Debra Swersky
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So Meta

Have you ever been in a social situation with people that you don’t know talking about the situation that you’re in? It’s like trying to do an improv scene about improv. It’s “scene squashing” (to borrow a term from my days doing Improv Comedy). I found myself in that exact conversation, but it was even more meta than just being in a social setting with people that I don’t know… it was a social situation talking to people that I don’t know, talking about how to interact with people I don’t know. It was awkward, but also helpful to hear the perspective of others. 

I had joined the conversation a little late but deduced that the conversation was about justifying time spent networking. Is it work or is it play? Though I’d love to get into another reiteration of “Give And Take” I’ll spare you a story about Adam Rifkin. I will, however, share with you my logic in answering this question:

Networking: Is it work or play?

When I hear the word “networking” I say to myself that it’s “work”… it’s built right into the word! How could it not be? But, if you have the personality for it, get energized by it, or see the fun in it, you could consider it play. So, what does that make it? The gray area…?

As I pondered the answer to the networking question while at the networking event (so meta…), Peter Bregman’s book “18 Minutes” came to mind. I read Peter Bregman’s book because my mentor was reading it and I had just finished up a book… and I was looking to start another one. I’m typically a research-before-reading kind of person, but she had good things to say about Bregman (as a professional) so I figured his book couldn’t be too bad. It wasn’t. It was the epitome of a “quick read.” In it he walks you through your life the way that it happens everyday of your (professional) life… you sit down at your desk and your world explodes in front of you - fires to fight, urgent e-mails, cat pictures (ugh)… sooner or later you forget what it was that you sat down at your desk to do. Day over. Through casual narration, Bregman asks you to step back from your mess of a day and look at your life through the lens of five areas of focus (95% of your life, with a 6th area filling up the remaining 5%). He talks you through questions to answer, lists to make, and things to do to help you get to and maintain your core five areas.

Because he has the resources available, you can check out his worksheets and to do lists. Personally, I enjoyed the book enough to adopt the 18-minute framework, but kept my own to do lists. (However, I appreciate the simplicity of the templates for those willing to adopt them.)

At the end of the book the concept of 18-minutes to effectively manage your day reminded me of the way that Homeplus’ Chairman Lee Seung-han arranged his values into a wheel of happiness (a pizza pie of things that are important to him). Needless to say, I was impressed and saved a copy of the image to replicate. After reading “18-minutes,” I documented my own. 

Coming back to the question, is networking “work” or “play”? I answered “work.” For me, given my five areas of focus, networking is helping me to achieve my goals in at least two out of my five areas of focus. My meta conversation partners agreed and our former “bill by the hour” consultant friend felt better about his time spent chatting with us… or at least I hope he did!

Debra Swersky