How Twitter Helped Me Meet My Deadline

Hitting the Books

Twitter is often seen as a distraction – a place where arch procrastinators hang out and egg each other on to new and higher levels of avoidance. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the case. I have found some of the most productive people on the web through Twitter, and rather than encouraging my inner slacker, they actually helped me to meet my deadline for my thesis chapter, which, incidentally, was due in today.

So, having now finally finished my chapter (which is soon to be winging its way to my supervisor), I thought I’d share a few pointers on how you could also use Twitter to help you to increase your productivity, and meet your goals on time.

  • Accountability: Announce your intention and the time frame that you intend to complete it in. Once your time is up, report back on how you did. I found that when I did this, I not only made myself a promise to do the work, but I also promised my 162 followers. I also discovered that when I did announce my goal, I received replies wishing me luck, and when I reported back, replies of congratulations. Greatly encouraging!
  • Support: Of course, I didn’t always meet my goals. Sometimes life got in the way, sometimes I had a set back in the research, sometimes the words just wouldn’t flow. When I reported back that I’d hit a stumbling block, I was sent such wonderfully supportive tweets, that it became easier to forgive myself for my lack of progress, and to start anew the following day.
  • Called Out: If you have stated your intention and your time frame for completion, and then you loiter around, your followers will call you out. I actually so appreciated this, because as much as I know I’m capable of getting down to work, sometime I need someone else to nudge me into action. Actually, I know of no greater cure for procrastination than being caught doing something when you’re supposed to be working!
  • Downtime: I’ve heard Twitter being compared to a water cooler for those who work from home, and, when you need it to, it can certainly work like that for you. If you’ve been plowing through books of dense literary theory, as I was, it’s fun to drop in and engage in some light chitchat. In fact, I’d go further than that, and say it goes towards recharging the brain cells, and helps you to return to your task refreshed.
  • Celebration: Once you’ve achieved your goal, you get to report back the good news, and that, in many ways, is a great reward in itself. Reading congratulatory tweets was a lovely way to celebrate all that hard work 🙂

Now, of course, there are a lot of other offline supporters that have helped me get to my goal this week, and they know how much I appreciate them and their relentless encouragement. But with this post, I wanted to redeem a little of Twitter’s reputation as an instrument of idleness. Twitter is merely a medium – you are ultimately the one who determines how you use it, so make sure you use it well!

I also wanted to use this post to say thank you to the following folk from my Twitter network who held me accountable, gave me encouragement and support, and who have shared in my achievement: Joanna Young, Captain Stardust, Xarah, D Mcordell, Chris Garrett, PetLvr, Roland Hesz, Tom Breeves, Evil Angel 277, Nick Cernis, Karen Swim, Anna Lenardson, Linda R. Moore, Alina Popescu and WendiKelly. Thank you 🙂

What unexpected uses have you found for Twitter? Where do you find support online when you need it? Do you use Twitter to increase your productivity?

UPDATE: If you are new to Twitter, then you might want to check out my post on lessons from my first week of Twitter. Oh, and if you want to follow me, click here.


March 31, 2008. Creativity.


  1. Joanna Young replied:

    Amy, you are so thoughtful and generous, thanks for taking the time to write these reflections and thanks for us.

    Twitter is a distraction for me at times, but mainly I find it an encouraging, witty and supportive community. Like the best parts of working in an office – banter, friendship, encouragement, fun – but you can choose to turn it off and concentrate when it gets too much (unlike office work!)

    I’m glad we helped you finish the chapter and rest assured we will be cheering you on until you complete the PhD and move on to whatever wonderful opportunities open up for you thereafter.


  2. captainstardust replied:

    seconding everything joanna says here! it’s wonderful being able to participate in a support network over the long distances.

    for my part i’ve found that twitter is a great way to discover new blogs and blog posts, because everyone is so supportive of one another. it’s evolving for me from a way to keep in touch with established friends to a place to meet new ones, and i love that.

