How to Get Any Work Done
(When Connecting Is Your Job)


If you’re doing any social media marketing at all, you know the drill. It’s all about showing up. Being your authentic self. Showing that you’re a trustworthy human being, making a connection, reaching out one-to-one.

The cornerstone idea of this blog is that if you can create more remarkable relationships with your customers, you’ll have a more remarkable business.

It’s fun and it works and it’s a great model. But it does have a significant downside.

How am I ever going to get anything done?

The problem with putting so much you into your business is that there’s a finite amount of you.

A couple of years ago, I asked Chris Brogan at a conference how he manages it.

He didn’t need me to elaborate, he knew exactly what I meant. Following tens of thousands on Twitter, making himself amazingly available for questions and conversations around the web, writing great blog posts then following through in the comment conversation, writing a terrific book. Plus he has, you know, a job. And two young kids.

“I sleep about four hours a night,” he said with a smile. A tired smile.

Since then, I think he’s developed some more techniques for being able to make remarkable connections without killing himself. (I really hope so, anyway.) And he’s a particularly energetic, passionate guy, which helps a lot.

I can’t make Chris’s way work. I need plenty of sleep (and time to work out, and creative noodling time) to function. So here are my thoughts on how to manage the demands of the social web with the need to get things done.

You can’t be everywhere

I’m on Twitter and Copyblogger. A few times a month I post here, because I love the culture and community that’s distinctly “Remarkable Communication.”

That’s it.

Once in a blue moon I get onto Facebook to see friends, but I don’t use it professionally. I never venture into public forums any more, too many trolls. My Squidoo lenses are neglected, but luckily, they tend to take pretty good care of themselves. I have a LinkedIn account that I never use.

MySpace? Get real.

Pick one or two platforms (one of which you should own, like a blog or a great email newsletter). Do your best work for them.

If you create remarkable work in just one or two places, others will share your message far and wide. Mediocre work spread out over a dozen sites is mostly wasted effort.

My most important tool

The most important tool on my desk isn’t my laptop, my complicated GTD-based next action list, my phone (on which I spend more time than I like), or even my fancy fountain pen collection.

It’s my timer.

I work in 50-minute chunks, followed by 10 minutes of goof time.

The goof time is really important when you’re doing creative, difficult work. Your brain needs time to play and rest and have a good time, or it won’t work for you when you need it. Sometimes I knit, sometimes I hang out with the cat, sometimes I just walk in circles. Under no circumstances do I do anything productive.

My social media connection time is also on a timer. Twitter is confined to specific times of day, and no more than 10 minutes at a run. I usually answer email in 20-minute chunks.

I don’t have enough follow-up time in my day. I do the best I can with the time I have, and sometimes I drop the ball.

It’s 2009. Our lives are insanely complex, and our social obligations get overwhelming. We drop the ball. If you’re not doing heart surgery or managing a nuclear power plant, you’re allowed to drop the ball.

Bad as I feel when I don’t get back to someone, I’ve also realized that I can spend my energy feeling like a terrible person, or I can spend my energy helping as many people as I can. The latter doesn’t just feel better, it also makes a lot more sense.

The Sacred Two

I’ve made a commitment to carve out two hours a day, five days a week, for my most important work. (They’re actually two 50-minute chunks, per the above.)

Right now, that includes content creation for the membership site I’m building (I think that’s my first official public notice!), content for my email classes, writing for Remarkable Communication, and moving forward two on two other nifty projects I’m launching this fall.

There are other commitments I’ve made that are very important to me. Deadlines to hit, projects promised, email to answer. All of that is important. But it’s not sacred. Those two hours spent on my core projects are sacred.

Most of the time, they’re the first two work hours of my day. But if I need to take an important call or hit an early deadline, they might get shifted. What matters most is that they get done. 10 hours a week.

How do you do it?

I think this problem is nearly universal, at least for the community around this blog.

So how are you handling it? What are your favorite techniques to make social connections (on or off the web) without the social element eating your entire life?

I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments?

Flickr Creative Commons image by realSMILEY


  1. Dave Doolin says:

    Revisiting, with data!

    Jan and Feb 2010, I did the 2 hour rule in the morning. Things marched right along.

    Progress Was Made.

    I got distracted in March. Lost the habit. Progress was not made, not in the same way to be sure. I’ll start it back up tomorrow.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..7 Excellent Tips for Handling Content Robbers (’cause you cain’t shoot ‘em) =-.

  2. The dedication part is very important, setting yourself aside for so many hours each day to achieve connecting tasks cannot be understated.

  3. Ah, the unanswerable question, “How do I effectively manage my time?” I say unanswerable because everyone works differently so there will never be one magic bullet that fits all. But I love to read how others make the day work for them. I’m not structured enough to work the “chunks of time”plan. I work off a daily to-do list and list the items in order of importance, so at the end of the day I feel very satisfied to see items crossed through. Of course, I hardly ever get through the list and usually have items that roll over to the next day. But, that’s life! Great post!

  4. Sam Amit says:

    Sonia, I love your 50 minute way of working. It sounds just as good as the GTD 2 minute rule. I wanted to ask you how long it took you from the decision to do this to get it right. I set myself time to do a task notice that i have not finished in the allotted time and then most often decide to go over time. I am basically asking you about the process you went through to get this right.
    Thanks in advance

  5. Marc Sokol says:

    Very cool! You and others have in the past gotten me to recognize that one important tactic of sustainable blogging is to find your own voice; now I can add to that the tactic of finding your own schedule. Your advice around choosing a few platforms reinforces advice I got a while back: start out posting 1x week so you can focus on quality of content and use your other time during the week to read different blogs, comment on others’ posts, and engage in Linked In discussion groups for ideas.

    Many people tell me the key to expanding readership is to post 2-3 times a week minimum. Do you agree with that advice?

  6. Kenny Rose says:

    I am late to this post. But the information is absolutely relevant. Trying to cram more unproductive work into a day is just not worth the effort. It does not help me or the customers I intend to target through being in the social media space. At the end of the day what matters is doing great work. Once that is nailed everything else will fall into place if combined with developing great relationships. That’s my perspective. Someone else may see it different.

  7. I want so badly to be a Chris Brogan, but the wisdom of your words–mediocre work spread thin is worth a lot less than good work targeted–is hitting me. My problem is that I genuinely want to be friends and close to a great many people. I really hope I can find a way to do it–posts like yours help.

  8. Elana says:

    Discipline and creativity–two concepts that are frequently misunderstood. You make them so simple to understand here.

    One of the things I like about your 50/10 plan is that it not only fosters discipline, but it helps your creative process by giving it a time and place to emerge. If you’re like me, those 50 minute writing sessions don’t always proceed at the same pace. Sometimes I need several sessions just to get to something worth publishing; other times one session seems to be enough. I bet plenty of people are like that.

    The challenge is to remember that not every 50 minute session will produce the same results. And to be okay with that. And to trust the process anyway.

    There’s some in here about compassion, self-compassion, that’s suggested but not named. We all need down time, even, or especially, when our to-do lists are miles long!


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