Over the past few days, I’ve been sharing simple habits that can have a big impact on productivity. Today’s strategy has to do with building and maintaining connections over time. “Networking” often seems either sleazy or intimidating. It can be done ineffectively; people collect dozens of business cards at conferences and then elect not to follow up with anyone (sometimes because they didn’t actually connect with anyone they want to get to know better). People who grasp networking’s importance sometimes commit the cardinal sin of only reaching out when they really, really need something.
Fortunately, there is a better way. And it is very doable! Here’s the habit: Each day, reach out to connect with one other human being. That could mean calling an old friend, or chatting to a potential new friend at the gym. It could mean emailing someone you met at a conference, or a colleague from two jobs ago because you read an article that made you think of her. If you’re doing this daily, you can wind up nurturing a good mix, over time, of people you already know, and people you don’t, people you know in a personal context and those you know through work.
Obviously, in the course of life, you might connect with more than one person per day. But setting one-per-day as a goal means you can focus on quality interactions. You feel no pressure to collect 36 business cards at a networking event because you know you will have more genuine interactions with 36 people over the next 5-7 weeks (depending on whether you count weekends in this too — but really, why not? We see people on weekends too, often different people than during the weeks, and that is a good thing!)
This system, like all systems, can benefit from some accountability. While it might seem a little odd to keep a running list of “people I enjoyed a genuine connection with,” over time, having such a list reminds you of how many wonderful people you have in your life. Chatting with people in person creates its own pleasures, but even a heartfelt email often has wonderful repercussions when the person writes back, whenever that happens. It makes checking email a lot more fun.
I used to think I was a really crappy networker. I’m introverted, and I don’t have the sort of brain that immediately thinks to introduce people. I have met a number of genuine connectors over the years and I am so not that. Then someone pointed out to me that through the course of my work, I was reaching out to people all the time to interview them for stories and books. I’ve kept in touch with many of these people. I didn’t really think of this as networking (no business card collection involved) but it is.
In other news: You may be sick of reading this by now, but I Know How She Does It is out in paperback. Thanks for checking it out.
I will be doing a 7-day Time Tracking Challenge next week, posting my time logs here on the blog. If you’d like to play along, you can sign up for motivational emails here.
On the topic of reaching out, I’ve started connecting with a number of people as I research my next book! A few I’ve spoken with recently that you might want to get to know too: the blogger known online as Harmony Smith, who writes Creating My Kaleidoscope about her personal finance journey, and Dorie Clark, author of Stand Out — a great book on how to become a recognized expert and thought leader in your chosen field.
And finally, I filmed a video with Fortune in November at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in California. It’s on 3 Productivity Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. Fun little confession: right before this conference I got a small blemish on my chin that I tried to cover with a concealer that I then had a horrible reaction to. Whoa. I did some heavy make-up pre-interview and then, bless them, Fortune filmed from an angle that you can’t see it. I am grateful.