We all have a digital loop, and we all go through it multiple times a day. This is my second post based on an idea from James Altucher’s “Choose Yourself” because I think it’s a great book that’s full of useful information on getting more done and fulfilling your life goals.
I talked last time about Building Your Idea Muscle but there’s another really interesting concept he introduces that can help a lot with controlling how much we use social media and waste time on the Internet. James explains that he has a “loop” that he goes through with all of his digital commitments. It’s a pattern of things like checking book sales, twitter followers, blog comments, etc. Times when he’s really unproductive he finds he’s going through the loop a lot.
The same concept can be used to make your time on the internet more efficient though. If you’re like me, what you do when you finally take a break is just shotgun towards a bunch of different websites that you follow, and willy-nilly sift through them for interesting bits of information. New twitter followers, blog posts from others, Facebook posts, news stories, books, anything really.
Instead of going at it randomly, I decided to create a loop. The idea is that you want to get through all of your social media and blog commitments so you’re not entirely cut off, but you want to do them quickly and efficiently so that you’re not tempted to multitask. By creating a loop of sites to systematically run through, you can easily fit all of your social media and other content into a single Pomodoro break or other short interval.
How to Have a Great Digital Loop
This is what I did to significantly cut down on the amount of time I spent checking each of my social media obligations, and what you can do to get the same results. This lets you think of social media as something you “check” like email instead of something you “follow,” which feels more like a constant obligation.
Step One: Identify Everything you actually check
There’s no need to get fancy here, just write out a bulleted list of every social media outlet or blog that you check daily. Don’t bother including ones that you look at rarely–there’s no reason to have them in your loop.
Step Two: Use an RSS Feed, If you’re Not Already
I follow a lot of blogs, specifically ones related to habits. I would forget half of the URLs and not check them all consistently if I had to remember them on my own, so Feedly is a huge time saver. I just subscribe to all of them there, and every time one of them updates with a new post I get it in my feed and can comment on it or promote them. It’s an amazing tool for aggregating a lot of blog subscriptions, and keeps your email less cluttered.
Step Three: Create an Order
The order will be less important to some people, but you want to create an order where you don’t have to double back on it. If you have a website for example, you might check twitter first, then notice someone tweeted about you, then check your website, then go back to twitter to reply to them, and this much jumping around can be inefficient. What you might do instead is start somewhere like your website statistics, look at the sources you’re getting traffic from, and then go to those social media outlets to interact with people.
You also want to put the site where you do the most sharing last on your list. By doing this, you can collect interesting links from the sites you went to first, and then post them all to your main social network at the end. I always end my loop with Buffer where I can put the links to cool articles I’ve just found.
Step Four: Act or Save
Now that you have your loop, start using it! As you go through it though, keep this one rule in mind: don’t defer anything. If someone sent you a tweet, reply. Facebook post? Reply. Always act on things immediately as they come up so you don’t get in a habit of deferring things until later that can be done immediately. (This is the same as the 2-minute rule from Getting Things Done if you’re familiar with it). The other benefit of this rule is that you will feel less of the need to keep going back to your social networks, since you’ll know that you replied to everything and left nothing on the table.
If you come across an interesting blog post that you want to save until you can sit down and read them all together later, you can use something like Pocket.
Step Five: Practice!
As you use your loop more and more, you’ll get quicker and quicker at it. It will be much easier to manage what was previously an insurmountable amount of social media, and you’ll be much more productive in the process. By having a tight loop you will hardly waste any time on it.