Social media can feel like the world’s biggest time suck when you’re trying to run a business. Your mind and focus can be occupied with panic about creating posts when you feel like you should be putting your attention to the actual business itself.
And while Parkinson’s law (the wisdom that “work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion”) was first coined way back in 1955, it has never been truer than when it comes to social media. It could be a full-time job if you let it.
But here’s a social media time management system that lets you take advantage of all of the opportunities it offers without taking up your entire day (week, month, year).
Once your social media strategy is in place, crank up this system to manage your resources more effectively. It helps you break the social media behemoth down into manageable chunks that can be scheduled into your work week.
1. Capture content ideas in one place
Ever suffered the curse of the blinking cursor? The modern-day Murphy’s Law that when you finally have some time to create content, ideas freeze up and you suffer content block?
You’ll probably find that ideas come to you at random times (eg when you’re driving, in the shower, going for a walk, listening to podcasts and especially when you’re scrolling).
Put a system in place to capture these ideas so that when it’s time to create, you have them at your fingertips.
I use a project management system called ClickUp to capture my ideas. All new post ideas are added to a particular list, and when it comes to planning and creating, I can scroll through that list to find the best ideas for that time. I also tag them by content category, so I can be sure all my bases are covered.
In the past I’ve also used the Notes app on my iPhone, or Evernote.
The app itself doesn’t matter – as long as you have a way to collate these ideas so none are lost, ideally organised in a way that makes it easy to select the next right post.
For my Instagram and Facebook content, another important tool I’ve come to rely on is the Save feature in both apps. If I come across an idea, some inspiration, some key questions asked by my target audience or, (in the case of Reels) some trending audio, I simply click Save. My scroll isn’t interrupted, and then when it comes to plan and create, I scroll back through those Saved items and organise them in ClickUp.
2. Plan and prioritise
Generating ideas is just the first step, so in my social media system, step 2 is to plan and prioritise content.
Still within ClickUp, I choose the priority ideas for the next 1-2 weeks and schedule them to specific dates. This helps me plan out my content calendar (making sure all content categories are covered and important dates or opportunities are highlighted) and prioritises the content that needs to be created.
From there I write a list of content assets (photos, videos, graphics) that need to be captured or created for the upcoming posts, and then look for opportunities in my calendar in the days/weeks ahead to create those assets.
For service-based businesses, this might be knowing when you’ll be photo/video ready (whatever that means to you), when you’ll be in certain locations or when you’ll have the space and preferred conditions to film video.
For product-based businesses, it might be when certain products arrive or key release dates.
By thinking ahead, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to capture the photos and videos gradually and in the moment, rather than having to recreate certain conditions or situations more than once.
3. Capture photos and footage
In a perfect world you’d be able to capture all of the photos and footage you need in one session – but the reality is some of the best content opportunities will be found on the fly.
When you know your content categories, and have followed Step 2 and planned your upcoming content, you’ll have a list of content you need to capture at some point.
Rather than let it disrupt your day, quickly take the photos or video, store them in a folder on your phone so they’re easy to access, and just go back to them when you’ve set aside time for content creation. Of course, you can also make the most of spontaneous opportunities and grab photos / footage on the spot, and file them away for later.
4. Enlist help
If you have a team, share your upcoming content plans with them, so they can also capture the content when opportunities arise. A social media strategy and style guide will help to keep the content consistent, but it takes the pressure off you and shares the load. (Plus fresh minds and different perspectives might come up with new ideas to try).
5. Batch create your posts
This is where the rubber hits the road. Set aside a block of time, take your content plan from step 2, the footage and photos you’ve captured in step 3 and 4, and pull them together into finished posts.
This might include video editing, creating graphics, writing captions – all of the finishing touches that turn raw ideas and photos/videos into finished posts. If you batch this step, you’ll get on a roll and be more efficient and consistent than if you were to create in an ad hoc way.
6. Schedule posts
Once your posts are created, schedule them into your chosen social media scheduler to cover the key times when your audience is online and engaging.
In your social media strategy, you will have determined the frequency and best times to post – so your posts will be easy to plug into your favourite tool.
I have been using the native Creator Studio scheduler in Facebook’s (now Meta’s) Business Manager to schedule to Facebook and Instagram, but I’m also trialling Later (which also lets me post to LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tik Tok).
7. Set time aside for engagement
Creating and posting content is just one part of your social media strategy. Don’t forget the all-important engagement that will help your posts be seen by more people (and help you to build your community). Set aside 10-15 minutes a day for your key social media platforms to engage on your content (replying to comments, answering questions) and also to engage on other people’s content – especially for those in your target audience (or people who share your target audience).
8. The beauty of boundaries
The way to apply Parkinson’s Law is to set specific times in your calendar for your social media management.
And if you can’t trust yourself to stick to your boundaries, there are digital tools to help you keep your promises. I use Apple’s Screen Time to limit my use of Instagram, Tik Tok and Facebook on my phone – setting a limit per day. Once I reach that limit, I get locked out and have to add a pin to regain access. Of course that’s not difficult to do but it’s a great way to raise awareness of the time spent and by entering the pin I’m making a conscious decision to extend the time I’m dedicating to social media (vs unconsciously getting caught up in an endless scroll).
Another app is Freedom, which blocks specific websites and apps (or the internet if you like) letting you focus on the deep work without distractions. For $39.99USD per year, the program lets you set time limits and specific sessions where you can’t be distracted by the sites that distract you the most.
9. Measure what’s working
An important way to make sure the time you’re investing in social media is worthwhile is to measure its impact on your marketing and business.
Monitor your insights to know the content that performs best and contributes to your business and marketing goals.
Breaking the System Down
So what does this look like on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
- Collect your ideas in a central place
- Spend 10-15 minutes engaging on your key social media platforms (on your content and on other people’s content)
- Post any planned content that can’t be scheduled (eg Reels & Stories)
- Capture video and photos as the opportunities arise
- Plan and prioritise your content for the next 1-2 weeks
- Identify upcoming opportunities to capture content
- Batch create the posts (including visuals and captions) for the next 1-2 weeks
- Schedule your content for the week ahead
- Review your social media Insights
- Create monthly reports so you can identify trends, challenges and opportunities
- Look ahead and identify key opportunities
- Plan your content at a higher level
Every 3-6 months
- Review your social media strategy in line with your marketing strategy to make sure it’s meeting your goals and supporting your business.
Social media gives small businesses many opportunities, but can also be a distraction and time-hog that takes our focus from where it most needs to be in our business (and life). Implementing boundaries and a solid system lets you manage your use of social media in a measured and intentional way.