“Do you have a few minutes for me to pick your brain?” “I’ll be visiting NY and would like to meet you for a cup of coffee to ask you some questions.” I hear this all the time from fans of my books; people who I barely know. And it seems everyone I know has someone they know in a band or who wants to break into the music industry. Since I write bestselling books on doing that for Billboard, they want me to give that person some advice.

These kinds of requests can create negative emotions for me. Overall, they tell me those people don’t value what I do enough to recognize I should get paid for my services, like any other person in business. My knowledge is worth a lot more than a cup of coffee, or even lunch. I do consulting as part of my business, but people seem to think it’s okay to pick my brain for free since I’m a nice person. Once I hired a publicist for a lot of money and she asked me to talk to her son as a favor. I paid her for her services but was supposed to give mine away!

When you have skills or knowledge that can help people, some can act entitled to get help from you because you know what they don’t. But that doesn’t mean you have to give it.

All of this can kill your time! And, it’s uncomfortable to turn them down. Many of us get suckered into helping people with things we should get paid for or just shouldn’t be called on to do because we don’t know how to say no. When I was a DoorMat there was very little I wouldn’t do for anyone. Most of the time I felt many negative emotions after, as do many people I speak with:

•    Anger that people expect you to give your services away for free
•    Frustration that you have less time for what you want to do
•    Disappointment that they gave you little in return
•    Resentment to be put in the situation
•    Annoyance at yourself for not being able to turn them down.

None of those emotions feel good! I finally decided to set boundaries as I became more empowered.  While I still HATE being put in the position of having to let someone know they’re out of line in asking for my services for free, or just to say no to requests, I do it because I love me enough to want to guard my time. Sometimes they respond with annoyance or full blown anger when I turn down their request or say that I’m wrong not to answer their questions since they read my book. I accept my right to choose what to give my time to and that people who ask for your services as a favor are the ones out of line.

If you have a skill or knowledge or anything else people want from you, honor it, protect it and value it enough not to give it away to anyone who asks.

There are people I like who never ask and I’ve offered to give them some suggestions, because I believe in them and want them to succeed. But then it’s my choice to do it, not an obligation because I’ve been put on the spot. So I’ve made an effort to guard my time. When I get emails asking to meet for coffee to pick my brain or someone who wants to ask me some questions, I write back that what they’re asking for falls under my consulting hat, and are they interested in my rates? If someone verbally asks, I ask back if they’re interested in making an appointment with me as a consultant.

Yes, I sometimes get nasty responses back, like I should feel privileged to share my knowledge with others, even if I don’t know them. I no longer feel guilty. THE PEOPLE asking should! Asking for 5 minutes of time is guaranteed to take a half hour. And doing that for many people means I’ll never be able to write another book as the number of requests would consume all my time. So I say I can’t, and let them know I’ll forward my rates if they’d like.

You need to pay attention to what people ask of you that makes you short on time for what you’d like to do.

I’ve had “friends” who only called when they were having relationship problems. Otherwise I didn’t hear from them. When I realized these people just wanted my advice and didn’t even offer friendship to me, I asked if they want to hire me as their counselor since that’s what I do as a profession. The were greatly taken aback but got the message. I do however, offer lots of support to friends who support me back.

Decide what’s most important to you: troubleshooting in someone’s computer or spending the day hiking? Watching someone’s kids or taking your own to the zoo? Listening to someone’s drama, over and over, or reading a book? Doing someone’s taxes or watching a game on TV? You decide. I guard my time carefully now that I’m not a DoorMat as an act of self-love. And if people don’t like it, oh well! I still hate being asked but now I’m more prepared with answers to stop the demands of people who don’t understand I should get paid for what they want from me. I use the positive emotions I feel from having more time for me as a shield against people’s negative responses.

You owe it to yourself to guard your time. Love yourself enough to make an effort to! Your time is yours to keep or give away. Make a point of setting boundaries on how you use it so you can enjoy life more!

Take the self-love challenge and get my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways for free at http://howdoiloveme.com. And you can post your loving acts HERE to reinforce your intention to love yourself. Read my 31 Days of Self-Love Posts HERE.

Please leave comments under my posts so we can stay connected.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts