It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.
This week I asked our panel of experts…
“We all at some point have to deal with a time sucker in our industry. It may be someone who we started a friendship with who wants more time or information than we can realistically give, a family member, or it may just be a friend who you've outgrown.
How do you value your time, set boundaries, and still be the best YOU possible?”
I think you'll find the responses interesting.
Lou Bortone of Video in a Day says:
This was always a really tough one for me, because – like most of us – I love helping people and I hate saying “no”.
However, I've learned that “access” to me is my most valuable asset – and now when someone asks “Can I pick your brain?” I say, “Sure, I charge $300 per hour, how much time do you need?” I can also refer them to my online scheduler, where they can purchase a quick consult.
Terry Dean of My Marketing Coach says:
I honestly don't have to deal with this problem much anymore. But I had it BAD years ago. I wasted hours every day in unpaid conversations by email and phone with people who never even became customers.
The disease I had was “Nice Guy Syndrome.”
One of the subtle symptoms is a feeling of responsibility to answer every email and every phone call that comes in personally. It meant I invested myself in thousands of people…many of which had never even purchased anything from me.
I thought all this free advice would really help people, but the reality was I simply didn't understand human nature.
Rarely do we value what's given for free. For example, have you ever tried to give business advice to a friend of family member?
Sure, you may have that rare gem who takes what you share with them and runs with it, but much more common is the nodding head where they then walk away and do what they wanted to anyway.
I had it so bad back then that's one of the reasons I had to take a break from the Internet completely for 18 months.
But I haven't had to deal with this issue much in years.
And it's because that experience was so miserable for me that I figured out what I had to do to escape the possibility of this ever happening again.
The first thing you have to do is value your own time. Just by setting up an hourly consulting rate or an organized coaching program, you've solved half the battle. Because now you can point to your consulting or coaching whenever anything veers into that territory. Once you value your own time, others will start valuing it as well.
On the rare occasion a business friend or client goes a little too far… you can and should set clear boundaries. This is important! Make sure to set the boundaries BEFORE you're aggravated by it. Don't respond in anger and frustration. Once that's likely to occur, you've waited too long.
Instead, it's good to remind people of how you operate. For example, with new clients I always tell them how and when I will respond. If I'm on vacation or something changes, I let them all know in advance how my schedule is changing.
I do the same with joint venture partners and business friends. They know when they can expect a response from me and when they can't.
A lot of this comes back to knowing what you want your Lifestyle to look like. If you're not clear on this yourself, how can you explain it to anyone else?
Kevin Riley of Blogpreneur Training says:
Fortunately, I don't have any offline friends who are time suckers. My best friend, outside my wife Rieko, is my old buddy from my house-building days, Toriu. We get together about 3-4 times a year. The rest of the time, we are rarely in contact. That's normal here.
However, online, I could easily be time sucked by a few things: The rare customer who fires off question after question, Facebook, and YouTube.
By setting aside a short (10-15 minute) window of time in my mornings to answer e-mails, I don't allow any customer to suck my time, yet they receive an answer to their query (making for happy customers).
As for Facebook and YouTube, I don't always win the battle – allowing myself to lose time to fun. But then, that's why I do what I do – so I can have fun.
Rachel Rofe of How To Get Never Have a Bad Day Again says:
As a recovering people pleaser, I can see why this is such a great question to ask. 😉
And that being said, I think a lot of people in the personal development world can be quick to say they've “outgrown” someone, or that they're “further ahead” than people they once loved.
I don't know if that's always the truth.
With that said, I'm going to answer this question from the perspective of someone who's considering leaving a friendship that was once fulfilling.
So… my answer:
From experience, I've found that unless someone is mentally unstable, having an honest conversation (coupled with diplomacy, grace, and humility) is the best policy.
I like to think that people are smarter/more emotionally available/willing to grow WAY more than most of us give them credit for – especially when we're in a space of being annoyed with them. 😉
So I'd look at having a conversation with my friend. It starts with however I'm feeling, and might sound something like:
“There's been something I've been wanting to share with you. I've been holding it back out of fear that I'll upset you, when really, I just want us to be able to understand each other better. Would you be OK with you if I share some messy thoughts?”
After you get their buy-in, share that you know where they're coming from. I might say something like: “I know that you're in a place with your business where you're really wanting to grow. I admire your focus and excitement for getting things done, and you're making real strides forward. It's awesome to see.”
Then where I'm coming from: “And from my perspective, while I love your business enthusiasm, I'm feeling like you want more information than I feel good about giving. I find that we talk about business more than I desire and I leave feeling drained.”
Then ask to come to a solution together: “I would love to find a way where we can both feel really good about this friendship. Can we talk about what that might look like?”
In most cases, if you are completely honest, share both perspectives, and look to find a solution TOGETHER — you'd be absolutely amazed at what can happen. You may end up deciding that the friendship has worn its course, or you may find that you have a newfound container for a more fulfilling friendship where you both feel even closer.
The main thing is to give BOTH people the opportunity to have a voice instead of just writing them off.
