Networking how-to: get stuff done with less stress

Today’s advice is more of a confession from a recovering workaholic (who slips up now and then) than a networking tip.

I was so proud of myself over the past few months, having developed and delivered a custom networking skills training program for a new client with great success. This week I am delivering a new presentation training workshop for technical professionals for another new client that I have been working on for four years. (that’s right, 4 years!)

Throughout this intense time of content development and service delivery, I have made time to network with people and to build a pipeline of future opportunities.

I’ve got my act together (sort of)

Reflecting upon the past few months I have found myself in different stages of “togetherness.” At times, I have been focused and highly productive, super charged and full of ideas that materialize easily. At other times I have been overwhelmed with the complexity of the project. I have endured days of procrastination, welcoming any interruption to keep me from doing the hard work at hand. I have been unable to admit my situation and ask for help, even when I know people could and would help me.

I have also found myself violating the K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple stupid) and added unnecessary complexity and depth to the work beyond the value add point. Even though I recognized this in the moment, I couldn’t stop myself from overproducing. This lengthened the process and put extra stress and pressure on me. It also robbed me of important preparation time such that I didn’t allow enough time to outsource the proof-reading and design layout of my own work. I had to do it myself. (now that’s scary)

Flawed but determined

Come hell or high water, I will make my deadline, even if I have to sacrifice my personal time and family needs. (My teenage sons are totally bummed that I can’t take them shopping with their birthday money over the school winter break). I have only myself to blame for not planning, prioritizing and executing my work more smoothly and using my time more wisely.

How to get stuff done with less stress

Here’s a dozen ideas to help motivate and sustain you in getting your work done with hopefully less stress. (note: these are not in any particular order, just as they jumped out of my brain to the page)

  1. Figure out what’s important to you. Convert your To-Do list into a higher level priorities list, so you understand what’s important, not just urgent. Not all tasks are equally important.
  2. Simplify your process. After breaking down the component parts of your priority project, spend some quality thinking time figuring out how to simply each step of the way. Challenge yourself and others when you are headed into scope creep or unnecessary complication of the process. Know your process and what makes it work well.
  3. Guard your calendar. Don’t let yourself load up your working time slots with low priority meetings and events. Feel okay about telling people that you are scheduling for few weeks out.
  4. Put a time limit on social media. You can become addicted to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Before you know it, you have spent much more time on these sites just chatting away. Just like you tell your kids “homework before Facebook” you need to do the same for your work and life priorities. If you have to, use a kitchen timer. Get the kind of timer that makes a really obnoxious alarms to tell you “enough is enough.” Time to return to work. (The irony: as I was writing this networking tip, my computer kept dinging me. It was a Facebook ping from my son, who is upstairs “working.” We went back and forth a few times with messages. Crazy isn’t it. I finally closed Facebook on my browser window.)
  5. Outsource whenever possible. Hire external professionals who can take some load off of you while maintain the high quality of your work product. Create a network of reliable vendors to help you with the work that is not your expertise, but is important to the overall success, such as virtual assistants, proof-readers, project managers, copywriters, bookkeepers, printers, graphic designers. They can the work faster, better and even cheaper than you can. Free yourself to focus on what you are good at. 
    • I’ve personally hired Linda Pulford, business consultant and project planner, to help me get started on complex projects with great success. Check out her web site –
  6. Ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for assistance or support. We are all human. We are all over-worked. Reach out and let people know what you need, even if it’s just some emotional support. Occasionally we all need a kick in the seat of the pants or a shoulder to cry on.
  7. Go easy on the volunteering. It’s so tempting to try to be Superman or Wonder Woman and say YES to every volunteer leadership opportunity that comes your way from work or in your community. Learn to say No, Thank You. In fact, I read recently that the word No is a complete sentence. Know how to say no.
  8. Get away from the computer for a while. Go analog and think through your work challenges the old fashioned way, using a pen and paper, or white board or 3M sticky notes. Or maybe a walk in the park would do you good – restore your energy, clear your head.
  9. Plan shorter, more concentrated work periods. I read in one of Jim Loehr’s books (The Power of Full Engagement) that 90 minutes is the ideal focus duration. After that, our brain and body need to take a break. If you can break up your day into selective 90-minute concentrated work periods, you may find yourself more productive without the exhaustion and fewer careless mistakes.
  10. Take excellent care of yourself, being careful to preserve and honor your energy and health. Exercise, quality rest and good food will fuel your productivity and brain power.
  11. Drink up. Don’t allow yourself to get dehydrated or become over stimulated with caffeine (which also dehydrates you) during stressful work time. Support your body with what it needs: pure, clean water and plenty of it.
  12. Have fun. Remember to laugh and enjoy yourself. Don’t let your work become an overwhelming drag. Put some play back into the work process and remind yourself why you choose this field in the first place.

 Your Networking Goal for the Week

The people in your network are resources for you. You need to tap into them when the going gets tough. They are there to help you solve problems, motivate you into action and even assist you with referrals and recommends to people you can outsource to. But they can’t help you if you don’t let them know what’s going on. So for this week, reach out and touch someone in your network and employ one or more of the above stress-buster productivity suggestions. Have a motivated and productive week!


About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business (Kiwi Publishing 2010). In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations, more effective networking and personal marketing. To learn more about Kathy, visit her web site  If you like this tip and want to receive free networking tips on a weekly basis, please sign up at





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