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looking through a window at three people in a coffee shopWith our work and social life increasingly taking place in person, many of us are noticing that it takes a lot more energy to be around people than it used to, even for the extroverts among us. (Ahem — me.) 

Some will get right back to getting the same juice from being around people as before. Others dread a return to in-person everything. 

Whichever camp you fall into, it’s a good time to start thinking about how to budget time to nurture your network while nurturing yourself. 

Here are five tips for right-sizing your networking efforts so it feels good and helps you keep moving in the right direction in your career. 

Recognize Your Capacity for “Peopling” 

Understanding your own needs and values is always important, but it’s especially important right now. 

Recognizing just how much “peopling” you can handle will help you balance how many networking meetings you take, with whom and how take them. On the flipside, just “winging it” may cause you to overcommit – or pass on everything. Neither scenario will serve you. Find your balance. 

Map Your Priorities to Your Values 

In my last blog post, I talked about how priorities changed for a lot of people during the past year. The next step is to map those priorities back to your values. Priorities are where you spend your time. Values keep you grounded. Making sure your priorities align with your values puts you in a position to spend your time on actions that move you toward your goals. Networking plays such an important supporting role to so many aspects of your growth and development that you might consider giving it its own priority bucket. 

Create a Time Budget 

Speaking of giving your network some attention, last week I shared this excellent article in Harvard Business Review, “How to Say No to ‘Grabbing Coffee.’” One of the things I love about it is the way it describes creating a budget for your life. 

If growing in your career is important to you, you’ll want to be sure to create a career category. (That’s different than the work category. Work is the time you spend doing your job. Career is the time you spend on strategically moving toward your goals.)  

Commit but Stay Flexible 

Once you’ve figured out your budget, give it a test drive, and be sure to check in with yourself periodically to see if you’re feeling fulfilled. If you find yourself pushing back every meeting, maybe you need to tweak your budget a bit. 

The key is to be sure you follow through. Growing in your career is the result of actively, strategically managing it. If you put your head down and just do the work, uone day you will look up and your network may not be there because you didn’t nurture it. 

Embrace the 20-Minute Meeting 

One thing that holds some people back from networking is the amount of time it takes to connect with each person. But it doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time to be effective. Try scheduling your meetings for 20 minutes. These can be in person, virtual or an old-fashioned phone call. 

You can cover a lot of ground in 20 minutes if you do your homework. If you’re the one reaching out, have some good questions to ask. If you’re responding to a request, a 20-minute time block sends a message to the other person that you’re there for them, and you want to stay focused. Sometimes that 20 minutes is a simple catch-up call – which is a great way to re-energize your connections and show you are genuinely interested in staying connected for no other reason than the person matters to you. 

One final thought: If you’re having a hard time getting back to normal, cut yourself some slack. The truth is, we’re all trying to figure out what normal looks like now. It’s a process. Make time to choose the path that’s right for you.