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Time, Courtesy and Brain Picking

I was prepping my taxes this weekend (last minute much?) when I noticed something about my expenses. (Aside from the fact that it was a holy mess of receipts and barely legible notations.)

It had to do with food and brainpower.

Quite often, I have people get in touch with me looking to meet up and chat. The conversation usually starts with the phrase “I’d love to get together and pick your brain” or “Can we meet for lunch? I’d love to get your opinion on something.”

I always jump at the chance to meet with anyone who reaches out to me. I’m flattered and I’m honored to be a part of their lives. It is one of my most favorite things to do, quite frankly. I love collaborating, giving advice or even offering a unique perspective on a project.

What I discovered through the process of tax preparation is that more often than not, I end up paying the price for these meetings. And I mean that quite literally.

If you care to Google it, you’ll find no shortage of articles, blog posts and podcasts devoted to the discussion of why your personal time is valuable and how you should avoid the “pick your brain” meetings. Many advocate charging for your time and intellectual property. I, personally, have a hard time with that philosophy. I believe in sharing your knowledge with others as often as you can.

What I recently discovered, however, (thanks to my good ole IRS preparation) is that I usually end up paying double – both with time and with money. I was shocked at how much money I spend each year doing favors. No lie… I have at least $450 worth of expenses where someone asked me to out to a meeting to solve a problem for them as a favor and then never even picked up my coffee or lunch. (Some were even complete strangers who were referred by friends.)

Ugh. I had no idea it was that bad.

One would assume that if you ask someone out to a lunch meeting in order to “pick their brain” aka get advice or council on a project, you would at least offer to pick up the tab. And coffee meetings? What is an hour of someone’s time as compared to a two dollar cup of java?

I was always shocked when the bill came and they didn’t attempt to pay. Until now, I didn’t realize how many times it happened.

Now, I’m sure all of those folks were appreciative. No doubt. And as I said, I truly enjoy meetings of that nature. But I I’m thinking twice about my time and money this year. And I’ll be much more aware and courteous of how I use other people’s time as well.

Have you ever had this experience? What did you do?

5 Responses to "Time, Courtesy and Brain Picking"

  1. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf

    That’s a great point. It’s funny but lately I’ve been having a lot of these meetings – both people who ask me and me asking others for their opinion. I always pay (or at least offer to pay) when I’ve asked someone to meet with me and to help me. That seems like common courtesy. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember what happens in the other situation but now I have to pay attention more!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..What would you tell your parents?My Profile

  2. Rachel Colbert
    Rachel Colbert 504 days ago .

    As a psychologist, if people ask me for help I just tell them I am not on the clock and direct them to where they can get help. Plus, it gets hairy if I am “treating” someone and they aren’t my patient and I am not charging anything. It might be a rough approach but people stop asking. I went to school for 9 years and have a butt load of debt…I am not about to work for free (but I will do some pro-bono work;). Plus, you know what Dave Ramsey would say about that $450…what is the opportunity cost? Hang in there chica :)
    Rachel Colbert recently posted..Repurpose, Reuse, Refine….Re-whateverMy Profile

  3. Lara
    Lara 503 days ago .

    Um, wait… you pay for lunch? Good to know. (giggle)
    Lara recently posted..Could Road Trip Playlists Ruin Your Marriage?My Profile

  4. JennieG
    JennieG 503 days ago .

    Hahah! Oh funny!

  5. Miriam
    Miriam 492 days ago .

    You have talents, education, expetience, etc…can they get free gas, free hotel, free mortgage,.free student loans, free taxi, free plumber, free physical, free podiatry…..of course not. Do they work for free,.does their boss? Or are they unpaid volunteers at a charity?

    It is absolutely insulting and classless for someone to work for free or just a.cheap cuppa.
    The amateurs undercut the professionals but giving away free expertise. Stop it. if you dont value yourself, no one will.