Laptop with coffee
Tuan Tran—Getty Images/Flickr RF
December 30, 2014 10:17 AM EST

At some point over the last few years, I picked up an awful habit. For every 20-30 minutes of work I do, I “reward” myself by opening Facebook or Twitter and dipping into my social streams.

Seems innocent enough—”I’ll just see where ‘the conversation’ is right now”—but I’ve realized it’s more distracting than helpful. My habit’s gotten so bad that opening up TweetDeck to take a quick peek is more an exercise of muscle memory than a conscious decision on my part.

Getting face-deep into a piece I’m writing about, say, New Year’s resolutions, only to distract myself midway through reading tweets about rabbits near the Gowanus canal, China blocking Gmail or the weather in Moscow (all examples from my Twitter feed as I write this) makes it harder to get anything done because when I revert back to my task at hand, I’ve got to mentally catch up to where I was five minutes ago.

I just had to catch up right now, actually. And it definitely slows me down. It probably doesn’t help my accuracy, creativity or other performance metrics, either.

I’m not sure where the habit came from exactly. It might be the evolution of a favorite move of mine from college: write for 25 minutes, rest for five. But back then, I took my quick breaks by laying down stimuli-free, letting my mind get back to focusing on the task at hand when the time came. Working in an office makes it much tougher to get that stimuli-free break.

So my New Year’s resolution this year—lame as it may be compared to people who quit smoking or vow to travel more—is to shake this habit. No more dipping out of work to look at Twitter or Facebook. If I need a break, I’ll stare out the window for a few minutes or, better yet, take a walk around the office. I have a feeling this will help me be loads more productive in 2015, if a little quieter on social media.

Write to Alex Fitzpatrick at

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