How to manage your bandwidth — for social

pebbles ajrI’ve long been a believer in the rocks, gravel, sand analogy popularized by Steven Covey when it comes to task management. You have to make sure you get the big rocks in — that presentation due Wednesday, that project plan review for Friday — before you are pecked to death by ducks, a.k.a. email. It’s easy for small tasks to prevent focus, so be aggressive about putting holds in your calendar for the big ones.

Reading The Mistake Busy People Make a few months back was a similar turning point for me. The article urges a shift in focus: manage your bandwidth, not your time. And it caused me to reflect — calendar apps I’ve seen allow us to book only the hours something take to complete, but not assign a level of cognitive effort. That additional lens would make a lot of sense: a meeting on concept design for a new product eats up significantly more mental bandwidth than a standing budget meeting. There are ways to color code, but it would be amazing to have a heuristic feature that could learn and assign bandwidth consumed during different kinds of work activities. As a result, you could manage your calendar more effectively.

Where does time spent filtering, listening, and publishing social media fit into all this? The concern I hear from most executives contemplating personal social media stems from legitimate fears about where social media activity can fit into an already overcommitted calendar. I’ve written before about my own time management hacks for social. This article about bandwidth has prompted a few new thoughts:

  • Social can fuel some of your low-bandwidth research consumption. Remember the trades? With smart filtering in place, you can use social to get a terrifically well-informed stream of ideas about your industry. This is a great activity to sandwich in between high-bandwidth events.
  • Social has both high- and low- bandwidth activities. Interaction is high bandwidth, but bursty — no one ever gets angry (except this guy) if you drop the thread in a Twitter conversation. Re-sharing is low bandwidth — it’s finding two-three interesting pieces (I do this after dinner) and teeing them up for the next day.
  • Social provides opportunities for listening, engagement, and content syndication. In any kind of senior role, you’re creating good content. That content may be mired in a PowerPoint or an email chain, but social provides a way to share those ideas (low-bandwidth), and benefit from feedback of a broader forum (high-bandwidth).

No one can help you with the only-24-hours-in-a-day problem. Factoring for bandwidth as well as time can help you prioritize and balance your efforts — and enable you to add meaningful social media to the mix.

 Photo credit: fragment.fi

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