In my prior post I described how to create a Master Connection List.  In this post, I describe how to use that list.

Increase Interactions with Connections.  I use a simple rule: 4/3/2.  Every day, I aim to make four contacts with A connections, three with B’s, and two with O’s.

For a contact to “count” in this tally, I have to make a contact in which I feel I provided some value to my connection.  An email providing information. A phone call to find out how they are doing. A quick hello to let a loved one know that I was thinking about them. A breakfast, lunch, or dinner during which I provide a sounding board or (solicited) advice. Asking someone for a favor does not count as a contact – unless I know that this is a person who really lives to do favors. (There are none of those in my current list of connections and very few of them in life generally.)

Give Value.  Why do I count only those contacts in which I feel I’m providing value to my connection? It is the only way I can effectively do what others call “networking.”  If I’m calling someone for me, I don’t like it.  It’s a chore, and often I feel I’m mooching or imposing.

If I’m getting in contact with someone because of value I can give them, though – that I can do all day, every day. Placing myself in a position of giving makes me relate better to others, makes me focus on ways to increase collaboration, and increases the group of people whose resources and expertise I can draw upon to help even more people.

Telltale Tallies. Each time I make a contact that counts, I make sure that I list that in my table, under “last contact.”  At the end of every day (if I remember), I sort the table, in reverse order, using the sort tool under Word’s table menu to sort first by rank (A, B, O, and X), then last contact, then name.

What will that sort give you?  At the bottom of each ranked group (A, B, etc.), you will see how many contacts you made during the day for each rank.  This will let you know whether you made your 4/3/2 goal — or whatever goal you’ve chosen for yourself — for the day.  And toward the top of each rank you will see those connections whom you’ve not contacted in a while – in other words, those you’re ignoring relative to your other connections, those who, if you don’t do something, may fall to the “X” category.

Why 4/3/2? The 4/3/2 daily goal guarantees that you will “touch” those people most you value the most – your “A” list friends and family.  By applying 4/3/2, you will touch the rest of your connections more regularly, because you will be working to touch at least a few each day.  You will also increase the likelihood of converting “O” ranks into “B” or “A” people by making a point of cultivating those you identified as connection opportunities.

More generally, using the 4/3/2 goal will get you in the habit of getting in contact regularly with other people – something that I’ve mentioned is important to human growth and achievement.  Research shows that virtually any activity gets easier with practice.  Talking with others, finding out about them so that you can find out how you can provide value to them, gets easier the more you do it.

Other “Sorts.” The Master Connection List could be sorted in many different ways.  It can be sorted on names, to make it easy to find someone.  I can be sorted on “type” of connection, so that you can group your business and personal connections separately.  You can sort on the date people were added, to review how the size and nature of your connections has changed over time.

Want to Grow Your Connections? This system gives you a way to measure whether your connections and opportunities for connection are growing.  Make measurable goals like “Increase “A” connections to 25 by 20101231 [from base of __ on 20100421].  Increase total connections [A + B] to 100 by 20101231 [from base of __ on 20100421].  Increase opportunities for connection by an average of _ per week [from base of__ on 20100421].” (You can find out more about the importance of goals in the series beginning here, and especially in the posts here and here, about how to formulate effective goals.)

What would these goals lead you to do?  You would look for opportunities to increase connections. For every connection you added, you’d have to increase your opportunities for connection, otherwise your “O” column would shrink.

Collateral Benefits – a Strong and Thriving Network. If you follow this process, you will develop an ever-expanding web of connections.  You will do it by providing value to others.  At the same time, as a collateral benefit, you will build an expanding list of resources you can draw upon to help other connections through synergistic interactions (e.g., introducing John to Sheila because you think they would make a good team, making your job of adding value that much easier).  You also build a strong group of people whom you can draw upon for advice or assistance when you need it.

Not Everyone You Know. A word of distinction about your “connections.” Who you know is different from who you consider a connection.  I know lots of people.  But of those thousands, my “connections” measure somewhere around 250, with another 150 or so opportunities for connection.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Periodically you may take a hard look at your table.  Which names should shift from one category to another?    What about the nature of your contacts?  Are they mostly business, mostly political, mostly pertaining to one of your interests to the exclusion of others?  How can you rebalance that, if you want to?

More pointedly, what does your connection table tell you about the quality of your life, and the extent to which you are helping other people (assuming you want to do that)?  Are you satisfied, or do you want to find additional activities that will expose you to new possibilities for connection?  I’ve done that, too, and it’s generally turned out for the better.

Let me know if this method for connecting helps.  And connect with me, on Twitter.