Stop wasting time on social networks and procrastinate productively in 4 steps

Social networks are an endless source of knowledge and a way of connecting with others, but above all, they’re a huge waste of time. Extensions like Facebook Runner let you know how much time you spend on Facebook and other superfluous activities. After installing it, you’re sure to hang your head in shame by seeing all that lost time when you should be working or studying.

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t ever open Facebook, Instagram or other social apps during your responsibilities. In fact, if you take a look on the Internet, you’ll find a myriad of articles with tricks to avoid using them. The issue is: Aren’t we already in an ideal world? Is it really necessary to be so dramatic with them? Can’t we procrastinate a little?

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Well it’s clear we can, in fact I believe that procrastinating (that is, putting off an important activity to do another less relevant or more pleasant one) once in while is not bad at all and is a way to release stress and return to our responsibilities happier. How? Why am I encouraging you to use Facebook and other sites during work when we both know how bad that is? Yeah, don’t make that face!

It’s all about having mechanisms of self-control and following a few simple steps, so within reason and by acknowledging you’re not doing what you should, you make the most of the time you spend (i.e. waste) on social networks and enjoy what I call “quality procrastination.”

Step 1: Keep your cell phone at a safe distance

A survey done by Connected Life estimates that on average we spend 3 hours a day looking at our smartphones and tablets. How many of these hours are worthwhile? An easy way to find out is to install an app that monitors your habits, such as Quality Time for Android or Moment for iOS… Even if the results scare you, don’t be alarmed.

A group of executives standing in line and looking at their smartphones

Getting rid of this habit during work or study hours is complicated, but there are ways, such as setting your phone to only notify you of what’s really important during working hours. To do so, smartphones have modes that are less dramatic than the legendary “Airplane mode” and prevent you from checking your phone at the slightest buzz.

For both Android and iOS, your best bet would be “Do not disturb.” This mode is found under the menu Settings > Do not disturb. Within this mode, you can configure different features. For example, you can active it instantly or set what time it should activate. Also, you can decide which calls you want to ring (ideal if you’re expecting an important call from a specific contact.)

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If you don’t see this option on your cell phone (especially on Android), check that it’s not under the option Sound, since depending on the operating system version it may be in another place.

If you want extra control, there are very useful apps that bolster the “Do not disturb” mode. Silence, do not disturb! for Android, allows new layers of configuration.

Step 2: Clean without mercy!

Now that you’re free of the burden of constantly looking at your phone, you’ve already gotten rid of part of the problem, but not all of it: Instagram or Snapchat are out of the equation, but not Facebook. If you work in an office or study with a PC, you still keep it open on a browser tab, am I right?

The idea is not to say goodbye to FB during working hours, but rather use it within reason (ahem, and not all the time, of course!).

For this “method” to work, first you must toss out tact. Look over your list of friends: are you really interested in what the 667 people you’ve added post? Consider that many people are losing time like you (until now), so it’s likely what they post is of little to no interest.

Illustration by Jennifer Daniel for Sunday Styles section 05/30/2010
Illustration by Jennifer Daniel for Sunday Styles section 05/30/2010

These days it’s very trendy to learn to discard material objects, but we also shouldn’t be afraid to eliminate friends that add nothing but noise. Without a second thought, delete all those friends of friends and people that you only follow as an obligation.

It’s even more important that you stop being a “fan” of so many pages. At some point, you must have given a “like” to a certain page because you thought it was funny or because somebody invited you, but it’s very possible that you’ve already forgotten it and now it doesn’t interest you. So, periodically look over all your likes and with the option “Review the pages that you like” select everything that’s no longer relevant in one swoop. While writing this article, I deleted my membership to 40 pages, thinking “at what blasted moment of my life did I ‘like’ this?”

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Step 3: Say goodbye to noise!

Alright, let’s assume that you’ve cleaned up your friends and pages. Doing so, you’ve already deleted the most awkward noise, but healthier procrastination also involves having a healthier news sections. You know, the main page of Facebook or “News Feed” is the place where interactions between your friends and pages you follow are collected.

