On his "Business Networking In Austin Blog", Scott Ingram (who runs the website: Network In Austin, which is full of great information and the best local calendar of events I have seen in years) addresses the question about how much time one should devote to networking.
This is an important question, and one that I hear often. We are all busy. Our jobs are demanding more time than just "9 to 5". Then there are family obligations, religious/church commitments (spiritual renewal), social events, catching up on reading the paper (books, magazines, etc....), fitting in a work-out, watching UT Football, etc... Not to mention having some personal time to relax. So how in the world are we supposed to take this "networking stuff" seriously and carve out more time to meet new people and then cultivate those relationships so they become powerful business connections?
There is no easy answer. You cannot ignore having a network of business contacts if you really want your career to succeed. There are few examples of people who have "made it" on their own, and we all have heard the expression "its not what you know, its who you know". At the same time, you cannot ignore your job, family, physical condition or spirituality either, as you will pay the price for that neglect as well.
The only solution is to make the commit to doing all these important things regularly and then managing your time. (sorry, I wish there was a magic pill for this one....then I could sell that pill with my book on networking).
Scott's blog post has some good advise. One thing I would add is that you need to have support on the home front. My wife and kids would prefer that I was home by 6 PM every night. Since many excellent networking opportunities take place at happy hour or over dinner, it would be difficult for me participate in the local business community if my wife was not supportive. We have an understanding that one or two nights a week I will not be home for dinner.
I recently had a discussion with a person who desperately wanted to build a network, but said his wife (who was hounding him to grow his business) would "kill him" if he was not home for dinner. Can he build a network without going to evening event....YES !!!! But it will take even more effort from other parts of his day.
Like everything worthwhile in life, building a network takes commitment and sacrifice.
Have A Great Day.