One of the challenges of networking is that it can be very time consuming. Attending events, making calls, chatting over coffee — they can all add up to a lot of time if you aren’t careful. The problem is, making friends does take time. Trying to shortcut it in business has about the same chance of success as trying to shortcut it in your personal life. Sooner or later you will ask more of the relationship than it can support.

So, given that it does take time, what are some techniques that you can use to make your available networking time more efficient? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Double up on your one-to-ones. No one ever said that you have to spend your coffee time with only one other person. In fact, adding another to the mix can make the process even more enjoyable. Pick the others with an eye toward making a good introduction between the two. When you try to set up something like this, you should have a good reason for bringing them together.
  2. Tighten up your downtime. One of the big time-wasters that I’ve had is just the amount of time between my networking. Usually this is the result of having to drive from one location to another and means adding a half hour of relatively non-productive time to any hour spent with a connection. You can reduce this to some extent by trying to schedule your meetings in the same location.
  3. Set up specific networking days. Anytime you are leaving the office for networking, you are taking a time hit with travel to and from the meeting or meetings. In addition, you take an additional hit just with the process of switching between the work on your desk and the act of connecting with others. To minimize this, designate specific days of the week as your “outside networking” days. The other days will still have some networking components, but will also be primarily focused on getting your other work done, too.
  4. Work from a list. Before you start making your calls and sending your emails for the day, take a few minutes to make up a list of the people you intend to contact. Similar to setting a goal before you walk into a networking event, working from a call list will let you know when you are done.
Take a few moments to look at how you spend your time networking. Try to find ways that you can either remove wasted time — travel, for example — or use it for something more productive such as making a call or two to other members of your network.