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By editing your preferences for the “Latest news” section you can have total control of what you see and don’t see. I admit, there are friends that I love to death but who I don’t understand: they always complain that they don’t have time for anything and I always see them posting on Facebook! This kind of friendship is the first that I would hide from your news, without mercy, they’re so annoying!

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You can hide these friends from your News Feed using your preferences or by simply clicking the little arrow in the upper right-hand corner of any of their posts: this gives you several options for seeing fewer posts from the contact or page in question.

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Want to see things that you actually care about? Then, also within your preferences for “Latest news,” use the option “Prioritize who to see first” so that Facebook shows you posts from them before anybody else. Careful, don’t abuse this option and make it so you see memes or humor pages first. We all like to laugh, but there’s nothing that kills productively more that starting to look at a photo album of memes: they are like the famous potato chips, “once you pop, you can’t stop.”

Another recommended habit is to deactivate Facebook chat. Many friends, if they see you connected with the little green light, will certainly message you… they are experts in unproductive procrastination! To do so, in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, click on the wheel icon and “Deactivate chat.” The message will continue arriving, but are only accessible in your inbox or if you use Facebook Messenger from your cell phone.

Notice that during this entire time I haven’t mentioned games. Although Facebook games aren’t as popular as the past (admit it, you too were stressed when your Farmville crops went spoiled) we can’t forget that they still exist and are included in the colorful Gameroom section. Stay far away! Play only in your free time, never during a dull moment in the middle of an assignment, or you’ll fall into a very dark hole that not even the most experienced fireman could save you from. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

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Step 4: Alright, now what? Enjoy!

The steps I’ve previously mentioned take some time, but if you’ve done them well (and without getting carried away by nostalgia or shame) you’ll avoid being annoyed in the future. And this is what I wanted to get at: now you have a cleaner and lighter Facebook that lets you concrete on what’s truly important… Congratulations, you’re closer to Facebook nirvana!

Now you’ve resolved part of the problem of what it means to use Facebook conscientiously, making the time you spend on it relatively constructive. Now I’ll give you some ideas for healthy activities that you can do on this social network.

  • Search for media pages in tune with your ideas and follow them. You’ll be more than up-to-date. I’ll clarify a bit: if you have a political leaning, don’t become a fan of a different political view, the debates in the comments that occur always end with pitched battles and many injured. If you meet a troll, don’t feed it. You know what they say: “Never argue with stupid people, they will beat you with their experience.”
  • Search for and follow informative pages, without realizing it you’ll learn new things. Science, history, literature… The best thing to find interesting pages is to dedicate some time using Facebook’s search engine, looking at the first results, going to the pages and quickly scanning what they have… Do you like what you see? Follow them!

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  • Search for a Facebook group in your professional or academic field. Facebook is full of great groups for any area. In these groups, people often share useful links, ask questions or even joke about aspects of their profession. Dedicating a part of your day to answering questions about your profession or career will make you feel better and you’ll also learn.

Of course, groups also receive notifications and appear in the News section, so once you’re in one, use the settings options to assure, for example, that they notify you of the most important and not everythinggg that is written there. Oh, and don’t join just any group you see… One for every topic is enough.

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  • When you see funny content, save it for later. If you just saw on your News Feed something cool but you don’t think it’s worth more than a few laughs, click on the little arrow icon to save it for later. So, when you have free time you can access your saved elements.

save-post

    • Offers, promotions, etc… Save them for later too. Just saw a spectacular offer or an incredible coupon on the brand page you follow? It’s bad to get mixed up with shopping during work, so save the offer to check out later.
  • Avoid irrelevant ads. Facebook has an option where you can configure the type of ads it shows you. Click here, in this article I explain how to easily configure them.

One final tip: encouraging you to use Facebook during working hours does not mean the tab should be constantly open in your browser. What if you open it at specific times, when your productivity levels are the lowest? I’ll leave it to you when and how many times a day.

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