A Question of Focus
Over the Christmas break I decided to take two weeks off social media. I deleted my Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter apps. My eldest was coming home for the holidays and I wanted to spend quality time with her. Not just her, but my wife and youngest too. I know how easy it is to be distracted by social media over the holidays so I decided to go cold turkey.
Over those two weeks I spent a lot of time reading and writing. I did some sketch noting and got up to speed on bullet journalling. I caught up on a lot of documentaries and comedy films on Netflix. I did some research on becoming a better photographer. My eldest disappeared somewhere with her friends (so much for that plan) but I got a lot of good rest and relaxation in. I caught up with family and had lots of calls with friends.
Two weeks of pure chill.
I can honestly say I did not miss social media in that space of time. There was no FOMO. OK, I did sneak a peak at Twitter on my browser on Christmas Eve only to see people still posting business posts and the like.
I mean, seriously?
Apart from that lapse it really got me thinking.
What would happen if I just stepped away for social media for good?
Focus. Focus. Focus.
I am quite driven in my business. I don’t work a nine to five. In fact, I am often asked on my travels as a speaker what a typical working day looks like for me. I respond that there is no such thing. I juggle between speaking, facilitating, writing, coaching and consulting. I mentor, host supper clubs and sit on advisory boards.
Whilst on the face of it, it seems like a lot, I am quite careful about how I manage my time. The quality time I spend with friends and family is as important as the time I spend working. That said, it is easy to lose focus.
I could easily find myself sharing professional content on any of the platforms I am on, but in that same heartbeat I could see a headline that has caught my eye and respond. Or I could take a picture of some street art or a building, or a selfie, and end up uploading that. It got to the point that when I met people professionally they assumed they already knew me based on what was posted to my social platforms.
I know my best work comes when I am incredibly focused and a number of things lapsed at the end of the year. I was travelling a lot and didn’t focus enough on promoting the crowdfunding for my book. I pushed back the rerelease date of my podcast. Twice. A few of my working habits were suffering because of a lack of focus, so I decided to do something about it.
Late last year I wrote the word Legacy in bold letters in my journal.
What kind of legacy did I want to leave in my personal and professional life?
What did I have to do in order to realise that legacy?
How was I going to do it?
Whilst for some people that may seem a bit fatalistic, a number of people dying in 2016 gave me reason to focus on making impact in the here and now. I don’t want to live in regret and I want to be even more present.
In a world where so much is soundbite, quick updates and snapshots of life; where apps are designed to make you addicted, I needed to focus, truly focus, on the things that were important. Those which would build that legacy I was writing about.
So I wrote down a number of things I needed to do in order to start the process.
One of the first things I did was to contact two business icons who I greatly admire to become mentors for me. Both who have grown multi million pound businesses. They both said yes. Check.
Second, was to spend time ensuring that my writing improved. Not just in articles and blogs but also in the books I intend to publish. So I rediscovered Elements of Style by Strunk and White and On Writing by Stephen King and have delved into those. I also bought On Writing Well by William Zinsser and hold myself accountable to some friends of mine who I consider brilliant writers and editors. Check.
Thirdly, I realised a lot of my writing was poor because I was impatient. Quick fire status updates and commentary had reduced me to stream of consciousness writing. I look back and cringe at some of my grammar and spelling mistakes on social media and in my pieces. Good writing, like good speaking, is damn hard work and takes a lot of practice, patient crafting, editing and focus. I am definitely a work in progress on this one and I realised my biggest distraction was social media. So I had to do something.
Ctrl Alt Delete
On my journal page that I had labelled legacy, I wrote
“What if I could press Ctrl Alt Delete and start again with social accounts which ones would I keep?”
I did an audit on the followers on my platforms.
I then thought about how I want to use these platforms whether for business or personal. I settled on business as I realised too often I can overshare my personal stuff on such platforms. There was no mystique.
A simple google search could make people who never met me assume they knew all about me, where I travelled, etc.
So I made a HUGE decision. Well huge for me anyway.
As of this weekend, 14–15th Jan 2017, I am deleting my Twitter, Instagram and personal Facebook accounts.
Saying goodbye to twelve thousand followers on Twitter may seem like a big deal, but it has to be done. It is way too easy to be swayed by vanity metrics and think that one would be sorely missed, but when I took my hiatus, hardly any of my followers noticed. A sobering reality check.
This allows me to focus and draw a clear line on my time and what I share. Both platforms have some excellent analytics for targeting and sharing content and helping me reach my business aims as I look to grow them over the coming years.
If my personal contacts need me, they can pick up the phone or share a message on Whatsapp, or if locally let’s grab a bite to eat every now and then. I have no problem sharing my business thoughts, quotes and initiatives on social platforms, but I will be damned if I continue to feed them with all my personal stuff so that they can use this to target me for offerings from vendors across their platforms.
All of my writing will be written in the first instance on this platform and I hope you will see a marked improvement.
This may seem a bit much but needs must. It is way too interesting to get pulled into the social media vortex without asking yourself why and for what benefit. As I often to say to students who spend a lot of time online, “better to be hungry for success than thirsty for attention”.
I am drinking my own medicine by taking this move but more importanlty I am looking forward to the next chapter of my own personal development.
Even though it may seem harder to do so now please do keep in touch.
(For those interested I even handwrite letters too. Let me know)