I’ve recently crossed the commitment threshold.

Not the romantic commitment threshold — heck, that’s easy, considering how little software is required (usually). I’m talking about the professional commitment I make to each project I take on, and to each partner, client, employee or colleague I work with.

That process of commitment has been around a long time, and every successful person I know has got some kind of process (conscious or unconscious) for gradually easing into a working relationship. You don’t jump in with both feet: you create some context for getting to know someone, for assessing their skills, for figuring out whether and how you can work together.

The commitment dance used to be pretty ephemeral, at least until the moment a contract was signed. These days, however, there are tangible milestones all the way along the road to a strong professional commitment. Here are mine:

  1. The follow: The Twitter follow is the first date of professional commitment. It’s the way I start to figure out what kind of stuff interests you, and whether you are remotely coherent.
  2. The connection: We’ve met, you’re not a psycho, and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit that I know you. Sure, I’ll connect with you on LinkedIn — thanks for asking!
  3. The Skype: I don’t login to Skype for just anyone. But I have a feeling about you…so sure, I’ll schedule a Skype call. And sure, I’ll let you see when I’m online. Just don’t take it personally when it turns out that most of the time, I’m not logged into Skype.
  4. The tag: The Delicious tag is a sign that I’m starting to think about what I can do for you. I start tagging stuff with an acronym I use only for you, building up a virtual offering of goodies that I’ll share when I feel the time is right.
  5. The Evernote notebook: I can’t stop thinking about you. In fact I’m so busy doodling little notes about you that they are cluttering up my inbox. The solution: give you your own notebook in Evernote.
  6. The bookmark in my menu bar: I drop by so often that if we were dating you’d give me your key. But I drop by online, to see what you’re working on, or to edit our Google doc. Now that I drop by almost daily you’ve won a coveted space in my browser’s bookmarks bar.
  7. The favorite: Online collaboration can’t contain all our creative sparks. I may actually need to hear the sound of your voice (or more accurately, read the subtext in your text messages). We’re in such frequent phone-to-phone contact that I’m adding you to my favorites list, one of just 20 spots available. Just remember that when you get the inevitable butt call, it’s not polite to listen when I don’t know that I’ve called you.
  8. The friend: Hey, that project went so well that seeing your name online doesn’t fill me with work-related knots of anxiety! I’m happy to friend you on Facebook. But if you Facebook your f*ing cat I’m hiding you from my news feed.