"How do you make sure you're networking, instead of notworking?"
That was the question that an attendee asked at the Small Business Summit in New York last week. Peggy Duncan, a productivity expert (hey, who better to ask the question), wanted to know how you make sure you don't cross that line.
I think it's getting harder to know where that line is. With today's social media -- especially sites with lots of interactivity and immediate feedback such as Twitter -- you can easily get caught up in chatting and surfing. It's a constant mental interruption. Before you know it, you've squandered a couple of perfectly good hours of prime workday.
For small business owners, entrepreneurs, managers and professionals, it's become an especially sticky problem. We convince ourselves that online networking is important for marketing. It is not just personal, we tell ourselves. It is BUSINESS. However, in the terrestrial world, no business owner does marketing all day long to the exclusion of other activities. Sometimes we're just kidding ourselves.
My stock answer to the social notworking phenomenon is: "have discipline, set a certain time limit, and know that it's time to stop." Some people have no problem setting time limits and sticking to them.
But today's social sites are so interactive -- sites like Twitter and FriendFeed -- that the attention and instant response can be addicting. It's a self-reinforcing experience. Some people have started to confess to me that they know they SHOULD set time limits, but can't seem to tear themselves away. It's just too satisfying to keep chatting on Twitter.
So the question becomes, how do you force yourself to limit your social networking activities?
Short of tricking yourself with some kind of online timetracking app (which I would soon find annoying and turn off), I find that it is important to put social networking in the context of business goals. If I set goals, and determine how / what I want social networking and online social activity to achieve, it becomes easier to know when to stop before I waste time -- and to actually stop.
Setting goals gives you a clearer sense of purpose to your daily activities, as this quote at the Mindful Source points out:
While listening to a Brian Tracy audio program recently, I was struck by the following words - "You can't hit a target you cannot see." Tracy, one of the leading experts in the business motivation field, is absolutely right. If you don't know where you're headed, how will you ever get there?
Of course, if achieving a goal is important in the first place, you're really half way there. As the Brian Tracy quote suggests, knowing what you want is a major component of goal setting that should be addressed very early in the process.
So start here. Figure out what it is you want and start moving towards it. Spend time today writing about your goals to clarify your thinking. You may be surprised. * * *
And then an amazing thing will take place. As you begin to crystallize your goals in writing, you will create that â€œtargetâ€ for your daily living. Your life will take on far more purpose than before ...."
And, might I add, your social networking activities will take on a greater sense of purpose than ever before, once you set goals. Your goals and sense of purpose will guide you in determining what to spend time on each day. But without goals, you'll soon be adrift, like a boat without a rudder or sails, enjoying the interaction on Twitter, but not getting much done for your business.