Many digital media professionals become accustomed to constantly checking the social media channels under their control—even during off-hours. But is that the best way to operate? The following higher education professionals provide some hard-earned tips for staying on top of work while still having a life outside of it.
Awareness, Acknowledgment, and Action
I used to be on social media day in and day out until my husband called me on it. Awareness leads to acknowledgment. We need to recognize that we are uncomfortable if we don’t have our phone with us at all times—even when we walk across campus or go to the bathroom. And maybe laugh a little about that.
After acknowledgment, it’s time to assess. Ask yourself honestly how you feel-emotionally, physically, and even spiritually—when you are logging on as a social media professional and when you are logging on to your personal pages. Or do they all blend together? I’ll bet it’s the second, and it might be hard to differentiate. Are you thriving, logging on with innovation and ideas? Or are you feeling exhausted and uninspired?
If you acknowledge some serious struggles, it’s time to have a conversation with your boss. Set boundaries, and maybe shift responsibilities for a couple of weeks-or even a couple of hours! In this final step, you are taking conscious steps to care for yourself.
—Josie Ahlquist, digital leadership author, coach, and speaker; research associate and leadership instructor, Florida State University
Designate Days for Longer-Term Projects
We’ve found that because social media is constantly “on,” it can be difficult for staff to switch off, sleep, and focus on longer-term projects, so I’ve introduced project days: Each month we dedicate a day for staff to get on top of their workload. They put their out-of-office message on and attend to other work (unless that work is cleaning out the inbox). It has helped us focus on research, communications plans, and campaigns that we don’t always get to when in the office.
To ensure that everyone can take their days, the dates for the next six months were added to calendars before staff left for Christmas. The dates are now fixed, with no meetings planned on those days.
—Sue Montgomery, PR and media relations manager, Southampton Solent University
Strategically Use Students
With social media evolving so quickly, our office wanted tighter control over how we navigated strategy and branding. But after watching our students and how well they interact and engage with each other and with the university on social media, I gained a new perspective. I’m now happy to let them help.
Some events happen on the weekends, and I can’t always attend. When our women’s soccer team competed in the championship game, I asked a student to cover it on Instagram Stories and Snapchat. He captured one of our players scoring a goal and then tagged her in the photo. I would never have thought to do that. As an administrator, I don’t want to overstep privacy lines. But it was a great way to engage our audience.
—Laura Egles, marketing specialist, Georgian Court University
Strategically Plan for Time Off
We should care about the accounts that we manage, and mine eventually felt like they were a part of me. But what happens when I don’t want to deal with them, like over the holidays when I prefer to be with friends and family?
The solution is to look at the strategy and schedule content that will drive engagement on its own. Over the holidays, I cleared with the team and my boss that I would only check our accounts in the morning and then not touch them again for the whole day. One year, we ran a contest with photos we had collected the previous month and which we had scheduled in advance. That turned out to be our best holiday week in years in terms of reader comments.
—Josh Kohnert, marketing specialist, Western Michigan University
Share your mental health maintenance tips in the comments!