I’m in that awkward situation that I don’t have time to talk to everyone and respond to all the requests I get. Sounds familiar?
"It’s not what you know, its who you know" they say. But frankly speaking I think success is equally connected the simple formula: how much do you output. There are many situations where your company would have benefitted more from you being back at your computer, than drinking coffee with even the most interesting person.
So on one hand we’re taught that Saying No is the key to high-productivity, and on the other hand that we need to well-connected and in touch. So what to do?
Personally I love and rely on my network. I’ve spent year building it up and it contains many people I feel privileged to know and work with. But I get 30+ emails a week from people who’d like to get acquainted in some form. But if I drink coffee with 30 people a week, I won’t be able to do anything else. And all niceties aside, I am in my job to serve the company, my colleagues and my investors.
But that doesn’t makes it less unpleasant and awkward to saying no to people who’ve been introduced to you, or who write for help. I find it really awkward because it goes against all politeness, and against my own values of paying it forward.
So how do you sort? Everyone means well. And output is different for each person, i.e. what’s a productive conversation for one person is sub-optimal use of time for some one. (Actually time-waster is way to harsh a word to use, but “sub-optimal use of time” would have made a terrible head line).
Right now I am working with this prioritization of incoming non-business critical requests:
- Anything from someone I rate highly
- A specific collaboration opportunity, input on specific matter
- Someone who has been intro’ed by someone I rate highly
- Intro request, as long as it is mutually relevant for the parties
- for general feedback on their startup
- intro request which doesn’t appear relevant for the recipient/ to people I don’t know sufficiently well
- to “get generally acquainted” because they are also in startups/travel
- to interview me for a uni project, survey etc
I normally say no something like:
"Nice to meet you! I like your app/product/company, very cool. Do you have an idea for how we could benefit each other? Then I’d love to Skype, otherwise I try to avoid general-meet-and-greet calls as they are often not productive. Am sure you are super busy too! Do you have a plan or a concept in mind?"
So if you want to reach me, short and specific emails are most likely to get a reply. And email over calls and voicemails. And requests that don’t cost me too much time.
The reason I am sharing this is that I find it awkward to refuse requests, and am looking for the best way to stay polite while have maximum productivity. I am not unique in this, everyone gets irrelevant requests, many people many more requests than me. So, how do you manage productivity and staying polite?