Too often, and for too many people, networking is one of those "I know I should do it, but I never quite got around to it" activities. Over at one of my favorite sites, LifeHack, they have an approach that offers hope. And a solution.
In case you're not familiar with it, LifeHack is a productivity blog. The term "hack" is based in computing (remember I'm in Silicon Valley, right?) and refers to doing something quick-and-dirty, usually when programming, to rapidly solve a problem or untangle a mess. A hack isn't always elegant, completely thought out or impressive, but it makes the problem go away.
LifeHack, then, is a site about litle tricks and tips that make your day-to-day life smoother and more productive. Everyone has these. Sometimes they're physical -- they're the hook your keys always go on when you return to the house, so you never have to waste time searching for them.
But they can also be mental. These are the tricks you use to compensate for your shortcomings, or to overcome some kind of tedency. Like, say, the tendency not to network. Which got me thinking about my kitchen timer.
I hate to file. Stuff piles up. This becomes a recurring nightmare. I solved the problem through a lifehack. I bought a kitchen timer at Target. You wind it up, set the time, and after 30 minutes, 45 minutes or whatever, the bell dings and time's up. If you're in the kitchen, it's time to take the cake out of the oven. It ticks loudly, so you always know it's running.
I don't bake a lot of cakes. Instead, I use it to force myself to file. Left to my own devices, my filing doesn't happen, and chaos ensues. So what I do is set the timer for 30 minutes, and during those thirty minutes, I don't allow myself to do anything but file. The ticking reminds me to stay on task. If I use this technique two or three times a week, the filing gets done, and my stress level about it drops.
This is a lifehack. I use this trick to compensate for my lack of discipline, and although it isn't pretty, the filng gets done.
Think of ways to apply this to your own networking. Networking, like filing, is something you need to keep doing, repeatedly, basically for your entire career. If there is a list of people you need to stay in touch with, suppose you printed all the names out on index cards, and asked your secretary to pick one, at random, every morning and bring it into your office? And no matter what else was going on, you would take the ninety seconds, RIGHT THEN, to simply pick up the phone and call them? Your networking would be right up to speed.
How else could you apply this concept?