  3. wendikelly replied:

    Amy thanks!

    i am so new at Twitter and I am having problems with my computer, every time I try to enter a messesage, it says I have an error. grrr. But its fun to see what you all are doing. I agree, wwe have to take responsability for how we use any tool. Twitter responsably!
    For me, it’s nice to say- after I am done with my writing, I can go twitter, like a reward…something to look forward to.

    I also love being able to see an extra fun side of everyone and discover new recommendations for great blogs!

  4. Nenette replied:

    great post! yes, I concur with the feelings of support and community, as well as finding fun new reads… I further find that twitter gives me a feeling of being a part of “the group”, which reinforces my choice to be a blogger. and it’s such a fun place to hang out sometimes!

  5. diane replied:

    Once I retire from teaching (in a little over a year), I hope to work online from home.

    Thanks for the tips, and the transatlantic friendship!


  6. Karen Swim replied:

    Amy, thank you so much. I love cheering you and as Joanna said, will be with you wherever the journey takes you. I also agree that while Twitter can be a distraction if you allow it, I find it a welcome refresher. Sometimes I use it to motivate me to finish something so I can check in with the community and have a little social time. Through Twitter and blogging I have found a wonderful supportive community of generous souls. Best of all, you and Joanna!


  7. Linda R. Moore replied:

    Awwww. This is most unexpected 🙂

    Twitter helps me wake my brain up when I’m ready for that…I try to start my day offline and then ramp up until I’m ready to produce. I often turn it off when I need to write/work in other ways, but I use it to form a work log over at Markeroni ( for example.

    You’re very welcome!

  8. Nicola replied:

    Thanks for the shout out! Your welcome, I just wish I was on a similar time zone so I could interact more often with my fellow tweeters.

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  10. despil replied:

    You are most welcome Amy, I love to nudge and harass people – just ask my co-workers 😉

    But I am glad if it helped you 🙂

    And thank you for mentioning me by name 🙂

    Aye, yes. Twitter can be a distraction, but only when I have work I don’t like or am bored with.
    So, it’s not twitter who distracts me, it’s me.

  11. amypalko replied:

    It is like the best parts of an office, isn’t it, Joanna? I find being able to turn it off a huge advantage compared to working in an actual physical office, where I really struggle to get anything done! Too much of a chatterbox 🙂

    I love that it’s evolving in this way for you, Captain Stardust! Finding new friends is one of Twitter’s greatest uses, in my opinion.

    It’s nice to reward with a bit of Twitter time, isn’t it, Wendikelly? And yes, I think you’re right that people show a more fun relaxed side through Twitter that isn’t always present in their blogging.

    I completely agree, Nenette – there really is a great sense of community through Twitter. One which is so lovely to be a part of.

    Ooh, that’s exciting, Diane! I look forward to hearing more about your new venture 🙂

    I’m so glad I met you through Twitter, Karen! You truly are one of my greatest cheerleaders 🙂

    Wow, Linda, I love the idea of using it as a worklog! That truly is using it to work for you, rather than against you.

    I am aware of the timezone issue more than ever through using Twitter, Nicola, so I completely empathise with your plight! I’m glad we can chat when our zones match up though 😉

    It really did help, and I do appreciate it, Despil. And yes, distraction is always easier when the work is unappealing!

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  14. MargHamp - Caregiver replied:

    Thanks for sharing, Amy, and congratulations on the thesis chapter! I know what how intensive that is.

    I find Twitter to be a great social outlet – where I am developing meaningful relationships with helpful friends so I don’t feel so isolated in my work. I love the personal touch – to know what’s going on in the lives of people with whom I connect or follow.

    But I also find Twitter to be the best way of catching up on developments in web 2.0, social networking, alternative medicine and caregiving fields (my areas of greatest interest) in real time – with very limited time! That’s because I choose who I follow, people and information with some meaning for my life. It’s not idle “hanging out.”

    Twittering is literally “micro-blogging” – where in quick snippets you can see at a quick glance what’s happening, just minutes. Then there are links to follow for more… which is how I found your blog, from Bill Frederick’s tweet.

    I invite you to follow me on Twitter, too – where I am “MargHamp” – or Facebook and MySpace as “Margaret Hampton.” After all, the internet does not have to be impersonal… and twittering proves it!

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