September's Slow Business Experiment: 30 Minutes on Instagram - per day.

Hello lovelies! September is almost here which means it's the start of our first Slow Business Experiment! I was so excited to read all your comments on Instagram and get a few wonderful messages from people who are as excited as I am about starting this.

(If you're just discovering the Slow Business Experiment series now, may I suggest you start with this blog post?)

So, what's in store for us for September?

30 minutes on Instagram per day.

Yup. 30 minutes. Not one more. (I won't be mad though if it's less!)

Why are we starting with this?

As a small business owner, I'm incredibly reliant on Instagram. It's still my main marketing channel (meaning most of my sales come through Instagram), and as much as I'm working to change that, it takes a long time for me to get people to sign up for my email list and create the same conversions (aka sales) over there.

At the same time, Instagram has a soul-sucking effect on me. It makes me question myself, it makes me anxious, it makes me compare myself and my business to people and businesses who've been doing what I'm doing for years and years and it makes me feel fundamentally inadequate and bad. 

Granted, there are wonderful, delightful things about Instagram too - like the friendships and close bonds I've made through it, the community and love that I see whenever someone is in need for help, the windows into other people's lives and questions it creates.

So I don't want to say goodbye to Instagram, partly because I need it, quite frankly, and partly because I still have hope to figure out a sustainable, happy-making way of using it.

And that starts with cutting down my time in the app.

In order for us to do this experiment successfully, one thing needs to happen:

We need to measure how long we spend on Instagram.

How can we do this, you ask?

There are a few options:

1. Using the "Set A Daily Reminder" function in Instagram itself.

If you're living in country that usually gets new Instagram features first (the US and Australia come to mind), you might already have access to a new feature that allows you to see more details about your activity in the app and manage it proactively. 

To see if you have that feature, go to your profile, click on "Settings" and check if there's a sub-setting called "Your Activity". If there is, click on it and you'll see a break down of how much time you spent on Instagram in the last days. Neat, right?

What's even better is that directly below that, you can set a daily reminder for how much time you want to spend on Instagram per day. Once this limit is reached, you'll receive a notification from Instagram that your time on the app is over.

You won't be automatically logged out or anything like that, you still need to actively choose to close the app - but it's better than nothing! (If you want to see a screenshot by screenshot explanation of how this works, see this article.)

2. Using a timer on your phone.

Instead of using the above-mentioned feature or if you don't have it yet, you can also resort back to the tried-and-tested timer approach!

Set a timer for 30 minutes at the beginning of the day and start it every time you open the app. Remember to stop it when you're done with Instagram - and once the timer rings and signals that your 30 minutes are over, that's it. No more Instagram for you.

3. Becoming a beta tester for Apple's iOS 12 and use the new screen time settings.

Apple is scheduled to release their next update to the iPhone operating system - iOS 12 - mid September. It's going to include a massive new feature set that allows you to manage your screen time, including a function that sets limits on how long you can use certain apps on your phone per day. (You can read the full press release about that here.)

I'm really, really excited about this. From what I've seen so far, the Screen Time feature is really cool, and it's what I'll be using to monitor and manage my time on Instagram for this experiment.

Now, while iOS 12 is only going to be officially available in a few weeks, Apple has a neat beta tester program which you can apply for and then you can already download iOS 12 now and use all the features! If you'd like to do that, head over to beta.apple.com to apply.

Update I: The lovely Becky alerted me to the fact that a similar thing IS actually available for Android! It's a new feature for Android Pie which is already available on Google phones (and might be for some other Android devices as well). The feature is called "Digital Wellbeing" and you have to register for a beta testing spot here.

Update II: If, like me, you've been beta testing the Screen Time feature for iOS 12 and had trouble figuring out how to set Instagram-specific time limits, here's a handy guide how.

4. Using an app to measure and / or impose limits on your Instagram usage.

Instead of a timer or one of the in-built features of the app or iOS, you can also use an app to measure the time you spend on Instagram and to limit it via a notification or an automatic shutdown.

For Apple users, one app that I've heard people recommend is Freedom. It's a paid app, albeit with a free trial, and you can also use it on your laptop (bonus points!).

There's a second one called Moment which I'm using to track my screen time (that part of it is free) which also allows you to set daily limits, although as far as I know only for the entire phone usage, not for specific apps.

For Android users, there's QualityTime which seems to have good reviews and a similar feature set to Moment and Freedom. 

(I'm not an Android user, so if there's a different app you'd recommend, please feel free to add them in the comments!)

All of these options allow us to measure how much time we spend in the app and make a conscious and / or forced decision (through a shutdown) to adhere to our self-imposed limit of 30 minutes per day.

For all of us who are running small businesses, we might be a little bit scared (I know I am!) about the effect this has on our business.

Are we going to lose sales because of this? Will our customers be mad? My answer to this is: Maybe. But we won't know unless we tried, and isn't our mental health worth trying and testing it?

I also think that it's going to be really important to spend the 30 minutes that we have per day in the app mindfully and intentionally - without scrolling and falling down the rabbit hole.

Here's what I'm going to focus on when I'm in the app:

  • Posting a beautiful photo with a well-written, intentional caption. (Which might be written beforehand.)
  • Posting a Story or two.
  • Checking if I've received any direct messages and asking people to contact me through email (if it's customers) or WhatsApp (if it's friends).
  • Checking the comments below my most recent post and answering them. If I'm running out of time, I'll simply "heart" the comments instead of writing a reply.
  •  Checking if there are any new posts from test knitters or customers (via the "who's tagged me" feature and my hashtags) and saving them in my collections to use them in future stories.

If there's still time then, I'm going to do one (or maybe all) of these three things:

  • Scrolling through my feed, liking the pictures I like and unfollowing the people who make me feel anxious.
  • Checking who's liked my recent posts and interacting with these followers on their own feeds.
  • Exploring who Instagram recommends to me via the Explore tab.

The more I write about this experiment, the more excited I get about it. I'm really curious to see how it affects me, my mental status, and my business. And I'd love to hear your stories, too!

As I wrote in my first #slowbusinessexperiment blog post, I'd love to hear whether you choose to participate, how you're going to track and limit your Instagram time, and how you feel about it! The center of these experiments will be Instagram, so please do tag me on your posts and use the hashtag #slowbusinessexperiment so that I can follow along with you.

Let's do this!