As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a volunteer instructor at a local Karate school. We teach forms (some schools refer to them as kata) to our students to allow them to practice different aspects of the martial arts. At different times we have them focus on tight hands, deep stances, eye contact, proper turning, full range of motion, good body alignment, foot position, timing, speed, intensity, targeting, and the list goes on and on.
When they practice, though, we tell them to focus on only one thing to improve at a time. Focusing on and improving just one thing is challenging enough. Trying to focus on improving multiple areas is pretty much impossible. In fact, the saying at our school is “Focusing on everything is focusing on nothing”.
So what does that have to do with networking?
In your networking practice you can pursue a variety of activities. One-to-ones, the INFER process, handwritten thank you notes, serving on a board, making presentations, using a tickler file, using a networking scorecard, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter — they make up only a small part of all the things you can do. If you try to focus on all of them at once, you will burn out quickly and have nothing to show for your efforts.
As with the Karate students, the goal is just to focus on one aspect at a time. Work on it until it becomes a habitual part of your day. Then move on to the next skill you want to absorb. Try to be patient. Remember that it can take three weeks to a month of daily practice to make something a habit (longer if the behavior isn’t consistent).
If you are just starting out, I recommend just starting with a daily practice of calling or emailing one person from your past or present. Then, when that becomes a habit, start working with a networking scorecard. Once you start doing that, you’ll find that you start seeking out new networking opportunities in order to fill the scorecard.
Remember: One new activity at a time. Consistency, not intensity. Before you know it, people will know you as the networking superstar!