The 1-2-3 method of networking

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading on productivity these days, and it seems like every guru out there has a complicated system to address every aspect of your work life. There’s GTD, there’s Kanban…and while these systems do have their merits, it’s tough to adapt to an established routine with so many detailed steps. I’ve found it easier to create my own hybrid routine. I’m constantly hacking my process and trying new things — I get a weird sense of enjoyment (or maybe it’s satisfaction?) from it.

But one area in which I’ve struggled is that of networking and career development. Not that I have trouble connecting with people once I’ve met them: it’s the actual protocol of meeting people, swapping business cards, and following up. I have introverted tendencies, which means that after a day of work I’d much rather settle in on the couch with Netflix than go out for drinks. But in the entertainment industry — and in plenty of others — you need to constantly be expanding your network and keeping up with your contacts. I simply have trouble remembering to schedule coffees and drinks.

So I decided recently to try applying some productivity principles to this problem. Based in part on the various “number” routines like the 1-3-5 rule, this is how I make sure to keep up with my network without sacrificing my mental health:

1 — Attend 1 networking event each month. That is, a larger gathering with more than a handful of people.

2 — Have coffee/drinks/what-have-you with 2 people each week. These can be old or new contacts.

3 — Reach out to 3 contacts from your network each week. This can be as simple as sending an email or messaging on Twitter. Just some kind of outreach that keeps the connection going.

I implemented this system a few weeks ago, and I’m finding that it has become a habit. If you’re like me and you need to delineate steps in a routine, you might want to try creating your own system that works for you.

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