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Summary:

I’ve been on a time management kick lately with posts about reducing my side project overload, managing my time through better prioritization of activities and using Harvest to track my time. One of the things I learned from tracking my time more closely is that I […]

twitter_logoI’ve been on a time management kick lately with posts about reducing my side project overload, managing my time through better prioritization of activities and using Harvest to track my time. One of the things I learned from tracking my time more closely is that I spend way too much time on information-related tasks (email, Twitter, blog posts, etc.) in both sharing and consuming information.

Let’s start with Twitter. I get so much value out of Twitter: links to news and other information, updates on friends, notification of events and much more. However, it could easily consume too many hours out of my day if I didn’t keep it under control. I needed to make my use of Twitter more efficient: spend less time using it, while still getting the information I need.

Smarter Use of Applications

In my case, TweetDeck has been a giant help. I’ve tried quite a few of the Twitter applications, but this one is my favorite for two reasons: grouping and smarter notifications.

You can group your followers in a way that makes it easier to consume the information. In my case, I have a group of people that I follow closely. These are people who don’t tweet too frequently and who post updates that I never want to miss. While I follow almost 400 people, this smaller group has just over 100 people. I read this group first, and if I have time, I read the other groups.

TweetDeck also has pop-up smart notifications (assuming that you have configured it to notify you) for @replies, direct messages and dynamic, persistent searches. I configure searches for events I am organizing, companies I’m involved with, and more. This week, I’m closely tracking mentions of this Thursday’s Ignite Portland, since I am helping to organize it.

TweetDeck

While Tweetdeck is great for consuming information, I use twhirl to manage posts to multiple Twitter accounts. I manage Twitter accounts for events, organizations, and other informal groups. Managing posts to those accounts can get very time-consuming if you have to keep logging in and out. The big benefit of twhirl is that I can be logged into several accounts simultaneously to post updates, which saves me time in the long run.

twhirl

Ignore Twitter

As much as I love Twitter, I do need to shut it off when concentration is required. While the notifications keep me constantly informed, I don’t need those distractions when I’m doing client work that requires focus. As a result, I’ve started spending more time ignoring Twitter as part of my time management improvements. I can always catch up later if I missed something.

Follow Fewer People

I’m a bit brutal about my following policy. I can’t follow all of the people that I find interesting and keep my sanity. I only follow people who provide real value for me; whether that value is humor, information, or some other intangible. This threshold is going to be different for each person. Some people spend more time on Twitter and can follow more people. I’ve also found that I can follow more people now that I use groups in TweetDeck to manage how I read tweets. I usually follow people until it starts getting overwhelming, and then I pare back and unfollow the people who are providing the least value for me.

None of these are hard and fast rules for how you should use Twitter to get the most out of the time you spend on it. These are simply the ways that I am managing my Twitter use to be more effective on my journey to improved time management.

How do you get the most value out of Twitter without spending too much time on it?

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  1. I’ve gone back and forth a lot lately, stopping my use of twitter for a month, then hopping back on. Your discussion here captures the real dilemma that I face as well, and probably many of us who work in “new media”. There are so many interesting ideas, stories and concepts that there flat out just isn’t time to read everything and do everything you want. I’ve tried, it drove me nuts. Still is. I agree that you must be brutal and really fight wasteful spending of time – to the point of being rude or abrupt if absolutely necessary – in order to be productive and efficient.

  2. In order to keep track of Twitter for my clients, I use a lot of Yahoo! Pipes (several of which were made by you!). I also use the Twitter conversation visualization tool Amber turned me on to, which is great for doing weekly reports on Twitter talk (that means I don’t have to spend time watching a stream to pick up on the trends).

  3. Sensible follow management alongside groups in TweetDeck are also my favorite way of managing twitter’s time consumption while still drawing from the immense value that it provides.

    I also tend to click links that sound interesting but wait to read them until a later date, instead adding them to the daily bookmark list. I also keep a list of people’s names when a tweet thread looks interesting but I don’t have time to trace back through the entire conversation. I’ll use a twitter search later that day to catch up on the interesting thread.

  4. Great suggestions!

    Jon – It also helps me to accept that I can never catch up with Twitter. What I miss, I miss. I like to think of it more like a real time chat that I participate in sometimes, but not constantly.

    Justin – Pipes is a great way to do some more complex filtering to keep track of what people are saying on Twitter!

    Stuart – I also click on the links and wait to read them until later. If it’s going to be a while, I’ll sometimes favorite them and come back to them later to read.

  5. links for 2009-02-18: George Dearing On New Media, Marketing And Technology Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    [...] Improve Your Twitter Efficiency WebWorker Daily Analyzes A Few Tools To Increase Your Microblogging Productivity. (tags: productivity twitter microsharing microblogging web+worker+daily) [...]

  6. @Dawn – yep, same with me: I don’t try to “catch up”. If I’ve missed a day or two Twittering, then there is no point in going back. Nothing worse than someone coming back to a topic that was popular a couple of days previously!

  7. I take care not to use the great applications Dawn mentions because it’s too easy to let them engulf my time. So I use them on special occasions. Otherwise, I have to use twitter the old-fashioned way, which is less time consuming.

    Dawn’s approach is terwiffic :) for those who want to use the apps rather than use twitter through a browser.

  8. Hmm, Tweetdeck seems very buggy to me. Clicking on urls just opens a blank page in Firefox. It’s also a bit uneven, but that I mean sometimes its responsive, other times it seems to ignore mouse clicks. Perhaps the problem is Adobe Air, but from where I sit Tweetdeck is broken.

  9. The Words Twitter And Efficiency Used Together? « Geeks Guide To Productivity Friday, February 20, 2009

    [...] Please be advised that under no circumstances should you keep the dreaded Twitter client open on your desktop while you “working”. I’m a bit brutal about my following policy. I can’t follow all of the people that I find interesting and keep my sanity. I only follow people who provide real value for me; whether that value is humor, information, or some other intangible. This threshold is going to be different for each person. Some people spend more time on Twitter and can follow more people. I’ve also found that I can follow more people now that I use groups in TweetDeck to manage how I read tweets. I usually follow people until it starts getting overwhelming, and then I pare back and unfollow the people who are providing the least value for me.(via web worker daily) [...]

  10. » Why Twitter is the future of search, communication and discovery and thus, the web itself The Mobile Web Tablet: It’s a phone! No, it’s a PC! No, it’s a… mobile web tablet! Saturday, February 21, 2009

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