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I used to say yes to every business networking meeting. I’d feel bad if I didn’t go and there were times when I cancelled or turned up late.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in my car to drive to the event that I’d regret my decision to attend.
I’d go anyway and there wouldn’t be a long term change in behaviour.
As a result I often spread myself too thin, I was mostly tired and stressed, and I felt angry at myself – mainly because I hate being late and I was frustrated because I knew something wasn’t working.
The most annoying thing about all of this is that I used to believe I was doing the right thing. I guess you only know what you know, and that’s why continuous learning and improvement is important. You get better at stuff over time.
Anyway, something needed to change. I needed to change.
I think we all need to be more honest with ourselves. There are typically big signals telling us that something isn’t working for us, and we need to listen carefully.
I don’t know why, but it takes me a while to figure these things out – to recognise how I feel about things. Often the people close to me see it before I do. As soon as I start complaining about something, and being late, and generally not giving a shit, I either need to revisit why I’m committed to it, or simply quit it.
I think the biggest reason for me delaying in making a decision is that I don’t want to let people down, but I end up letting them down more by hanging on to it, rather than just cutting myself off.
I also put a lot of pressure on myself to do the right things. Turn up when I say I will, be on time, be prepared. And when I feel like I’ve not done these things well I beat myself up.
So, perhaps the biggest shift for me over time is having a better understanding of my feelings and my behaviour. If I’m not making an effort, and I’m complaining about it, and I feel like I’m wasting my time, I should quit or change what I’m doing.
Now that I have decided to quit business networking events all together, the most liberating outcome from this is that I get to say no to every single one of them. Without any feeling of guilt, without explaining myself, without excuses, and without regret.
It feels amazing.
Here’s a typical email I receive, you probably get them too.
You previously indicated you were coming along to our Business Networking event but you didn’t manage to make it along.
Our next event is coming up soon.
Would you like to come along?”
My reply goes something like this:
“No thanks, I hope it goes well.
That’s if I reply at all.
I just say no to them all. It’s my default, and people have stopped asking me.
For transparency, there are rare occasions when I say yes. I’ll share the full reasons with you in another article, and the main reason I will attend is when I’m invited by someone I trust, and the event is curated by them or someone that they trust.
One other important rule I’ve put in place to stop me saying yes to events is to pretend that the event is taking place tomorrow. If I wouldn’t go tomorrow, then I say no. When something is far into the future it’s easier to say yes for some reason. This rule stops that regret and anger I’d feel just before going to the event and wondering why the hell I’m doing this.
So, how have I benefited from attending less business networking events?
Well, as I’ve mentioned, the less business networking events I go to, the better I feel. As a result I now have more energy and I have my time back.
- More time to think
- More time to sleep
- More time to exercise
- More time to be creative
- More time to focus on my key relationships
- More time to spend with my key clients and customers
- More time to spend on things like sales and marketing
- More time to spend on strategies
- More time to spend building businesses
- More time on teaching
- More time with my family and friends
In short, my time is far more flexible now. I have less places to turn up to at specific time during the week, which gives me a lot more control.
In the past few years I’ve become far more protective of my time. The reality is that I should be in control of my time, not other people.
Just thinking about it now, I feel like when I left my job in 2011 I tried to replicate having a job in my business. I did this by putting meetings and events in my diary and turning up. I’m pleased to find myself in a different position now, and thinking differently about how to run my business and my life.
I don’t have to do it the way everyone else is doing it. I don’t have to do it ‘the way it’s always been done’.
Maybe you would like more control of your time? Perhaps you feel like I did? Maybe it’s time for a change too?
Click here to read the whole series on Becoming a Connector.
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