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When Being Sociable Creates Time Management Issues

Anytime you’re being interviewed by a potential employer, one of the key items on their checklist is personality. They want to be reasonably sure you’ll hit it off with your team, that you’ll be a good fit with the company culture, and that you’re not a serial killer. And, depending on the job description, they may be evaluating whether you’ve got the right personality for interfacing with clients or customers.

Under these circumstances, a friendly, outgoing personality is always a plus.

When it comes to the day-to-day, however, you have to be able to balance your outgoing nature with your ability to focus and stay on task. If you’re a self-described Social Butterfly, this balancing act might be a bit of a challenge for you.

Image of a very social butterfly: the Anise Swallowtail.
Even social butterflies need to schedule
appointments!

Are You the Office Social Butterfly?

The term “social butterfly” is defined by vocabulary.com as “someone who is social or friendly with everyone, flitting from person to person, the way a butterfly might.”

You may not even think of yourself as a Social Butterfly. But if any of the following statements apply to you, then yeah ― it’s time to accept your identity as your office’s Anise Swallowtail:

  • You find it easy to start conversations with strangers while standing in line.
  • It’s hard for you to run errands during your lunch break because you’re always going to birthday or other celebration lunches with your coworkers.
  • You attend work happy hours with people you don’t work with.

Social Butterflies are great to have in your group of friends and coworkers.They always know about trendy new restaurants, and have a perpetual stash of fun ideas for outings and adventures. They seem to always be on the go, either on their way to an event or making plans for the next big get-together. Whether they’re at work or with friends and family, they always seem to have a lot of irons in the fire.

Alas, not everyone can see the beauty of having a Social Butterfly in their office. When people are under especially tight deadlines or not feeling particularly chatty, they won’t appreciate the impromptu invites to grab a cup of coffee or to check out the latest upgrades to the company gym.

If you are a Social Butterfly, you might also find time management a challenge. Not only do you have a lot of people you want to check in with throughout the day (in person, of course), but since you are the go-to planner of all things social, your day is filled with constant interruptions as well.

So here are a few time management tips to help Social Butterflies like you stay on the right track at work.

Know Thyself

Before you can create a time management strategy, you need to be aware of the time you’re spending on various activities. For a few days, keep a detailed log of your time and your outputs. For example, a Monday morning might look like this:

  • 8:00 – 8:45 amArrived at work, got coffee, chatted with co-workers about their weekends, responded to Facebook messages, checked Twitter
  • 8:45 – 9:00 amPrepared for 9 a.m. presentation
  • 9:00 – 10:30 amGave presentation to executive management, moderated Q&A session, stayed after meeting to discuss ideas for new strategy
  • 10:30 – 11:00 amRead and replied to emails, checked RSVPs for team lunch, chatted with co-worker
  • 11:00 am – 12:00 pmMet with team to collaborate on project updates, share new ideas, and brainstorm on how to overcome roadblocks

While some people might think that the hour spent on “non-essential” tasks is wasted time, the remaining three hours might be more productive than another person’s entire eight-hour day. However, if you’re not aware of how much time is spent socializing versus being productive and, more importantly, how productive you actually are, then it’s hard to create a time management strategy that will benefit your particular work style.

While analyzing your log, take note of when you tend to have the best creative ideas, as well as when you are better at administrative tasks. Learn to discern your natural “working blocks”; e.g., do you work best in 20-minute spurts, or do you tend to hunker down for a few hours at a time? Knowing your natural rhythm will help you create a schedule that works for you.

Be Respectful of Others’ Time

Now that you’ve got a handle on how much social time you need in order to maintain maximum productivity, it’s time to consider how the others around you work.

Photo of a doll.
Not everyone appreciates a visit from Chatty Kathy.

For many people, it takes a while to “get into the zone.” And when someone pops into their cube unexpectedly and invites them to the breakroom for a soda or to see the visiting baby, it can take a while to for them regroup from the interruption and become productive again. That friendly, five-minute visit may put them a half hour behind schedule.

Here are some quick tips on respecting boundaries:

  • Headphones = out of office. When people are wearing headphones, they are generally trying to drown out noise from their work environment so they can concentrate. Instead of tapping them on the shoulder, send an email or instant message so that they can reply when they are ready for a break.
  • No means no. If someone is trying hard to meet a deadline or needs to spend time on a personal errand, don’t badger them to change their plans in order to socialize. While it may seem like you are being nice by trying really, really hard to be inclusive, it creates additional stress on the other person, who now has to rearrange their schedule to accommodate you.
  • Watch your volume. Particularly in open-area work layouts, it’s not only hard to find privacy, it’s also hard to tune out other people’s conversations. So even if you’re telling the most hysterical joke of all time, or just enjoying a good laugh at the latest viral video, be mindful of those around you who are “in the zone.”

Create a Reward System

If you find yourself struggling to fit in all your work and social commitments, try creating a reward system that allows you to enjoy social time in exchange for work accomplishments. This is especially helpful if you tend to get bored with projects that have more solo components than collaborative pieces.

For example, if you need to finish a report that consists mostly of writing and research, make a deal with yourself that you can attend a work happy hour ONLY if you finish your report. If you have an overflowing inbox, reward yourself with a quick coffee break with your office bestie after getting your email under control. This approach ensures that you’re staying productive and still getting your “people fix.”

Another way to reward yourself is with some coveted alone time. Being a Social Butterfly isn’t always fun and games, although it may seem that way to the outside world. The pressure to always say yes to an invitation, whether from plain old guilt or even FOMO, can wreak havoc on your stress levels.

Photo of two coworkers enjoying a break from work.
Treat yourself to a break as a reward for your effective
time management skills.

If you have more social invitations than your calendar (or budget) can handle, reward yourself with a night off. Weigh your options and only commit to the events that are important to you. Then take a well-deserved break from being the life of the party.

Follow Your Schedule!

A common pitfall of Social Butterfly-ism is double (or even triple) booking. Make sure you are aware of all your commitments so you don’t overextend yourself and create a scheduling conflict. No matter how much you want to, you can’t be everywhere. And it’s not fair to others to make commitments you’re not able to keep.

Either use one online scheduler for planning, or be sure to set all your calendars to sync up to all your devices (computer, phone, tablet). This way, if you keep your personal calendar separate from your work calendar, you can still see all your commitments at once. If you choose to use a paper-based planner, make sure to have it with you at all times, and consider backing it up with an online calendar for safe-keeping.

Photo of a chimpanzee family
Make it a priority to schedule time for family and close friends.

Put Family First

It’s also imperative to schedule appointments with those who are most important to you. Sometimes a Social Butterfly will try to fit in as many events as possible, without leaving time for family and close friends. Be sure to schedule in recurring “dates” with your loved ones, and don’t let impromptu gatherings get in the way of those appointments.

Being a Social Butterfly is wonderful for building relationships, expanding your network, and learning from others. And with a few time management adjustments, you can still be as productive and successful as anyone else, and have a lot of fun to boot.

For more about time management: