Internet companies have taken the original idea behind blogs and amplified it into a set of tools that anyone can use to tighten a tribe.

With Twitter, tiny driplike updates reach the thousands of people who are waiting to hear from you and follow your lead.

Facebook goes in the opposite direction of Twitter. Instead of forcing you to use just a few characters, it enables a huge range of images, text, and connections to be created. – Tribes

As one who is working to get my ideas spread, I love the social media and marketing tools currently available. I don’t have to spend big on paper or magazine ads only to realize that my ‘big spend’ was pocket change compared to the cost of the ads that dwarfed mine, rendering it irrelevant.

I love that I can go to a new city and hang out with someone I’ve interacted with online for years. Getting to expand that friendship into the real world is something amazing that we often pass off as mundane.

The problem is that much of ’social networking’ would be defined as ‘shallow work’.

Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate. – Deep Work

That’s not what most of us want to do though. We want to have an impact of some fashion on some scale. We want to do ‘deep work’.

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. – Deep Work

The problem is that as we write, design, and create, people will not just come to our online spaces just because we publish our content. Online, the good does not always rise to the top. Look at the really smart kids in school. Many who come from ‘less advantaged’ schools won’t ever get that scholarship they’re eligible for because we try to find them way too late in their academic lives. By the time colleges start looking, those talented kids have been trained by their peers that sticking out and being smart is a bad thing. (listen to this for more background)

That leaves us knowing we should be spending time without distraction and diving into our work while also wrestling with the need to tell people about our work so it can actually help them and we can turn it into something that matters.

Here are four rules that help me stay focused on deep work, while still working to market my business and spread my ideas.

1. Schedule time.

The first step in using social media as an effective tool for your business is to schedule time to use it. Not so that you remember, but so that you don’t use it when it’s not scheduled.

I will check in on Twitter and Facebook in the morning, briefly, and then I don’t check in again until the next morning. All the content I put out during the day on both platforms is from Buffer or from the Instagram app on my phone.

Staying away from the distractions for the rest of the day means that I can focus on the real work at hand like writing or coding or…whatever else is actually important in moving my business forward.

2. Use something to block you.

If self control is hard for you (and it is for me) then you will likely need to look at an application like Self Control. If I don’t turn this on just after my social media time I will check back in any second I’m bored, or any time I want a distraction from whatever I’m currently doing.

Be honest with yourself. If you can’t just stay off social media channels then make them inaccessible so you can get down to the work you should be doing.

3. Use bad devices.

Smart phones and tables are great, and at the same time terrible. They can double as your book reading device by using the Kindle software, but there is a detriment hiding in that dual functionality. These devices can, and do, pull you away from that reading you wanted to do by providing instant gratification options with a simple tap or swipe. Stuff like Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever game is currently popular.

I’ve given up my iPad as my reading device and moved all my reading of books to a Kindle Paperwhite. I take my notes on the books in paper notebooks and transfer them to Evernote later, in batches.

Using a read-only device with no social media options means that I get down to the task of reading. Make sure your device choices and what applications you put on your devices are done with care.

My phone has no Twitter and no Facebook on it. If I could cut out Instagram or find an application that would let me post only on Instagram, without being able to check what other people have put up, I’d use it.

If you plan to use your iPad as a writing tool, install nothing but what you need for writing. Sure you could check your site stats, but don’t install that crap so it doesn’t present distractions.

4. Be picky about where you use your devices.

Getting into deep work is not just a list of rules you can follow effortlessly. It’s a matter of training your brain to not need the distractions that you’ve trained it to pay attention to. Even with Self Control installed and running I find myself trying to open Twitter a few times a day.

We’ve all had the experience of an idle second at home so we pull out our phone just to check in on something for a second. That second stretches into minutes so easily because we’re not careful about where we take our devices with us.

I generally (and have been failing huge at lately) put my phone on top of the fridge when I get home. I’ll tell my kids to scold me if they see me with my phone in my hand for more than a few seconds. Are you going to have a few minutes of boredom? Yup, but remember that boredom is so good for you.

The point to learning and creating is to train yourself to do it. No one is instantly creative all the time from a dead stop. Those that seem to always have something creative on their minds have trained their brains for that. Those that focus and do amazing work have cultivated the practice of focus.

[Tweet “The point to learning and creating is to train yourself to do it.”]

If you want to be that person who is focused and doing good work then make sure you follow these rules above. Use social media and marketing to your advantage. Just remember that without you creating the awesome stuff you create, there is nothing to tell people about.

photo credit: mshipp cc