The more successful you are, the more in demand your time is. Five moguls and members of The Oracles share how they decide whom to give their time to and on what terms.
1. Prepare helpful “no’s.”
I’m constantly approached by young business owners looking for “just an hour of my time.” As my time is limited, I’ve developed a system of helpful “no’s” that give a little something and leave people feeling happy they asked.
People don’t like being ignored or kept waiting. As most requests come through email, I have standard responses ready to go, including a polite thank you, an expression of appreciation, an explanation as to why I can’t give it, and most importantly, a suggestion for where they can find the help they require.
Years ago, I gave my time away to just about anyone. I did the same with money! But by making everybody else happy, I wasn’t able to prioritize my own goals and happiness. I learned that to accomplish what you want out of life, you must take care of yourself first.
2. Create multiple filters.
When I get requests for funding or advice, I run people through filters to separate the serious from the curious.
irst, I tell them to message me back and see if they follow up. If they don’t, I stop communicating. Second, I ask them to follow up again. If they follow up both times, I ask for their request in writing to assess if it’s worth my time. Third, I schedule a 10-minute phone call, where they explain their request in depth. If it’s a funding request, I ask for a pitch deck or business plan; usually, they don’t have one, which quickly ends the discussion.
Without proper filters, people unknowingly waste your time. I appreciate those who cut to the chase but are also persistent and prepared. One guy followed up for six months, and I eventually helped him.
3. Pre-qualify, have a game plan, and take inventory.
Systems and structures are critical for staying on purpose, while remaining efficient and focused.
First, pre-qualify like a boss. Learn scripts and dialogues that quickly get the information you need to determine if a person has something to offer your business. A great script is like a best-selling rock song: sing it the same way every time, and it will make you a fortune.
Second, follow a game plan. Having a clear business plan will provide an initial sense of what services and people your business needs to excel going forward, making it easier to determine whom to give your time to.
Lastly, take inventory of everything and everyone. When it comes to people and tasks, they either provide good, great, negative, or even terrible energy and value. Using these four categories creates critical awareness about who and what will give you the highest return on investment.
—Shaun Rawls, author, optimist, thought leader, founder, and CEO of Rawls Consulting
4. Respond to people who get to the point.
The key to getting people's attention at the top level is having one hyper-specific superpower. The big mistake people make is coming off as generalists and not getting straight to the point. They say things like, "Oh, I'm good at stuff, I'm good at everything." It needs to be as hyper-specific as possible.
If you're approaching someone on the street, never say: “Hey, can I just talk to you for five minutes?” Instead say: "Hey, Elon Musk, quick question, what's your favorite book?” Don’t meander.
Jim Rohn, the famous teacher, once said: "Prepare for tomorrow, today." Practice what you'll say to a VIP with a friend, so it's second nature. Prepare a script, even if that means using a piece of paper. I'd rather someone read off a script than babble.
5. Be discerning and schedule short meetings.
When people reach out, I often respond with an explanation about why they’re not a good fit, or ask for more information. When I do agree to sit down with someone, I meet for short periods, such as 20 to 30 minutes, rather than an hour.
Your time is finite, so protect it. Be discerning with how you use it. Sometimes that means not responding. Keeping up with all requests would keep me up at night.
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