How do you find the time?

In every session I conduct about social media, I am asked the question: How do you find the time (to be online, chat, tweet, update statuses, use geo-location, etc.)?

source: flickr - girlinredshoes

When most Americans watch TV

While most settle in at night to watch network news, reality shows, and weekly series, I get online. Sometimes this online activity is serious study—learning, listening, investigating, engaging in online discussions or contributing to wiki or other collaborating works. At other times, I am more relaxed. I browse the news of the day that I may have missed or read something that hits my personal interests. In most cases, the TV is on while the family watches, and my daughter is in the same room online too.

For me, watching network news and television shows flow too slowly. Commercials every few minutes are very distracting. I want information and news without forced interruption. On a side note, I also find that most of the time, the inflection of news broadcasters and background mislead the importance of a point or lean one to feel an emotion that is not based on fact.

I would rather spend my time consuming information at my own pace and be able to select what I consume. I would rather fill this time, making a contribution, finding out how friends and family are doing, and having interactive fun—not waiting for TV media to pour to me.

According to Clay Shirky in Cognitive Surplus (see this post for video and transcript), Americans watch 200 billion hours of television every year. Trillions of hours of TV are viewed worldwide each year. What if 1% (or 5%) of this time is spent contributing online content, public bookmarking what you are reading, and another 1% (or 5%) of this time is spent connecting or socializing with others? What if the time spent watching advertisements was used in producing or contributing to online projects? Some groups of teenagers are adapting in this way. These teenagers are spending less time watching TV than their parents. These teenagers are creating storylines, music, or artistic works, learning to work others, building leaderships skills, and having fun.

When I have dead time

When waiting in line at Walmart, or in the car (parked) waiting on the kids, I quickly check Tweetdeck to find out what is being said on Twitter from those I follow and in the categories I have set for searches. If possible and if my response would be meaningful, I will work in this dead time a response. I may also browse Google Buzz comments.

Of course, during these dead times, I also check email and read my favorite friends in Facebook that have been fed to my Facebook application.

During the day, I periodically check the continuous stream from Tweetdeck

Though some find a continuous pop-up Twitter stream distracting, I have learned that I can ignore the tweets during my busy times and choose to read a few when I feel like it.  At my desk, I glance at the automatic feeds or wait until I have more time, I scan my Tweetdeck columns.

I seldom go to the page.

When certain groups have Twitter chats (they make use of hashtags), I may keep up peripherally if I don’t have time or I may wait until later and check the stream.

I don’t read everything every day

I follow roughly 2,000 people. I also track different terms using the search feature in Tweetdeck. For instance, I have searched columns for #farm, #ag, #agchat, and “#coopext”. I periodically add search columns for topics that are more relevant for a short period. For instance, Farm Progress Show is approaching and I have a column for @FPShow and another column for #fps10 which is the hashtag for the event. After the event, I will remove these columns. Additionally, I have columns for retweets and direct messages. Because I can’t see every tweet, I prioritize the accounts I follow. On days that I don’t have much time, I look at the columns that I feel are the most important.

So you may ask “When am I not online?”

I can be online in some form about anytime I want to be. It is also up to me to decide when I get offline as it is up to families to decide when the TV is on or off. There are times that simply having face-to-face conversations mean being attentive with the most important people in my life and work. Also, it is up to me to find time to move, exercise, jog, walk, read, write, pray, and think alone. However, these times do not always come in the after 5 and on weekends. I choose when I am offline and online—making sure I get my job done well and serve my family well.

Balancing my time is not easy, never has been. And, I am certainly not always successful, but it is my responsibility to find the balance. There is no reason to sit in the recliner every night and be purely a consumer of information and entertainment.

Relaxing online

Sometimes, when I am online, it is for entertainment or purely social reasons, playing scrabble online, chatting with friends in Facebook or watching or reading something that is for my enjoyment and has nothing to do with work.

Understanding filters and priorities

Filtering and prioritizing are ways of managing the flow of tweets, Facebook statuses and comments, Google Buzz, and Google Wave. Though I have talked about Twitter, it is only one of many tools.

Twitter gives me the greatest diversity of information. Most of the time tweets only hit the surface, but will lead me to find greater depth on a topic, current issue or debate.

Prioritizing which conversations warrant my attention helps me stay focused on busy days.

Importance of mobile devices and computing

I certainly could not keep up without a good smartphone and understand how to integrate different social media tools and applications.

Why do I do it?

As an educator, part of my responsibilities is to keep up with new information and research and to continuously learn. Also my responsibilities include developing relationships that in turn create trust and credibility. Being part of communities that create content and develop ideas is another way of being an effective educator. I can’t be effective if I don’t participate online. Thus, finding ways to consume information, process it, and collaborate with others is a must.

Why do you want to consider social media?

Whether your interaction is on Twitter, blogs, or forums (i.e. Combine Forum or Ag Talk), the time spent begins to resemble interaction you do in your own community, socialize and learn from others. While there is much value in helping others understand farming and rural life, there is also much value in being connected to other farmers and learning from their experiences and finding resources from people you trust.

How do you do it?

Managing one’s time is based on personal preferences and decisions. How do you, as farmers and agribusiness professionals, manage your time online, emailing, in forums, and using other social networking tools?

NOTE: This post was edited slightly from its original article written on August 1, 2010. This article has Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License which means you are free to use all or a portion of the article as long as you attribute your use of the article back to Anne Mims Adrian and the permanent link to the article.

Anne Mims Adrian, PhD, is social media strategist with eXtension.


  1. Thank heaven for mobile devices. There are so many opportunities now to check email during dead time, like waiting in the parking lot for kids after school or in line at the grocery store or waiting to shuttle tractor drivers back to the shop. Not being tied to my laptop or desktop frees up my home time tremendously. Taking care of important emails periodically during the day saves time at home for other things. I also use the entertainment aspect of electronic media as a refresher when I need a break from bookkeepping or entering scale tickets. This, however, does require some self-discipline. A few minutes can easily turn into the rest of the morning if you don’t limit yourself up front to an allotted time period! Oops, like right now, I’ve got work to finish before I take lunch to the farm!! Bye!

  2. LHDabbs,

    You are exactly right. I find a few minutes to read or watch something funny or uplifting can change my mood.

    Thanks for your comments here.