Social media and productivity

I’ve been thinking this morning about why people who are interested in social media are often interested in productivity as well. Adam created a productivity category here on The Social Enterprise long before I turned up and many of my other blogger friends regularly write about productivity. Stephanie Booth writes some especially good stuff on productivity, often mirroring my own thoughts.

In part, I think it’s because a lot of social tools are seen as ways to help us improve our productivity. Blogs and wikis behind the firewall are often set up as a way to make us more effective. We want to communicate more effectively, collaborate more easily, take less time to do tasks that used to be tedious with the old tools.

People who are goal-oriented, who want to achieve their ends by the most economical means possible, seem to be the ones drawn to social tools as a way to remake the patterns of their working lives. People who are task-oriented and are much more interested in executing the process that they have learnt (or have been told to do) than in achieving the goal are, I suspect, more likely to resist changes whether that’s new tools or new procedures.

Being a regular social media user also begs productivity questions around the way that it fits into our lives: How do I make sure that Twitter doesn’t become a time sink? How can I persuade myself to blog regularly? When do I fit checking out my essential wiki pages into my day? How can I become better at managing my time with all this information and stuff going on?

That latter question is an interesting and circular one. Many social tools, such as blogs, wikis and social bookmarking sites, were created to better manage information-and-stuff, but as you use more of them, they become the very sources of information-and-stuff that you need to better manage… And so the study of productivity hacks becomes a de facto item of interest for the committed social media user.

A lot of productivity thinking done by social media people is focused on how people who are driven to improve their own working experience can best deal with, say, email or procrastination. Like giving up smoking or losing weight, these sorts of tips and tricks require the individual to be committed to changing the way that they behave and react. Sites like 6Changes are excellent resources for people who want to create new good habits for themselves.

But how do we encourage good habits in the people we introduce to social tools? Are we spending enough time working with new social media users so that they can fit the tools into their day? So that they can understand how to make positive behavioural changes? So that they can support each other when changing working processes that were previously so embedded in their day that they barely realised it was a process at all?

I always say that social media is only 20% technology and 80% people. Are we really spending enough time and money looking after the 80%?