How does a productivity guru manage social media?

Tony Schwartz, Author and Speaker
Tony Schwartz, busy (but productive) man

Tony Schwartz is a busy man. He’s an author and speaker, and his latest book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, is all about managing your energy, not just your time.

Tony’s an accomplished author (he co-authored The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump) and a relative newcomer to social media. But his new project, The Energy Project, is fully embracing social media, with a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn company profile, and YouTube channel.

We asked Tony some questions around how he manages his personal energy while making the most of social media. We’ve emphasised some of his statements that are particularly awesome.

Q: How do you personally manage your social media engagement? Do you set up routines and habits, or is it more free-flowing?

A: Well I’m pretty new to social media. I’ve only really been in it for a year or so, and seriously for the past six months.  I don’t yet have clear routines  around posting on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, but I now realize that I need them.

It’s clear to me that the ONLY possible way to engage in social media, and get other substantive work accomplished (like writing a book) and still have a life, is to build very firm rituals. A ritual is a highly specific behavior you do at a precise time so that it becomes automatic and you do it without having to think about it. Brushing your teeth, for example.   Rituals are at the core of the work we do here at the Energy Project.

Now here’s the problem: Checking what’s happening on line, or updating & posting yourself, are both incredibly seductive — not least as a way to avoid more difficult work.

My strong instinct is that the way to manage the world of social media is to set very specific times during the day when you engage in it, and not to do it at all at other times.  It’s very much what we encourage people to do around email: answer at specific times, and not at others.  There is no arguing that the most powerful way to be productive — and to do high quality work, and creative thinking, and deeper thinking –- is to do one thing at a time.

The very essence of great performance, the research suggests, is to work in intense uninterrupted sprints of no more than 90 minutes, and then take a real renewal break.  Catching up on social media is something you can do after an intense sprint, and before you start your renewal.

Q: How has social media helped your business?

A: Again, I’m pretty new to social media, and as a former print journalist, I confess I came to it with great skepticism. I’ve made two discoveries over the past year.

The first is that social media are here to stay.  It’s not clear what the landscape will look like in five years — it’s changing so fast — but I have no doubt that this faster, shorter way of communicating is just going to be part of our future, and no one will be able to operate effectively in business without it.  Remember when you didn’t need a website?  That seems like 1000 years ago, but it’s actually less than a decade.

The Internet was irrelevant in the marketing of the last book I wrote, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy Not Time, which was published in 2003.  I was lucky enough to get on Oprah for that book, and that appearance alone transformed the book into a giant bestseller.  I also did lots of other traditional media — print, tv and radio.

This time out, I haven’t been lucky enough to get booked on Oprah yet, and it’s proven to be way harder to get other traditional media.  But as I write this, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working is in the top 20 books on Amazon, and among the top 5 in non-fiction.

How is that possible?

The answer is social media. First, the Huffington Post made it their book of the month last week. The review by Arianna Huffington prompted the book to jump from around 45,000 to 170 on Amazon in a matter of hours.  Her review got retweeted hundreds of times. I wrote a blog about the book the next day on Huff Post, and it too got retweeted.

I also wrote a couple of blogs based on the book for HBR.org that got a huge amount of attention.  A number of other bloggers to whom we’d reached out and sent the book ran interviews, or reviews, or mentioned it.  Some big players on Twitter recommended the book, including Tony Tsieh at Zappos, and David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done.  I’m convinced that the future for promoting books is via social media not traditional media.  And that’s fantastic, because it returns power to the author, instead of to a few key media outlets that could make or break a book.  It also means a huge amount of additional work for the author — but it’s well worth it.

The other discovery I’ve made is that there is a meaningful role for social media to play more broadly, and it’s not all about what you ate for dinner or the newsflash that you’re going to bed.  It’s a very quick and powerful way to create a conversation, and to gauge the power of an idea, and to connect with a lot of people who are otherwise very busy and difficult to reach.

Q: What platforms do you use, and which ones have been most effective for you?

The main platforms I’m using so far — and that we’re using as a company — are Twitter, Facebook and You Tube. I still haven’t gotten as comfortable with LinkedIn, partly because I so dislike their home page.   I’ve found all of these have value, and they’re increasing for us every day. For example, we put up a wonderful 30 second video on YouTube a few days ago, and then embedded it in posts I did on the Huffington Post and HBR.org two days ago. Here it is:

During the past 48 hours, I’ve learned first hand that 1) people love video and 2) they like it even more if it’s embedded, so that all they have to do is push the arrow to watch.  I didn’t even know the word “embedded” last week. It’s surprises me that I was eve able to insert the video into this interview.  During the past 24 hours, it has gotten more than 5000 views.  That’s amazing to me, and I realize it’s nothing compared to what happens to some videos.  What I see now vividly is the power of a very simple message delivered via social media.

Q: How did your book’s journey begin? What prompted you to write this book, and create the Energy Project?

A: I’ve been a seeker all my life — literally since I was a teenager. I just had a hunger to understand myself — my motivations and fears and moods and possibilities — and to understand others. I saw people, including me, doing things that seemed so irrational. In my better moments, I was a very logical, clear thinking guy, and I wanted to figure out why people do what they do.  At the Energy Project, our mission is to help people take back their lives — and what we do is grounded in a huge amount of research across multiple disciplines.

We’re in a genuine energy crisis, and this one’s personal.  The biggest discovery I’ve made over the years is that living a productive and satisfying life depends on cultivating four separate sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. All are necessary, none is sufficient by itself, and most of us don’t have enough of any of them.

We also have no idea how to renew them.  What we’ve done is to take some very complex ideas and make them very simple and actionable in people’s lives. The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working is really a primer on how to live the rest of your life more intentionally.

Q: What’s your advice to anyone just starting out using social media for their business?

A: My first advice on social media is learn to use it or you’re gonna lose out.  My second advice is start today. It doesn’t happen overnight. What happens, if you are diligent about providing really good content to people, your following begins to grow. It doesn’t happen by luck, or by accident. It’s all about hard work.

I’m still at the beginning of this journey, but I’m beginning to see its possibilities and I’ve evolved from skeptic to believer.  If you’re in charge of what you’re doing with social media, it’s an incredible tool. If it takes charge of you, the next stop may be a 12 step program.

3 thoughts on “How does a productivity guru manage social media?

  • kellymonroe

    Productivity in the workplace can be hindered but also heightened depending on the usage of the application. Companies choose to block or not block social media apps. Unfortunately they are missing out on that grey area where social media apps can be utilized to further inovation and productivity. Palo Alto Networks came out with this whitepaper talking about how to block social media apps and when it is appropriate to let employees utilize these apps productivly. To block or not? Check it out: http://bit.ly/d2NZRp

    Reply
    • Simon

      Thanks Kelly. Another helpful resource is stopblocking.org, which makes the case that blocking access to social media is never helpful. Anecdotally I’ve heard of organisations that block access to social media, frustrating the efforts of marketing staff who need to use social media, and inadvertently incentivising other staff to use their mobile devices. to access social media.

      Reply
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