With the New Year already in full swing, so, too, are the numerous invitations for networking lunches and dinners. It’s an expected part of any business person’s life to attend these events, and, at times, they can get monotonous. But they also can provide awesome opportunities to gain new insight, network with new or familiar people and be seen in the community.

People who know me know that one of my biggest pet peeves is individuals who attend networking events only to be looking down at their phones – texting or checking social media – rather than looking up, enjoying a conversation, learning something new from table mates or the speaker, or just appreciating time out of the office.

I also am realistic enough to know not all networking events are engaging or exciting, but there’s a reason you’ve received an invitation and a goal for each event – whether it’s a fundraiser, friendraiser,or community-focused or educational in purpose.

Before attending an event, gain an appreciation for why you are attending, what you want to get out of it and how you can stay focused while you are there.

During yesterday’s Rockford Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner (sold out!), I connected with so many people, enjoyed time with my awesome team members and learned a lot.

The speaker, Curt Steinhorst, best-selling author of the book “Can I Have Your Attention?Inspiring Better Work Habits, Focusing Your Team, and Getting Stuff Done in the Constantly Connected Workplace,” shared with the audience insight on distractions we all likely recognize but because they become so much of our daily life, we have become indifferent to them. For example:

  • How many of us are using one (or more) tech items (e.g. smartphone, tablet) while watching TV?
  • While at dinner with friends or family, how many times do you pull out your phone to check an email, text or social media page?
  • At the most recent networking event you attended, how often did you rely on your technology to either avoid human contact or get an update on a sports game or news?
  • Since you began reading this blog, have you wandered (be honest, it won’t hurt my feelings) to an email that has popped up or another message before finishing?

I’m not saying technology is bad; I readily recognize all of its awesome factors. In fact, Chartwell utilizes technology to assist in growing and developing our clients’ businesses. But how much of a distraction from real contact and content is it taking from your everyday life to live in the moment and prioritize only one thing.

To be honest, I am a hugely distracted person when it comes to technology. I’m not saying that in 2019 I will make huge strides to become better focused. But change can only start with the recognition that it has to. I started by spending an hour in chilly temps, sans phone,sledding down a hill with my 7½-year-old daughter. Best hour of my week. What can you make your best time this week – and can you do it without technology?