Keeping pace requires a strategy.
8 tips to reduce stress in the face of digital exuberance
1. Schedule social sessions
Timing is everything. And quality time counts. When does your network naturally buzz with activity? If you’re a rock star, you might be inclined to check Twitter in the late evening, but if you’re into talent management and business news like me, you’re probably trolling Twitter from 7-8 a.m.
Instead of trying to pay attention 24/7, pick one or two intervals each day to dip into the stream. Don’t just “fly by” with retweets — really dive in and engage in conversations that build relationships. But when your scheduled time is up, move on. Eventually, you’ll adjust to an established rhythm, and so will those in your inner circles.
2. Take breathing breaks
Twitter and Facebook interactions can become surprisingly intense. Periodically, take five minutes to literally sit back and just follow your breath. Close your eyes or look away from the screen. Simply being aware of how you’re breathing helps regulate cortisol, the “stress-producing” hormone. Count as you inhale – one, two, three. Then hold your breath for several seconds, and exhale to the count of three. Better managing stress “in the moment” gives you more energy later, when you may need to tap into your reserves.
3. Stand up and stretch
Once in a while, just walk away. Yes, leave the computer behind. This is important to get blood circulating in your body, which delivers more oxygen to your brain. If you prefer not to stand, push your chair away from the desk. Inhale and raise your arms above your head, clasping your hands in a “steeple” position. Look up and gaze at your hands for several moments. Then exhale slowly while your hands float gradually back down to your sides. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to shift back into business gear.
4. Hum with purpose
That’s right — make noise. Humming actually calms the mind and body. It’s an ancient yogic technique that helps focus attention prior to meditation. The sound reverberates in your skull and helps your brain rewire your attention.
Here’s how: Plug your ears with your fingers and inhale deeply. Pause. Then, as you exhale, hum for the remainder of the “out breath.” Repeat two more times. If you feel dizzy, stop. But ideally, it will help release tension and help you focus.
5. Let filtering tools work for you
Sometimes we need to look beyond human behavior for help. If we opened every link that came our way, we’d never sleep. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Aggregation tools help consolidate and organize the chaos — news sources, blog posts and other information sources of interest. I’ve set up Google Alerts to deliver breaking news on keywords that matter most to me. For less critical topics, I receive news feeds once a week. You can use Hootsuite, Buffer, Tweetdeck and aggregation tools and dashboards to identify relevant content and create a delivery schedule that works for you.
6. Harness hashtags
Hashtags are the fastest way to share and find relevant information on Twitter. For example, professionals who participate in the TalentCulture community share HR and business leadership knowledge by adding the #TChat hashtag to their tweets. At any moment, anyone can search for #TChat to see the community’s latest tweets. It’s like round-the-clock access to the most popular human resources conversation on the planet.
If you follow a hashtag like #TChat in your Twitter dashboard, you’ll quickly and easily find helpful peers, ideas and advice. Also, when you schedule Twitter posts, be sure to add hashtags that reflect your area of expertise. Your posts will reach people in your niche, even when you’re offline.
7. Leverage human relationships
Sometimes, all of us need to unplug for several days or more. When you do, plan ahead. Just because you’ll be off the grid doesn’t mean your networking must come to a standstill. Reach out to several people in your immediate network. Let them know you’re taking a break, and ask for a little extra support in sharing your work on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn — wherever you’re most active. You can even form ongoing support alliances and develop common “social backup” guidelines. Just remember, you’re not alone.
8. Create a FOMO-free zone
Perhaps the most important advice I can offer is to honor your social self. Competitive pressure shouldn’t drive your social brand development. Don’t let yourself become obsessed with how other people behave on social channels, or about whether the volume or frequency of their activity trumps your own efforts. Whatever your message is, you’ll succeed when you deliver it through your own lens, with your own voice, to an audience that is naturally interested in you. Forget FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)!
Of course, even with healthy habits, it often feels like we’re networking at the speed of light. But hopefully these tips help you slow the pace a bit, focus on what matters and generate more energy to fuel your social success.
Do you have tips for reducing stress and improving productivity in the age of social networking? What techniques and tools work for you? Share your ideas in the comments below!
TalentCulture is a vibrant open online community, driven by professionals who share a passion for innovation, collaboration and a desire to advance the world of work. Join their #TChat Events every Wednesday from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. EST, or join the ongoing conversation anytime at #TChat on Twitter.)