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Figuring that I’d put off posting my first blog post long enough, today I decided to start off by posting something that I think anyone working in the web field will understand all-too-well… Distraction.

Working in web marketing is one of the most interesting, fast-paced, and rapidly developing fields I’ve ever been involved in. The trouble is, this incredible torrent of news, blog posts, tweets, updates, videos, and new applications can at times make it a little impossible to stay focused. There is a fine line between staying informed (an essential task in this business) and allowing yourself to drown in the information. It’s all very well to know every coming trend, meme, or tool that’s just been released. But in an industry where this would be pretty much a full-time job in and of itself, when exactly are we supposed to find time to actually get some work done? You know, the stuff that pays the rent, keeps the lights running, and ensures that Friday afternoon happy hour is indeed happy.

We all try our best to stay on top of what’s going on, but at some point, the time comes where you have to close the Google Reader or Google News window, shut down your Twitter client, log out of Facebook (NOOOOOOO!!!) and actually perform.

The question is then – how do we do it? How do we truly ‘shut it out’ – especially when the main source of our distraction – the web, is also where we are doing all our work?

Well, it takes discipline to be sure. But just like trying to quit smoking cold turkey, it’s always better to have a plan or a process to follow – with small, achievable goals, rather than big ones that you’ll just end up failing at miserably “I’m not going to check Facebook this week” (Personal Best: 25 hours, 13 minutes, 18 seconds)

No, instead, create timeslots where you will allow yourself to get your fix – checking out your RSS reader, logging into Facebook and Twitter, etc.  I like making these time-slots before something else – this way you have no choice but to end your activity after the set amount of time.

For instance, deciding that you’re going to spend some time ‘plugged in’ when you first arrive at the office is a bad idea. A dedicated 30 minutes from 8am till 8:30 can quickly turn into an hour and a half of meandering through the social-web haze where you invariably end up on some Wikipedia article about the fall of some ancient civilization in South America (ok fine, I’m not that sophisticated – it’s more likely to be IMDB and checking out the cast of the newest Robert Rodriguez flick… what can I say, I’m a sucker for Jessica Alba).

Instead, 30 minutes before you go to lunch or head out for a meeting, finish up your work early and use this time to check out your favorite blogs and social sites. You can always bookmark stuff to follow up on later, but the fixed end time will help you minimize distraction.

End of the day is another great time for this. Let’s be honest, but 4:30pm your brain has checked out for the day anyway – might as well switch over to something a bit more passive and hopefully get some value out of the time – rather than spending an hour at half-capacity trying with no avail to get that last little piece of the website to render correctly in IE (Grrrrrrrrrr).

It has to be a choice you’re willing to make, but typically when you restrict your time on social media, that time can become for focused and useful… you’re less likely to spend time on the really really pointless stuff.

So that’s my personal goal for the week – less distraction. Move productivity. Check my Twitter and Facebook updates to see how I’m doing 🙂