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The Networker #21: Spent Time vs Invested Time at Networking Events

7 Jun, 2023
Read time: 3 minutes & 44 seconds

“I don’t have time to go networking”.

How many times have you heard that? Or said that yourself?

I know some of you have – as you replied to the question of your biggest networking challenge with it!

Let’s face it. We are all frantically busy (or so we tell everyone at events).

Your time is money.

It’s your most valuable commodity.

And networking requires a good deal of it.

But so many are frittering it away – by viewing it incorrectly.

How you view your networking time can make all the difference between success and stagnation.

How you view it dictates your approach (whether you’re aware of it or not).

And your approach dictates your success (whether people actually want to work with you or recommend you!).

Here’s a simple mindset shift to help you get more from yours.

I came across the concept of spent time vs invested time from Sahil Bloom.

But not in a networking context.

So, like most things, I thought how it applies to networking.

And then share my musings with you awesome people.

Let’s look at the difference, and how your approach to networking (and results) can change with it.

Spent Time

Bloom defines spent time as ‘feeling rewarding in the present, as the actions may create a near-term dopamine hit, but any benefits have immediate diminishing returns’.

In networking terms, spent time actions could be:

  • Handing out business cards like confetti
  • Aimless small talk and surface-level connections
  • Speaking to the same people (or the comfort zone people as I refer to them)
  • Turning up to an event with no preparation

Any sound familiar?

These all feel good in the moment.

It feels like you’re spending your time networking wisely by doing these things.

But are they really creating long-term value from your networking?

The reality is, they are ‘short-term positive (dopamine hit)’ as Bloom explains, but are long-term negative.

Using those example actions, these lead to poor first impressions, aimlessly wandering around events, meeting countless people, high quantity but poor quality conversations.

Hardly going to yield great networking results.

And long-term, this will leave you feeling drained, with little to show for your efforts.

Which leads to, you guessed it, you saying:

“I don’t have time to go networking” or “Networking is a waste of time”.

I totally understand why – because they aren’t spending it wisely.

They are spending it thinking they will get something back.

To level up your networking and network smarter, it’s time to shift your mindset from spent time to invested time.

Invested Time

In comparison to invested time, which Bloom says ‘can feel hard to realise in the present, as the actions may not be associated with a short-term dopamine hit, but they create long-term, compounded returns.’

Read that again.

Doesn’t that summarise networking brilliantly?

‘Compounded returns’ is networking down to a tee.

There’s a reason ‘The Compound Effect’ was one my 7 books to make you a smarter networker.

Albert Einstein (he knew a thing or two) was quoted saying: “Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it…he who doesn’t…pays it.”

The same with your time and actions when networking.

In networking context, invested time actions could include:

    • Asking great questions and taking a genuine interest in others (going deeper than just “What do you do?” and “how’s business?”)
    • Deep, meaningful, challenging conversations with connections
    • Connecting people and making introductions
    • Sharing resources, or providing helpful advice or insights (where appropriate)
    • Researching the guest list and personally reaching out before
    • Following up proactively and intently

These actions create massive long-term value in your networking.

But you’ll struggle to see that in the moment.

That’s what I’m here for – to remind you and reassure you.

And as long as you’re consistently showing up and investing your time, they compound.

By approaching networking with an invested time mindset, you build trust and establish yourself as a valuable resource.

Good networkers know this.

They even get their dopamine hit from helping others. Or learning about others. In finding ways to connect dots.

They understand that investment builds their reputation and credibility.

That it will pay off down the line.

Your goal should be a higher ratio of invested time actions to spent time ones. Because I don’t believe it’s possible to completely avoid the latter.

But you can be much more intentional.

And networking becomes a much more rewarding and motivating when you’re invested.

Wrap Up

Just like investing your money, it takes time. It needs time to compound.

You don’t expect returns straight away when investing in a stock.

Nor should you from attending an event.

You should assess where to invest your time (as I spoke about in edition #3).

Just like if you invest in the wrong stock. You have to do your research.

Because if you’re investing it in the wrong place, you’ll waste it.

But you also have to set your expectations on your time horizons.

Good networkers know it’s a long term game, and an investment is required.

If you’re looking for a dopamine hit or short term results, don’t go networking.

Spend your money and time elsewhere.

If you’re looking for that networking eureka moment from that juicy new enquiry or referral.

Then focus on more invested time actions.

And start investing your time wisely at your next event.

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