Foster informal connections

I've always found fostering informal relationships surprisingly valuable.

Time is such a limited resource, and it's easy to convince yourself to take a mercenary approach to any scheduling. If you aren't getting predictable value out of it, and it's not required by your job, it's not worth your time! But especially in a Coronavirus world, filled with indefinite remote work and friends trapped behind tiny Zoom panes, this feels like a lonely trap.

The thing is, human nature is important. The difference in outcomes between asking a favor of a colleague you talk with regularly, vs someone you've spoken to only once, vs someone you have never met is substantial.

So the recommendation: make it easy for others to meet you and discuss absolutely whatever is on their mind. Time box this, so it can't overwhelm your other priorities. You can do this via word of mouth, but I like going further and explicitly blocking time on my calendar. Set up a finite set of 30 minute slots every week, and subtly advertise them as bookable. No permission needed to book a slot, they're there if anyone wants to talk to me.

The best part -- if nobody books a given slot, I get the time back. Zero cost in the early days when nobody knows the slots exist, or I'm not interesting enough for a random coffee chat to feel worth it.

I did this for most of 2019 while I worked at Yelp, and it was a wonderful way to meet new people, hear about efforts or ideas I'd never otherwise been exposed to, and generally broaden my own connections before I needed to rely on them.

You can also do this with things that aren't synchronous meetings. Arguably that's even smarter and more time-efficient on your part. See patio11's Standing Invitation to email as an example.

The only risk here is my ego being bruised after the Nth week of no interest. But like many things, this always start out slow, and grows over time. And while it's not easy to follow, I aspire to the advice to "if you aren't being regularly rejected, you aren't putting yourself out there enough".