The further you get in your field, the more thoughtful you have to be about the time you spend. It often means saying "No" more than you would like. Former Googler Jenny Blake, author of the best-selling book Pivot, which is out in paperback today, recently shared a great way to defend your time and help other people.
When someone asks for a brain picking session, Blake instead suggests they do a 20/20 meeting (I interpreted it as 20/20, but the numbers can be higher or lower). The meeting is 20 minutes talking about what you care about and then 20 minutes talking about what the other person cares about.
I love this method for many reasons:
Eliminate the one-way conversation: Blake has a best-selling book, a significant career at the most envied startup in the world and a reputation for helping people get their businesses to the next level. You have your own expertise, too, and it would be too easy for you to give and not receive, especially as you gain prominence in your field. By splitting the time evenly, you remove potential one-sidedness.
Prevent takers from monopolizing time: There are many reasons why people may feel comfortable monopolizing your time, from feeling like you owe them to listen to being just thoughtless about your other obligations. By declaring a split meeting, you create equal expectations from the outset and make it clear that you expect to be receiving value from the meeting, too. Their reaction to your suggestion makes their intentions clearer and can help you decide whether you want to actually spend more time with the person.
Smooth out the power dynamics: Everyone you meet has a piece of insight that can help you or has access to people or social circles that can be beneficial to your business. How do you know if you're the only one giving insight? Instead, the 20/20 rule gives you and your companion equal footing, potentially staving off weird power dynamics and giving both of you an opportunity for growth. And after the meeting, they don't owe you anything, just as you don't owe them anything either.