Social media use is the new hub of the 21st Century, and no generation is exempt from its addictive and obsessive over-indulgence.
According to a 2016 result from the Pew Research Center, and published by statista.com, it was found that 96 percent of Americans ages 30–49 are internet users.
More alarming from the same report is the number of hours per month, spent by the Generation Xers on different digital equipment.
The report shows that in the U.S., mobile app users aged 35 to 44 years used mobile apps via smartphones for an average of 80 hours per month in 2016, while the average use of tablet apps of this age group stood at 17.3 hours during the same time frame.
The statistic reports that the social media giant Facebook, recorded the highest user participation rate, compared to other social media networks such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat or YouTube.
These results indicate the heavy reliance of Generation Xers, on the internet and social media, which many have erroneously believed was basically a problem of the millennial generation.
In fact, another report released by Nielsen Social indicate that Generation X users spend an average of 7 hours a week on social media outlets like those listed above, compared to 6 hours for the Millennial generation, which indicates that Generation X consumption of social media, is slightly higher than the younger generation.
I am a Generation Xer, and the nature of my job demands that I work on multiple projects at the same time. Working on very complicated Clinical Research projects with varying degrees of complexities, meant that I needed to adopt more productive work strategies.
This was especially important for me, because other than posting regularly on my personal improvement and development blog (www.pearlsglobalimpact.org), I also tend to follow what goes on in the social media arena.
Therefore, adopting the strategies which I highlight in the section below, has not only improved my productivity at work at greater than 75%, owing to the fact that I tend to finish my projects on time and even demand for more work from my supervisor (who even does that!), but it has also made me more disciplined in keeping with schedules, and meeting deadlines.
As people in the Baby Boomer’s generation gradually retire out of the workforce, the chances are high for many Generation Xers like me, to assume leadership positions, across various firms.
Therefore, there has to be a way to increase workplace productivity by generation Xers, without completely giving up the use of social media.
The question, therefore, becomes, “how can those in my generation (and maybe other generations too) leverage their social media usage, while still becoming proficient and effective in the workplace?” Let’s find out how.
How to Improve Workplace Productivity without Giving Up Your Use of Social Media
- You may want to start by dividing your work day into designated hour blocks and scheduling specific tasks for those hour blocks. Rather than lumping the entire workday into an 8-hour block and doing work haphazardly, productivity can be better enhanced by dividing it into smaller hour blocks, with definite assignments. And one should be responsible enough to adhere to that schedule, in order to get more productive work done. In addition, while focusing on the designated tasks within the smaller hour blocks, distractions from other work commitments or social media should be avoided, until the designated assignment is completed.
- Due to the distracting effects of social media, I usually schedule high concentration tasks for earlier in the day when the brain is more active, and thus requires maximal concentration. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychology and Aging, Canadian researchers studied brain rhythms in 32 adult subjects. 16 of the participants were between the ages of 19 and 30, and the other 16 participants were aged 60–82. The study concluded that optimal functioning occurs more in the morning, as we age. In addition, all social media alerts should be set to silent mode and a conscious effort to prevent engagement with the platform during those early workday hours should be made.
- In between designated hour blocks, social media breaks may be scheduled, for those unable to deal with its absence for that much longer. This has been really helpful for me. At several times during the day, scheduled breaks to check in on social media may be built into the work schedule, after completing designated tasks. Setting 3–5 minute breaks in between completed assignments and adhering strictly to that schedule, is a way to condition the brain to align with the day’s schedule. In line with responsibility, one should be responsible enough to stick to the days’ timetable, in order to improve productivity.
4. Multi-tasking during designated hour blocks should be avoided. For a long time, professionals including myself were made to believe that multi-tasking is a critical skill which increases workplace productivity. And so many job postings, actually list the skill as being critical for the successful candidate. Well, that assumption may after all not be entirely correct. Because, according to research reported by the American Psychological Association, workplace productivity is actually diminished by 40%, when people multi-task across various activities. The reason being that, when you leave a task uncompleted and jump onto another, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California at Irvine.
5. Email check-in times should be designated at specific times during the workday. We are all familiar with those little boxes that pop up every now and then at the bottom of our computer screens to notify us of the receipt of new emails. What do you think is usually the first reaction when people see those notifications pop up? I am assuming that our first instinctual response would be to quickly check out what the new message is all about. But, the problem is that we may find ourselves spending more than the 30 seconds we had originally anticipated to read and assimilate the email content. And the reason is that, even though we may have initially planned to spend a few seconds reading the new email, its content may necessitate an immediate reply, which may take a couple more minutes crafting, and send off. Just imagine the amount of time that may be wasted responding to 10 or more of those emails every day! The solution? Email breaks should be scheduled during the work day, i.e. times designated to only check and respond to emails. In order to achieve this, I make sure I do not have my email opened, especially when working on high concentration tasks.
6. If possible (and that is a big “if”), it is advisable to completely keep social media at bay and out of sight while working on designated tasks. This would involve setting phones or other mobile devices to silent mode and keeping them far away from where they can be seen or heard. This may require them being tucked away in bags or cabinets. I needed to do this because I found that having my phone lying on my desk made it impossible not to peek in. So, I have it always tucked away in my bag, and only check it out during my designated ‘social media breaks’.
In wrapping this up,
It is important to understand that millennials are not the only ones with a social media addiction problem.
Generation Xers, are also caught in this web. And with many Generation Xers rising up into leadership roles across multiple teams, industries and corporations, strategies for improving productivity in the workplace, while still interacting with social media should be adopted.
A good place to start may be to adopt the above strategies. It has been very effective for me, and I am hoping that it would do the same for others.
To your continued success. Cheers!!!