If you’re a business owner with an online presence in 2018, there’s no escaping social media. For people (like me) whose livelihoods depend on online advertising, outreach, and networking, the pressure to be constantly active on social media can feel like a crushing, relentless weight. Unlike our non-business-owning friends and family, we can’t afford “social media fasts” or “going off the grid” for days or weeks at a time, and if this makes you feel trapped, you’re not alone.

Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It

As we’re all figuring out (after years of exposure), social media is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it’s a never-ending fountain of inspiration and opportunities for personal and professional connection. Social media connects us to our tribe, and without it our worlds would feel much smaller. At the same time, though, social media can easily become an addiction that wastes timefuels anxiety, and distracts us from the real human beings around us.

As a business owner, I accept that social media is (at least for now) a permanent and important part of my life and that quitting altogether isn’t a viable option. However, that doesn’t mean that I have to keep all of the unhealthy and unproductive habitsthat come along with typical social media use. Today, I want to share my top strategy for maintaining a positive, healthy relationship with social media: Taking micro-breaks.

I don’t take breaks from social media for days at at time—I take small breaks from social media several times every day.

Taking Micro-Breaks

In practical terms, here’s how micro-breaks look in my life: First, I don’t look at any social media when I wake up first thing in the morning. Social media is part of my job, and I treat it as such. I wouldn’t roll over in the morning and immediately jump on a conference call while I’m groggy and still half-dreaming, so I don’t interact with any social media during my first few waking moments either.

Second, I set strict limits on what I call “scroll time.” Before, I could easily spend an hour or more mindlessly scrolling through feeds. This, of course, was a huge time-waster and it distracted me from the important work I could have been doing. (Plus, that kind of endless scrolling just exposed me to a whole lot of unwanted advertising that tried to get me to waste money in addition to time.) To avoid these traps, I set strict time limits on my scroll time. I give myself 30-45 minutes every day to write new posts, check in on the accounts I follow for inspiration and work, and look for new connections. This time helps me stay engaged with my followers and connected with my tribe, and the time limit helps me stay focused.

Finally, when I plan out my day, I set specific times when I am not allowed on social media of any kind, for any reason. These micro-breaks help me stay focused on my bigger projects and give me permission to devote my energy elsewhere without worrying about what I’m missing on social media. Since implementing these micro-breaks, I have seen a dramatic upswing in my productivity and creativity, and I’ve come to realize that the quantity of time I spend on social media has an inverse relationship to the quality of my work. Social media is a great place to learn, share, and connect, but it’s not a great place to create, and taking time away from all of the various distracting feeds helps me get back to my most important, inspiring, and fulfilling work.

Strive for a Healthier Relationship

Establishing a healthy relationship with social media takes a lot of work and dedication, especially since the temptation to mindlessly scroll is always just a click away. However, whether you’re a small business owner or just a regular person with lots of social media icons on your phone screen, setting up boundaries between your personal/professional life and your online presence is important for your long-term success. Take a close look at how social media affects your life and your work, and see if you can come up with your own survival strategies for minimizing procrastination and mindless scrolling while maximizing creativity and connection. Social media is a powerful force in all of our lives, and it’s time we trained ourselves to use it for our health, happiness, and success.

Photographer: Josefina Hunter