You are viewing this article in the AnnArbor.com archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see MLive.com/ann-arbor
Posted on Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 6 a.m.

The failure of prioritizing working vs. networking

By Greg Peters

clock.jpg

Photo by stock.xchng user RAWKU5

One of the challenges of networking in a business context is trying to prioritize where we devote our time. Which is more important, the networking or the work? To solve this quandary, many folks try to prioritize their behavior. Now, I think that prioritizing is a great practice in general, but it kind of fails in this instance.

The problem is that neither working nor networking has a definable end point, so whichever you place first tends to take up all available time, leaving nothing for the runner-up. Let's say we focus on networking. Great! By attending those events, forming the relationships, and being of service to others, eventually those referrals and contracts start pouring in.

Unfortunately, because we are spending all of our time networking, the work tends to fall to the wayside. You know things are going south when the people calling you aren't asking you to join them for coffee, but rather are complaining about how long it's taking you to get their project done.

This is pretty much the "crash and burn" plan.

If we focus on the work first, then we have a different problem. We work to complete those projects which we have, promising that we will do our networking "when we get some time." The problem is we don't have any spare time until the work is complete and we've been paid. Then we have all the time in the world for networking because we don't have any work at all.

Also, since networking takes a while to build the relationships, it actually takes quite a while before those next projects start showing up at our doorstep. In the meantime, we might get kind of hungry.

This is the "feast or famine" plan.

The thing is, for business success, we really need to focus on both activities. The best way is to devote a certain amount of time each day to both. The easiest area to limit is networking. All we have to do is maintain a networking scorecard.

If you've never done this before, the networking scorecard just helps you keep track of your networking activities throughout the day and assigns a numerical score to each activity. In order to constrain the amount of time spent on networking, we just need to pick a particular numerical score for each day or week. When we achieve that score, we're done networking.

Now, of course, over time we need to keep track of our scores. We need to verify that the scores we are achieving will lead to the future we are trying to attain. Still, whether we raise or lower them, we must still set that limit. That tells us when we've done enough and it's time to focus on the fruits of those efforts.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to www.thereluctantnetworker.com.