I wanted to know if Quantified Self techniques could be useful in improving how I keep in contact with people and give me tools to network effectively. I am not a natural networker so I knew that some awareness and daily habits would help.
How could I organize my daily communication habits so that I could network effectively?
What I Did
I tried three different approaches to tracking and daily contact follow-up. Each day I would set aside time to contact people. At the end of the day I would log the number of people contacted and the resulting positive outcomes if any. At completion I had enough data to compare the three approaches.
How I Did It
I kept a Google Spreadsheet of contacts that included the number of maximum number of days I wanted to elapse before I followed up with someone. Each day would update a field when I had connected with someone.
A formula would then calculate the “next contact” date. With this mechanism, I could count the number of people I had on the list and the number with whom I was up to date with. I also made a note each day when I had some positive outcome from my networking.
What I Learned
How I approached the reason for contact made a significant difference in my effectiveness and stamina. Contacting people, regardless of approach, yielded a similar amount of positive outcomes. It is true that if you contact people regularly a number of them are happy to help you.
My first approach was to put 150 interesting people from my LinkedIn and personal network on the list. I thought that having a subset of people that I knew well and I liked would make for a better experience and I would “network” for a more sustained period. Here are my results from that approach:
I had five positive outcomes during the first thirty days. That means I had job offers, proposals for collaboration or some significant project brought to me as a result of my outreach.
I maintained contact with that list for about forty days, then my efforts petered out. I was never able to be up to date with the entire list. And significantly, I dreaded sitting down daily and seeing I had five to twelve emails to write.
I tried again two months later. Thinking that the size of the list was too large on the first approach, I slimmed the list down to fifty people for the second. Here are the results:
Again, I had five positive outcomes in the first thirty days and I lost interest at about the same point in time, about forty days in. I built the list to fifty people quite easily. I tried to push the list larger on 3 June, but five days later just stopped contacting people.
After these two trials I knew I had to change the framework to keep the effort going past forty days. My approach prior had been when it was time to contact a person I looked at the last communication with that person and tried to come up with some news. Each night was a bit stressful. I had to alter that experience.
On the third approach, I did not start with a predetermined list. I put people on the list if I had a request for them. On my tracking sheet I created three notes sections. In one I wrote what I wanted from them. In the second I wrote how I could contribute to them. The third was a short note on the nature of the last contact. This is the result of organizing my communication this way:
I had eight positive outcomes in the first 50 days, making for a very consistent results on all three approaches. On this final approach, I easily went past the forty day mark and am still going strong nearly sixty days in.
The trick was designing for the moment that is was time to reach out to someone. Where before I had a blank page in front of me, in this third approach I focussed on what I can contribute to them. This mde the outreach easier because I know I am giving them something and that type of contact is usually welcome. I ask them for something only on when they respond or it is appropriate to the conversation.
So the key to maintaining momentum is lowering the barrier to taking action each day. By removing that tiny hesitation when it is time to reach out the result the result was I kept at it longer. And with the consistent and clear positive outcomes that arise out of keeping in touch with people, applying a trick to sustain momentum is the obvious thing to do.