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It’s sometimes hard not to be a d**k: the plight of denying meetings requests

At some point over the past two years I crossed some mythical chasm where I started receiving at least one or two emails each day that read something like this:

Dear Ben, I am a [student, developer, aspiring entrepreneur, agitated lawyer, recovering banker]. I recently came across your [blog, company website, long lost cousin] and would love to talk to you about [my new company, career trajectory, the supersonics]. Do you have any time in the next week to connect?

I am a softy when it comes to these types of meeting requests, particularly because I’ve written so many of these notes myself over the past decade through multiple job searches, career soul searching, business school, and simply seeking general mentorship and advice. I am a HUGE proponent of mentorship having been the fortunate recipient of incredible advice and guidance over the years, and I believe in karma points for giving of your time with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  

Unfortunately, the physical laws of nature have become an insurmountable barrier to accommodating all of these requests. 24 hours in a day is not nearly enough time to get through all that needs to be done, neither personally nor professionally. I simply no longer have enough open capacity in my calendar to take all of the meetings. As a result, I’ve found myself writing responses that read like this:

Dear [X], thanks so much for your note. Unfortunately, my calendar is jam packed so I won’t be able to fit in this meeting. I wish I could be more helpful, but I just don’t have the bandwidth right now.

These notes SUCK and I feel like a humungous schmuck every time I click send. 

Truth be told, I am incredibly flattered every time someone reaches out seeking my input (why someone would ask for my input remains one of the great mysteries of the world) and I most definitely do not mean any disrespect by denying a request for such a meeting. It is just that, like many many many other people who work hard and have a family, I am very busy.

I’ve been thinking about how to better handle these requests and have come up with the following action plan:

  1. Going forward I’ll try holding more regular office hours broken into 20 minute slots to accommodate more of these requests
  2. I’m going to integrate the ‘productivity hack’ of scheduling more standard 30 minute meetings instead of hour meetings
  3. I plan to include a link to this blog post every time I send a ‘rejection’ notice in hopes that people will understand that I don’t mean to be a huge schmuck but am just a busy guy

If you have other suggestions for how to better handle this I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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