Short answer: You Can’t. They are inherently distracting services, regardless of whether or not they are useful or relevant to you in a work capacity.
Exception to the above rule if you are one of the following:
- you are a full-time blogger – in this case, odds are being more exposed to “the noise” may actually help you.
- you are someone whose job does not depend on linear work – if you don’t spend hours at a time writing huge documents or lines of code or some other focused task, then you can probably tweet away. Odds are that you probably have a pretty cushy job too. 😉
- you are Robert Scoble – if you are Robert Scoble, then the normal rules simply do not apply.
For the rest of us, it’s noisy and distracting. And it doesn’t matter if you have notifiers on or off, because using either communication stream effectively requires participation. Sure, you can just read a series of streams, and that’s better than nothing, but not by much. Part of the point of it all is being engaged.
I think the best analogy I can come up with (and its a bit of a dramatic one, so take it with a grain of salt) is trying to do all your work in a Starbucks filled with friends, colleagues, and all of their friends and colleagues. And everyone is yelling, and there are no headphones available. And every now and then, someone yells something that you feel the need to respond to. So you do. By yelling.
The next-best solution? Wait for Twitter to be down. (ooh, cheap shot, I know!)
Okay, time for the “real” how-to. It’s a combo of the technology AND the mindset. It isn’t too hard, technically, but it may be a crazy strain on the brain.
- Tech: Turn down/off your notification settings (I recommend the same for email, btw). Anything that can pop up over your actual work should go away.
- Mind: When you are working on a serious project, close your tabs and anything else with Twitter/FF visible.
- Tech: Create a bookmark folder with FF, Summize, and Twitter all ready to go, so when you are done with work, you can quickly pick up what you missed.
- Mind: Don’t worry that you are missing something. Odds are really good you are not. Anything important will be there when you get back. I promise.
- Mind: Seriously, stop it! Close Twhirl and Twitterific, and leave it alone for a few. The world keeps on turnin whether or not you pay attention to it.
- Mind: Breathe… it’ll be okay.
- Mind: Remind your coworkers and colleagues that they can call you should something important come up.
- Tech: If you are working on something *really* important, turn off your ringer too.
Good luck to you. When in doubt, just remember: there was a world before FriendFeed, Twitter, Email, Cell Phones, and even Facebook (yes, it’s true). There were no tweets, pings, chatrooms, and ringtones. Nobody used to get sheep thrown at them nor did they have to decide between vampires and werewolves (vampires!). And Gary Coleman was once a star, dammit, a big star!
Another way is to rely on RSS feeds from Summize to alert you to search terms in Twitter so you don’t have to be logged in, but you don’t miss anything. As for using FriendFeed or Twitter in their native way, I find having a tab open and checking 1x to 2x an hour while at the office means you can get all done. What’s bad is if you open them up as your only browser window and start tracking previous pages. Good luck getting out of that!
Love the cheap shot 😉
How the hell did I end up as the first screenshot? pshhhaw
Jeremiah – random chance, your tweet arrived as I took the screenshot…
Your post was a timely reminder we have to an option of tuning out and dropping out from FF and Twitter.
Thanks for reminding us that there was life before FF, Twitter etc…not so many years ago.
Thanks, these tips are just what I needed to break me from my Twitter/FriendFeed addiction while trying to work.
Now, if you’d care to follow me on Twitter…
This won’t work. If you close twhirl or FriendFeed, you’ll open it back up well before you forget it. Turn notifications off? You’ll be checking back every 2 minutes all the while thinking 10 mins has passed.
It’s a good start, but only the strong will survive 🙂 Thanks for the tips.
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Not checking for updates feels like working in a chocolate shop and not being able to regularly sample the chocolate.
In extreme cases of addiction, I recommend disconnecting from your wi-fi connection (highly effective for those folks with little discipline and a good case of attention deficit disorder).
Typically at work I just use twitter for what it stands, a quick update on “What I am doing currently?”. And every few hours check my @replies.
I don’t get involved in conversations on days when I am pressed for time.
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Something I thought seemed interesting in context (maybe): the ‘P.S. we’re hiring’ at the end of the post you linked for your well-placed cheap shot. Since the post speculates about Twitter’s problems, I wonder if the writer – a Microsoft employee – is involved in a Twitter-like project.
Try MySocialChatter.com – you can simply leave the web page open on your desktop as you work and it will refresh both Twitter and FriendFeed every 60 seconds. No notifications, no interruptions. Hope you find it useful.