Sunday, 18 December 2011

Journaling after networking events

I am a big fan of journaling. I have made a habit of journaling after every significant event. If I go to a dinner party and meet five people, I will take 10 minutes afterwards to get my journal out and write down what I learnt about each of the people and whether I want to catch up with them again. This review and reflection process is very important to me.

Why review and reflect?
Research done on CEOs found that one of their common shared traits was making space for decompression time. Many of them took up spiritual fitness practices which allowed them to be alone with their thoughts, e.g. meditation or journaling or exercise alone. This time alone is so important for making sense of the world. A lot of the time, we live our lives fully in the present and future. We only think about what’s happening now and what’s happening next.

Journaling after networking events
This means we miss out on learning lessons from what has already happened to us. This is especially the case when networking. You might meet five people at an event. If you don’t take the time afterwards to reflect on what happened during the conversation and where you could go from there, then that time is wasted.
This is especially the case when you’re new to networking. If you haven’t developed the skills to be a great networker you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. This is perfectly ok. I believe that the only way to truly learn is to go out in the real world and make mistakes. You can read this book, but that won’t make you a master. You’ll be ‘book smart’, but ‘street dumb’.

On the other hand, making mistakes is a bad thing if you don’t learn from your mistakes. ‘Fail fast, fail often and fail small’. One of my favourite quotes is ‘Filter for lessons’. You can get some new ideas from reading a book, but ultimate learning happens when you can find lessons from your own experiences and translate them into your own words.

Common objections to review and reflection
I don't have enough time!
Sometimes I hear people say “I don’t have the time to review and reflect”. If that were me, I would be questioning that statement heavily because it sounds like a limiting belief. In effect, what those people are saying is they don’t value review and reflection time. It is a question of priorities. If you don’t believe that review and reflection has any value then you won’t make the time for it. The best evidence for the value of review and reflection is the biography of CEOs, many of whom allocate time for review and reflection. Is this a causative relationship? It would be almost impossible to tell. Maybe they’re wasting their time and they would achieve more if they just got on with their life.

Personally I believe that it is a causative relationship, however, I am willing to accept your viewpoint that it might just be a waste of time. In answer to that statement, I would therefore suggest that you give journaling the benefit of the doubt. Have a go at it. Do it for a week and see whether you get any value out of it. If you see no benefits after that time, then abandon it. As with all advice, I’d suggest that you question everything I write here. I am not an omniscient guru.

I don't like journaling
The other factor may be that you just don’t like journaling. Some people prefer to do review and reflection by talking to people. If that’s the case, you could have a conversation with a close friend or a spouse. If you go to a networking event with a wingman, it makes a lot of sense to review and reflect with them afterwards.

How do you review and reflect
Every night I free write answers to two questions:
1. “What was really great today?”
2. “What could I improve?”
By doing this, I can improve my performance for next time. Being more self aware is vital. Without this, you will keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Getting feedback from other people is useful, and I recommend that you both keep yourself open to feedback and even request it from other people, however, your own feedback can often be more insightful and more real than feedback from other people.

Here is a template for a journal page you could use:

Who did I meet?
What did we talk about?
How will I follow through?

 My performance:
What did I do well?
What could I improve?

Do you keep a journal? Do you make time after networking events to process who you met?

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