Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

How to Avoid Time Wasters by Asking the Right Questions Up Front

When people ask for five minutes of your time, know what you're getting yourself into.

By
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The greatest asset we all have isn’t -- it’s time.

In today’s digital age it’s all too easy to lose sight of focus on our business or career goals by wasting precious time on people and activities that don’t align with our higher purpose.

At some point, you’ve likely experienced one of the following encounters:

  • You’re approached on by a random person that you’ve never engaged with who’s asking for 30 minutes of your time -- telling you about his company.
  • You meet someone at a conference who says, “Let’s collaborate or find a way to work together.”
  • You receive a from someone inviting you to grab lunch because he wants to pick your .
  • Someone reaches out to you on and says, “I’d love to talk sometime.”
  • Or my favorite, which is, “I want to help you gain more followers and grow your business!”

In most cases, the person on the other end isn’t authentically looking to do business with you; she likely wants to get to know who you know for her gain, collect insights on how you run your business or sell you on her services. Rarely do these chance encounters and meetings amount to anything significant but a free cup of or lunch.

However, through networking it’s possible to meet a potential co-founder, land a new job or business opportunity, and get a client referral -- but that typically doesn’t happen right away.

The most effective way you can be more selective about whom you give your time to is by asking the right questions in advance. For example, the next time that someone sends you an unsolicited LinkedIn message or email asking you to meet for coffee or to hop on a call try replying with: 

  • “Tell me, what do you want to meet about?”
  • “Can you tell me more about how I can help you?”
  • “I’d love to learn more, can you tell me more what you do here and if it’s of interest to me I’ll reach out?”

It’s OK to push back and ask for the context of a potential meeting.

A few months ago, I came out with the video above and labeled people who intentionally waste one’s time as “mental vampires.” The video was received with mixed reactions. On the one hand, many viewers related to the message, while on the other, some felt it was the wrong message and you should take every meeting that comes your way.

About 10 years ago when I started my first company, I used to give my time to everyone. I took every possible meeting I could get. I also wasted a lot of time on activities that never amounted to anything besides a free cup of coffee or lunch.

As I’ve learned the hard way over the past 10 years of building a digital brand and networking with thousands of other professionals, most people are selfishly using social media for the easy path to monetization, when in reality the most effective way one can leverage these tools is to directly get to know someone including their likes, personal interests, hobbies and professional endeavors – and build authentic relationships over time.

There’s a fine line between giving your time away and safeguarding it for your family, your business and yourself.

It’s impossible to agree to meet with everyone in person or to take every call whenever someone requests five minutes of your time and still run a successful business, which is why asking up front for the "why" is the key to success.

Think about this fact: We’re in a digital age whereby a direct message conversation can be just as meaningful and act as an alternative to a phone call.

Watch more videos from Carlos Gil on his YouTube channel

Latest

This Entrepreneur Believes the 9-to-5 Work Week Is Dead. So She Created a Platform That Matches Talent With Project-Based Work.

The founder of NuuWork shares how her company will help people navigate the future of project-based employment.

How This Company Is Helping Ecommerce Brands Scale and Grow

The co-founder of 8fig shares how his platform is helping online sellers plan and execute their growth around their supply-chain needs.

Eitan Bernath on Becoming a Teenage Food Entrepreneur and Social Media Star

In-depth interview with cookbook author, food personality, and content creator Eitan Bernath about starting an entertainment career as a child, teaming up with Drew Barrymore, and building an inspirational business empire before his 20th birthday.

Ask Marc: Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph on Facing Challenges, Bringing on Co-Founders and Growth

In this episode of our new series 'Ask Marc,' the serial entrepreneur and mentor offers advice on how to get started.

3 Science-Backed Ways to Break Bad Habits

Become powerfully productive with these three patterns.

Meet the Co-Founders Making Conscious Shopping Easier

Goodbuy's Cara Oppenheimer and Cary Telander Fortin share how their browser extension helps consumers buy products with both their wallets and values front of mind.

Nina Manchev of Forte Tapas on Engaging Customers with Social Video

Interview with Forte Tapas owner and entrepreneur Nina Manchev about connecting with social media, learning to be confident on video, and appearing on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

This CEO Believes We Need More Women In Crypto

Jaime Leverton, head of NASDAQ-listed Hut 8 Mining Corp., talks the future of digital currency with 'Entrepreneur.'

How to Create Your Path to Profit

Financial expert and author Michelle Jacobik is on a mission to help people be profitable, so she created the EnVision + Thrive Academy. She shares her journey to success, business tips and what you'll learn in her new book.

Toast CEO Chris Comparato on Why Restaurants Need a Tech Partner That Cares

Interview with Toast CEO Chris Comparato about leading with the customer in mind, having a digital-first mentality, and how technology like Toast is helping restaurants thrive.

The Science of Visualization: Maximizing Your Brain's Potential

In this video, we discuss why visualization is so effective and offer four tips to harness it.

How One Company Is Creating a New Financial System to Help Today's Workforce

The founder and CEO of DailyPay shares how his company is creating a new financial system to help today's employees get paid faster.

Ask Marc: Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph on Staying Motivated, Morning Routines and Setting Priorities

In this new installment of our 'Ask Marc!' video series, Marc Randolph offers inspiration and insights to new entrepreneurs.

How Tech Entrepreneur Angela Homsi Leverages Sustainable Innovation to Bridge Global Boundaries

Born between two worlds, the Ignite Power founder is helping ensure universal access to essential services.

Stratis Morfogen on Using Disruptive Technology to Improve Hospitality

Interview with Brooklyn Dumpling Shop Co-Founder Stratis Morfogen about using new technology at the Brooklyn Dumpling Shop and his other creative dining concepts, and how to be disruptive to improve hospitality.

Discover Entrepreneur Series

Whether you need advice on how to get your business off the ground or you’re just looking for inspiration, our video series have something for everyone. Browse our library below to find a series that speaks to you and your interests.

  • An original series streaming weekly where you can Click-to-Invest while you watch. THEIR JOURNEY. Your decision.
  • Your favorite pitch show is back with new entrepreneurs pitching Entrepreneur's investors.
  • Host Nicole Walters interviews small business founders to discuss their unique challenges and experiences running and growing a business. 
  • How many times have you been told “that will never work”? Probably not as often as Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph. The veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur provides a healthy dose of humor, and actionable advice that will benefit founders - and would-be founders - at every stage of their business journey.
  • Jessica Abo covers the causes people care about, the powerful work they do and how they got to where they are in the first place.
  • Bestselling author, Ben Angel, takes his audience on a journey into the entrepreneurial mind to uncover why we do what we do through his powerful short films and educational videos so you can unleash your ideas and potential.