As the weather got cooler near the end of 2016, I found myself inside the house more – and on my computer more. Under the guise of research for my new Etsy store, the holiday crunch, and making new goals for 2017, I started spending entirely too much time browsing the internet.
Time and time again, I’d find a legitimate business reason to go to Facebook or Instagram or YouTube. Then 20 minutes – or even 2 hours – later, I’d realize I’d spent the time looking at photos from a friend’s trip overseas, or watching funny videos, or on countless other decidedly not-work-related distractions.
Even conscious of this behavior, I would go into autopilot when I picked up my phone, my fingers instantly bringing up the Facebook or Instagram app to browse, no matter what I actually meant to do. Often, I’d put it down several minutes later and suddenly figure out I hadn’t even done what I picked it up for in the first place.
I was getting less and less accomplished each day, all while doing less outside – less taking photos, less time at the barn, less time walking. I told myself I was working at my computer. That I was fulfilling holiday orders and preparing for the new year.
But really, I was wasting away my days on social media.
I’d go pick my daughter up from school and realize I hadn’t actually done anything productive yet. So when we returned home, instead of spending time with her, I’d jump back on the computer to crank out some actual work before the cycle began all over again the following day.
Finally, I knew something had to change, and the start of the new year was the perfect time to hit the reset button.
“But I have a business on Facebook, I can’t leave it for a month!”
This is what had always stopped me before.
I thought I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to step away from my brand’s social media presence. I wondered, did I have to hire someone else to do it for me while I took time away? Did I need to spend the next week coming up with content that I could schedule to be posted during my time away? Would followers fly away in droves if I didn’t post for a month?
While hiring someone and scheduling content were certainly viable options, I knew that for me, they were just excuses. I needed to simply pull the plug and walk away. Besides, if there was any one time of the year that would be the slowest for my business, January would be it!
First thing I did was throw up one of my favorite holiday images on Instagram and write a simple caption letting my followers know I was taking some time away from the platform, and reassuring them that I’d be back.
Originally, I thought I’d just take a couple weeks away from Instagram, but in the end I decided I wanted to really stay off both Facebook and Instagram for the whole month.
(I deleted the app from my phone and it took a several days for me to stop automatically trying to open it anyway! Muscle memory and autopilot are real, guys!)
Next, I pulled a couple photos that would work with the news of my social media break on Facebook. I wanted it to be obvious for anyone who visited my page that I was going to be off of social media, but that I could still be contacted through other means – email and phone.
I created a new cover photo and made sure to include when I would be returning, along with an alternate method of contact.
Then I did the same for the photo I included with my actual post about taking a break.
I included the following message, spelling out exactly what I was doing:
“I am taking the month of January away from social media to gear up for 2017 and all the possibilities that come with it!
I will not be responding to comments or messages here on Facebook, or on my Instagram (@purplehorsedesigns) during January. The best way to reach me will be through email (purplehorsedesigns at gmail dot com) or if it’s time sensitive, by phone (410/699/0182).
See you in February! Happy New Year!”
I also made sure to set up the Instant Replies in my messages to automatically respond with a similar message and alternative ways to contact me.
Last, I put up a message on my own personal Facebook page letting my friends know I’d be AWOL for the month of January, at least on social media. I left them with this adorable face:
Notifications in place, I downloaded a program to my computer that I have used before called Cold Turkey. It allows you to block specific websites for a set number of days, or on a daily schedule.
I decided to completely block my access to both Facebook.com and Instagram.com for a week at a time, for all four weeks. Each weekend, when the timer is up, I can either check and see if there are any fires I need to put out, or simply restart the week. I also removed the bookmark I had for Facebook that I seemed to always click on, no matter what I was actually planning to do when I sat at my computer.
On my phone, I deleted the appropriate apps and signed out of the websites in my browser. It took days, but slooooooowly, I stopped picking up my phone so much.
Today, I’m half way through my month and I almost hate the idea of going back.
My productivity has increased tenfold, I’ve been spending more time with family, and I’ve been able to put energy into areas (like my website!) that I’ve been ignoring due to ‘lack of time.’ I can’t wait to share the things I’ve been working on. It’s nice to be able to recall everything I did during the day, instead of having giant blocks of time where I was browsing aimlessly and gaining or accomplishing nothing.
I can definitely see this becoming an annual, or even semi-annual thing!
Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to create a Social Media Plan for when I log in again. The idea of going back to the hectic, unorganized, and time consuming way I was doing things before, stresses me out just thinking about it. Even Forbes had a recent article about how taking a break from Facebook may boost mental health!
I am going to simplify, streamline, and be strategic with my social media for 2017, and I look forward to sharing how that works out!