The good part of networking is that you meet a lot of new people.
The bad part of networking is that you meet a lot of new people.
The more people you know, the more people you have to contact you, interrupt you, ask for favors, etc. And it’s quite possible to spend your entire day dealing with people and getting nothing done for your own business.
While giving is a vital part of networking, being able to say “no” is an excellent skill to learn. Obviously, there is a balance here. Many people fall too far on one side or another, either too giving or not giving enough.
So how do you decide on a balance and set reasonable boundaries? Having clear ideas of what you need to accomplish is a first step. I’ll talk in another post about creating a good project and task management system. When you know you have tasks and solid commitments, it’s a lot easier to say “no” or “yes, but not now” when someone calls or emails you.
Decide on your preferred method of contact and communicate it to everyone in your network. I set the expectation with someone at the beginning of a relationship by saying email is the best way to get in contact with me. Will I take phone calls? Of course, but most people try email (or a quick text) first. That allows me to look at what I’m doing now and decide if I can respond right away or need to set a future time.
Some people can turn a simple request/question into an hour long conversation. With those people, set the expectation up front. “I have only a few minutes right now” or “I can meet you for 45 minutes, but then I’ll have to leave.” Most people will respect those boundaries and get to the point a lot quicker. If someone regularly tramples those requests, you might want to consider easing that person out of your life or business.
Don’t be too easy to get in contact with. That may sound counter to everything I teach about networking, but I say it for a reason. Busy people are usually busy for a reason, often because they are successful. And they are often a bit hard to get in contact with. Act like a busy person, even if you aren’t yet. Set the pattern now so your network isn’t surprised and offended when you really do make it.
What do I mean by being a bit hard to get?
Turn off your phone for an hour or so each day. It will give you an uninterrupted period of time to be productive. (My phone is off right now, as I write this.) If you don’t pick up the phone every time it rings, people won’t expect you to be available 24/7.
Mobile email is a great productivity tool. And a fantastic way to get in trouble. I have a client who is looking forward to getting his first smart phone. He told me he wanted to be able to impress his clients by how fast he could respond to emails. I cautioned him to think about the expectation he’ll be setting. If he’s not careful, he’ll become a slave to his email. So don’t always respond immediately.
Those are just a few examples of boundaries. They are a vital time management tool. Develop them and enforce them. Ease away from people who routinely trample them.
You’ll have more time for networking and your business. And you’ll have more time and energy to help if you aren’t burned out by constant interruptions.
Anyone else have a good boundary you’ve set and how it worked for you?