Of course, if this is with someone you were never really that close with in the first place, a simple “I've scheduled time to work on some things that are really important to me and unfortunately don't have free time to chat” also works. 😉
Kelly McCausey of Solo Smarts Podcast says:
I've a friend I've seen potential in for ages. Over the years I've invested a lot of energy into encouraging, equipping and pushing her into action. When I'm not actively motivating her, she drifts off into the demands of every day life.
Last year I finally admitted that I wanted it far more than she did. I had to let go.
I love her so much, I didn't want to lose our friendship. I went to her and apologized for pushing. I promised to leave it alone and just enjoy our personal friendship from now on. It was important to me that she know I don't need her to be entrepreneurial to be my friend.
This is an area of issue for me in a lot of relationships. I often want someone else's success more than they do. I'm working on it!
Tiffany Dow of Work Life Balance says:
I've had to do this a lot lately. This is the first time I've put strict boundaries on my time and space. I've gotten to where I'm just blunt or more apologetic about doing what's in my best interest.
I grew up a people pleaser. Never wanted to come across as “rude.” But it's not rude to get your work done before chit chatting with a friend. That was all in my head.
I have found it very freeing to tell people honestly, “I have to focus on work, so I won't be able to visit much until (whatever time).” Nothing at all rude about that.
And truth be told, if someone didn't respect my boundaries, I wouldn't feel very valued by them.
Shannon Cherry of Learn How I Get *Paid* to Attend Events says:
Of course, this happens to everyone. And sometimes the lines blur so much that you have difficulties seeing the issue until you realize how bad it really is.
That recently happened to me and it got to the boiling point. A friend, was consistently asking business questions, which at first I didn't mind answering. But soon, I was realizing that any advice I gave her was disregarded. (She was a ‘bright-shiny-object' type who jumped from idea to idea.) I was getting annoyed to say the least. It was time for ‘the talk'. Essentially, I shared my concerns and more importantly how I felt. It cleared the air and we have remained friends who only focus our chat about your lived, not business.
Although that one has a happy ending, not all do. I find this especially true when it comes to social media ‘friends' (those who only know you online). Of course, it starts innocently – a quick question about something, but soon you might find yourself coaching or consulting (something you get paid for). Here's what I've done to help stop this:
1. I make rules for myself and keep them. For me, it's answering one question and that's it.
2. I've created canned responses so I don't have to fumble for words when feeling awkward. For example, on reply is this: “I appreciate your trust in my advice, and I value our relationship. I want you to know that what you are asking is something I get paid to do. It's how I make my living. And because you know how limited availability is, I need to focus on paying clients with my time. However, here are a couple of blog posts that may help…”
3. If all else fails, ‘Bless and Release', meaning wish them the best and ignore them, block them or whatever you have to do so they don't suck your time.”
Nicole Dean of .. here! .. says:
I'm so glad my smart friends sent in so much great insight for this post. I know that I, along with my coaching clients, have struggled at times with this issue over the years.
Like most, I'm much better at telling others how to regain control over their time than I am sometimes in owning my own. 🙂
But truly the thing that I end up saying oftentimes when I'm talking with them is “YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM HERE! So QUIT IT!!!”
Don't pull the “Nobody respects my time” line, if you haven't set the rules first. Otherwise, it's not their fault. It's yours.
Draw the line in the sand and have options for people who want more of you. Options that you are comfortable with.
Granted, I failed majorly at this initially. I'd be resentful of people who were “using me” until I realize that it was my fault!
1. They didn't know any better because I hadn't told them, and
2. they didn't have a legitimate option for paying me for my time. DUH.
Once I realized that I was putting THEM into a pickle, I kicked my “woe is me” mentality to the curb and I took control of my time.
What did I do to fix it?
1. I created a coaching page.
2. I wrote and published my book.
Now, people who ask about making money online are referred to my book. And, people who want ME are referred to my coaching page. Easy peasy. 🙂
Granted, I still do find myself slipping at times, and I have to put up barriers in those instances.
I think the thing that I finally figured out is that EVERY moment of EVERY day that I give to someone else is a moment that I'm taking from taking care of me, spending time with my kids and my Joe, or being with my family and friends.
Your time (as with your energy) is like a bank. And, the minutes go where they are allocated. Make sure you're INVESTING them wisely.
My favorite quote for over a decade has been “The days are long, but the years are short.”
I encourage you to think of that when you're giving your time to others. Because we blink and a year passes. 🙂
It's a lesson that's been one that's taken me a while to learn, so I hope this perspective helps.
If you need an energy boost – check out Energy Jet Pack by my friend, Lain Ehmann.
PS. Remember, if you want me to keep getting awesome smart peeps to answer questions here, go check out their stuff.
- Lou Bortone – Video in a Day
- Terry Dean – My Marketing Coach
- Kevin Riley – Blogpreneur Training
- Rachel Rofe – How To Get Never Have a Bad Day Again
- Kelly McCausey – Solo Smarts Podcast
- Tiffany Dow – Work Life Balance
- Shannon Cherry – Learn How I Get *Paid* to Attend Events