With success comes many things — including a greater number of relationships and more requests for help.
The day I declared that I was hosting an angel investment network was the day my circle of relationships seemed to grow exponentially. Suddenly there was a new swath of people who were “friendly” toward me. It’s nice to feel useful, though there is a point at which the number of relationships and requests becomes overwhelming. How on earth do you keep in contact with all these people? How can you meet all the requests they make of you?
The feeling of being overwhelmed can paralyze us — like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, we freeze, not knowing which way to go. Or we can try to please everyone by saying yes to everything — like a rabbit hopping randomly all over a garden. By attempting to do everything, we exhaust ourselves. And whichever way we react, we never get where we want to go.
There is an alternative to people paralysis and people pleasing: review your relational ecosystem and recalibrate your relationship priorities so that you can allocate your resources accordingly.
First, clear out some time on your schedule and use it to write a list or draw a mind map of all the people you spend time with — and all the people you wish you saw or talked to more frequently. It may be helpful here to flick back through your diary, your social networks, or the contacts in your phone.
Once you have a picture of your relational ecosystem, count the total number of names and apply Pareto’s 80/20 rule: Think about your most important relationships and highlight the top 20% of them. For example, if you have written down 150 names, 20% would be 30 names. These 30 people are the ones I recommend you deploy 80% of your time, energy, and resources with. Proactively set up regular lunch dates, walk-and-talks, coffees, and face-to-face encounters. You can get creative and commute to work together, take up a shared hobby or interest, or bring together a small group of peers who could support one another and start a mastermind group.
Now consider how you can invest in the other 80% of the relationships in your ecosystem. This is often the harder challenge because your time, energy, and resource allocation are more limited.
A “networking” approach would say to “drop” or “prune” the other 80% of people and just focus on those who can be most helpful to you. But while you can’t have a deep relationship with everyone you know, building authentic relationships means treating everyone well. So save 20% of your time, energy, and resources for these relationships. Develop an approach for both keeping in contact with these people and finding efficient ways to help them when they ask.
Keeping in touch
If you move the people you see fortnightly to monthly, monthly to every other month, and quarterly to biannually, you double the time you have for these less-close contacts.
Creating a regular social event can also be a great way of keeping up with second-tier contacts. You might want to think about organizing something two or three times a year for just this purpose. Alternatively, you could start an online discussion group to keep in touch. These approaches also have the advantage that you can add value to your relationships by introducing people to one another.
You can’t always say yes to all the requests you receive, so look for efficient ways to meet the requests. Talk on the telephone rather than meeting face to face. Refer the asker to other people who may be able to help, especially if they could be a better help than you could. And sometimes the answer simply has to be “No, I’m sorry, I can’t help on this occasion.”
In these ways, you can continue to invest, nurture, and protect your relational ecosystem — which is the greatest determiner of your ongoing personal happiness and professional success.
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