90 Minutes in the Morning

There’s a popular weight loss book titled “8 Minutes in the Morning.” The book provides easy exercises you can do that will make a positive change in your health and fitness. The number one excuse people use for not exercising is “lack of time.” Who doesn’t have 8 minutes?

“Not enough time” is also a common reason people give for not marketing themselves or their business properly, and for not taking advantage of all the networking tools available today. (The other reason is not being tech-savvy, which we will address later).

I haven’t managed to get my social networking down to eight minutes, but through effective time management techniques, speed-reading, and a very targeted plan, I can get a lot accomplished in just an hour-and-a-half at the start of my day. If you can find a way to incorporate your morning exercises into your Web surfing, let me know!

So, how do I do it?

First, I check my e-mail, possibly using this to compile the rest of my to-do list. Then I visit three forums and make the rounds of my favorite SM sites, including Twitter, Plurk, Facebook and Myspace. By visiting these sites, and these sites *only*, I keep myself from getting bogged down in mindless surfing. If a link or a forum thread catches my attention, I click on it, read and comment. There are others I want to add to the list, including LinkedIn, but I’m still new to this and don’t want to overwhelm myself yet!

One habit I fell into previously is, after making my rounds, I’d start back at home base and check my e-mail again. It was an endless cycle and before I knew it, I’d have five conversations going on five different sites, but no real work accomplished. Don’t do this! Check a site, and move on! If you really feel a need, you can make your rounds again in the evening, and I definitely recommend checking e-mail at least one more time during the day, preferably after lunch.

Timothy Ferriss, author of the Four-Hour Workweek, recommends checking e-mail and voice mail once at noon and once at 4 PM. But I can’t start my morning without two things: Strong coffee and e-mail.

Before I get started on my assignments for the day, I visit blogs. I don’t visit every one that I like every single day, but I try not to get backed up, either. Choose a selection of blogs to check on Mondays, then different ones on Tuesdays, and again on Wednesday. Rotate every three or four days… once a week isn’t enough and you’ll find yourself getting backed up. When you read, comment on at least one post from each blogger, then and there.

If you’re like me, you’re a “response” junkie and need to find out when people comment on your comments. Set up a separate e-mail address, and enter that address when blogs ask for an e-mail to notify you when someone has replied to your comment. You can also use this e-mail on forums and social networking sites, to notify you when you have private messages, comments, or someone has replied to a certain thread. Check this e-mail address once in the morning, and, if you really can’t wait, again at lunch. That’s it. Do not check it compulsively. If there’s something you want to reply to, do it and move on.

Finally, set up a separate e-mail account for newsletters. Check this once or twice a week, and take some time when you really need a break to sit back and enjoy your favorite newsletters.

By keeping separate e-mails, I find I never miss anything important (like an assignment from an editor) and can check “non-time-sensitive” information at my own leisure, without feeling pressure over having 2,564 unread messages in my mailbox.

This may sound like it’s very regimented, taking a lot of the fun of following link-after-link in that way Web junkies love. Take time to do that, but don’t take the time out of your workday. Enjoy that for what it is: time-wasting fun. In the morning, you have a goal to accomplish--to stay in touch with your network.

Don’t forget, however…social networking can be superficial, with people posting tweets and plurks and comments. If you have extra time when you’re done with your rounds, strike up a conversation with someone in your network. Share ideas. Participate in a chat. They will certainly understand when your 90 minutes (or 60, or however many you decide you need) is up and you say that you have to get to work.

I love SM sites for many reasons, but I also crave deeper connections with my, well…connections. After all, we do this because we love people (and to make money, yeah… but we’d find another way to do that if we didn’t love people!) Use tweets to stay in touch day-to-day, but don’t neglect the relationships behind those short notes.