Dear Molly, 

I need some help not being distracted by social media. I feel like a hamster that can only do bursts of work for a few minutes at a time before running through the rounds of checking Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, repeat! I obviously love being active on those sites for both personal and professional reasons, but how can I stay involved without it taking over my life and messing up my time priorities?

Thanks, L

Dear L,

This is a great question and one that I work at myself all the time. (I get it—it’s hard!) There are apps and programs you can download that can help increase your productivity (try StayFocused or one of Mashable’s recommendations), but I’ve also found some old-fashioned, easy things that go a long way in limiting my social media distractions.

1. Limit Auto-Log-Ins and Stay Invisible

First, log out of all of your social media sites and turn off auto-log-in. Forcing yourself to manually type in your user name and password will give you a spilt second to ask yourself: “Do I really want to be looking at my mini-feed or Twitter stream right now?” The same applies to Gmail or Facebook chat features. Stay invisible or offline until you’re sure you have time to chat with people—or risk the constant dings of conversation taking you off track.

2. Reduce Email Noises

Speaking of dings, I find it best to limit email noises on both your computer and mobile device. You definitely do not need to check your inbox each and every time a new email comes in, which is what a bell going off encourages you to do. If something is ever truly urgent, people will text or call.

3. Create Self-Imposed Time Deadlines

If you really have to focus on something, limit the time you have to spend on the computer by going to a place where you have to buy internet hourly or where your computer charge will eventually die. For example, sometimes I do work in the hall of my building, where there’s no internet, and I don't bring my charger. Knowing that there is a finite end time keeps me writing faster, and no internet means less checking of my Pinterest feed.

4. Fewer Tabs

Finally, the easiest tip is to have fewer tabs open in your browser at any given time. More tabs means more distractions! Set a limit on how many tabs you have open at once (or try this Firefox add-on that does it for you), and stick to it. And remember: Unless you’re a news reporter, there’s rarely a need or reason to check all the blogs, social media sites, and new channels as often as you do.

That’s it—hope those simple habits will keep the social media wormhole from creeping up on you and eroding your productivity. And of course, you can always remind yourself that the internet still happens even if you’re not on it for an afternoon! Good luck!

xoxo, Molly

Have a question for Molly? Email molly@smartprettyandawkward.com.

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