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1 Tip for Using Social Media but Avoiding Information Overload

Dan BlankToday, I want to share a tip on how to take advantage of social media to grow your brand and connect with others – WITHOUT getting overwhelmed. Information overload is the enemy. Here’s the trick to productivity: it’s all about prioritization.

I have this motto I try to follow each morning for using social media:

“Creation Before Connection”

What I mean is that before I connect to the world online, and begin REACTING to it, I wake up each day and first create something original, something that is purely an action that relates to my goals.

A while back, this is how my day would often start:

  • Check Facebook
  • Check work email via Blackberry
  • Check personal email (across 3 accounts)
  • Check Twitter
  • Check news (Techmeme, NYTimes)

This was often the result:

  • An hour spent CONSUMING
  • 5-10 tabbed browser windows open with interesting articles and ideas I wanted to follow up on.

And it wasn’t even 7am yet. In my mind, I was already overwhelmed, I was already behind. Information overload had set in.  Sure, I was inspired and excited, but I had created nothing, and not yet even looked at my real work for the day.

So I was already starting my day by falling behind, allowing others to determine my focus and spend my time reacting, not acting.

Connecting online via social media can be powerful way to move your career and business forward. But you have to be careful: Writing 3,000 Tweets alone will not build what you need; Reading 100 articles a day educates & inspires you, but consumption alone will not inspire others and show them your value.

How to Conquer Information Overload Before it Starts

So this is how I try to approach social media and online communication nowadays…

Each evening, write down a handful of goals for the next day. I mean, things you NEED to accomplish to have a sense that you are moving forward in your career, your business, your passion and your life.

When you wake up, before you open Facebook or email or anything else, read this list. That is critical. Read it as early as possible, so that as you brush your teeth or step into the shower, your brain is already being framed for the day by these goals.

Next, do something – ANYTHING – to take a step toward with one of these goals. Even if you just open a Word document and brainstorm 3 sentences that are meant to be the start of that book you are meaning to write; Even if it means opening up a blank email, addressing it to your boss, and writing the subject line to that big report you need to deliver today; Or maybe it’s opening up your calendar to flesh out an upcoming trip to a conference, where you identify your schedule, your goals, who you will meet and how you will get the most out of it.

The idea here is to get past the emotional barrier of some of these larger goals. If you’ve already started them, there is less of a barrier to put them off until later.

Do these things BEFORE you open email, before you bring up a browser window that has CNN.com, before you check Twitter of Facebook, before you check your Blackberry.

You will never build anything of unique value of you are merely reacting to the many WEAK SIGNALS coming in from all sides. You need to create a STRONG SIGNAL of your own by framing your day around your goals.

Let me know if I can help: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.



  • Dan – this is an EXCELLENT tip! I love that it's a very simple step, but can have profound results. I definitely am going to start using this! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Jess – Thanks so much!

  • My approach is similar. For me, I create a “must do” task list each morning and budget time accordingly. I spend time catching up, but I do so with discipline. Then I use the information I've learned to help me accomplish the tasks for the day. I find looking at things through a fresh lens helps me clarify what I wanted to accomplish in the first place.

    I like your approach, too, though. Creating first can help on those days where discipline doesn't come too naturally 😉

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  • Great article, Dan. This feels like such an important Truth, a rethinking of my daily routine. I generally sit down at night to do my blogging, as a way to calm down and focus. However, as we all know, sometimes it just doesn't work that way. Perhaps I will try and switch my creative time to the morning. Thanks for the tip!

    • Thanks Matt! It's interesting how changing our routines can catapult us into productivity.
      Let me know how it goes.

  • tammikibler

    I have been struggling with this myself. I intend to get up and create first, but I'm groggy and it seems like checking e-mail or twitter will help me ease into my day.

    Suddenly it's 11:00 am and I'm wondering what I did with my day. All these “connections” can be such a time sink.

    I will try having one creation goal each day I must accomplish before I check my Google Analytics. Perhaps I could try freewriting to shake off the grog, then tackle my daily goal, then fire up Firefox. 🙂 I like your suggestion that we don't have to complete the goal, just take some initial action.

    Great post!

  • Great advice, Dan. Framing it as a short motto will help turn it into a habit.

    I like to start my day by reviewing my goals and task list, then setting no more than three priorities for the day for my full-time position (sometimes fewer, depending on the project and my schedule for the day), plus one priority for evening work in my part-time business. Focus is key to managing information overload and being productive!

    • Jane – Smart! Thanks for sharing, have a great day.