“I am going to need your help”
What an honor and a curse.
The Honor: Someone trusts you, your knowledge, and your ability to assist them in achieving their dreams.
The Curse: Many times this request comes from multiple people who expect you to accept their request.
The Dilemma: You have your own goals and aspirations that you need to spend your time on. You may be able to help a person or two head in the right direction, but you do not really have the time to give without sacrificing something that is of value to you.
This is a battle I am constantly faced with. What makes it even more difficult for me is that I am passionate about helping others, so I agree more often than I decline. Of course as a result, I have several of my personal projects that are neglected. It literally took me 4 years to take Women Exceeding from an idea that was pressing on my heart to an actual established company. Not because that’s how long it took the paperwork, but because I was helping my boyfriend at the time with his small companies and projects. I was also helping friends with their small projects. I was on boards I was not passionate about. I was spending my time in a way that was not profitable for me. A few things about giving other people all of you: 1. They never return the favor (Sure they will say, let me know if you need anything, but very few actually mean that. Try to cash one of those in to test my theory.) 2. They easily forget all the hard work and time you put in helping to build their “baby” (This is just human nature, you feel you did more, they feel you did less. “You wasn’t with me shooting in the gym” But you may have been passing them the balls, developing defensive plays, and studying the competition so they could make the shot)
Now, I am not saying do not help people. As I stated before, helping others is my passion. What I am saying is be strategic with your time and the time that you donate to others. (Yes, your time is a donation) Make sure you schedule (and stick to) time for your own projects. Also decide how much time you can afford to donate to others. You may think of this as how many people can you commit to help for a period of time or how many hours a week you have to give. (Your strategy is up to you) For me, this time to help others is outside of my other obligations, including volunteering in the community. I am active in my church, a member of two service organizations outside of Women Exceeding, I have a full time job that sometimes can be 24/7 and not 9 to 5, and I have a very demanding family. In addition, I have other projects that are literally sitting on my desk waiting for me to bring them to life. (I love every aspect of my very busy life.) Every week, I have someone asking me to help them with various tasks such as developing a website or marketing, helping develop a newsletter, going over interview questions, finding speakers for an event, credit and financial planning, even “getting my life together,” and the list goes on. These are requests that I struggle with. First of all, I am overwhelmed because I do not consider myself remotely an expert on any of the requests mentioned (which are all actual requests I have received) and I can assure you I can use assistance with every request I receive for myself.
My first approach was to commit myself to two individuals and help out others when I can. My first was a young lady who I assisted through her college application process and beyond. She has earned her Bachelor’s Degree and even though she does not need me to hold her hand, she still contacts me periodically for random advice and requests. With her demand being low, I have picked up another young lady who is at the same place that my first mentee was when I began helping her. I am confident in my roles with these young ladies, because what they are facing I have lived through. I know what I am doing and what they should do. The only challenges are if they are receptive to my advice and will actually follow it.
I had a mentor as an undergrad at the University of Illinois, Dr. Paul Magelli (He and I remain close). After a meeting (one of many) he and I had regarding my future, I thanked him for assisting me with some difficulties I faced my senior year. He told me “the way you can thank me is to be me for another young person.” I think I may have been 20 years old when he told me that, but it stuck with me, and that is exactly what I tell my girls.
What about the other requests I receive? I still struggle. In fact, what inspired me to write this post was a text message I received moments before I started typing. One thing that I have started doing, is if someone asks me something that I do not know, I tell them I do not know. Sounds simple, right? Nah! Not for me, I like to be investigator gadget and find all the answers. It’s great to be knowledgeable, but remember we are being strategic with our time. If the answer will benefit you, then by all means Curious George, go for it. BUT if it will not, just be frank and say “I don’t know.” This will encourage that person to be independent and find the answer themselves. (I will write about being people’s crutch in another post…that I AM an expert in)
As you find your different tactics and tools to being strategic with your time, please share in the comments below! Or email me Christina@ChristinaDCornelius.com