Most people (myself included) have a hard time saying “no”.
Fear of missing out — after all, the coffee conversation someone asked about, could turn into your biggest opportunity? Fear of being impolite — weren’t we taught to care about other people and their requests? Fear of not being asked again — how many times will someone present opportunities if we keep saying no?
And at the same time we all only have 24 hours in a day, typically a packed schedule already and plenty of things on our todo lists.
The challenge with saying yes to requests from others — may that be a meeting for a coffee or lunch, an introduction to someone in your network, some advice on a problem or proposition — is that they are typically about something the other person wants to achieve and not something which furthers your goals and mission.
A while ago I finally learned this lesson by carefully observing some of the most productive and accomplished people I know — their default is simply “no”. A kind and friendly “no”, but “no” nonetheless. These people ruthlessly focus on what is important to them and their goals. If an external requests further their goal — great. If not — they kindly decline and get back to what matters in their lives. They know that they only have so much time in a given day and that, if they want to achieve what they set out to do, they need every minute and every ounce of energy they can muster.
The people I learned this from most are athletes — they could do so many fun things: An interview here, a photoshoot there, some motivational speech over there and a sponsorship thing someplace different. But instead they know that if they don’t train they will not be successful. So they carefully weigh the pros and cons of every opportunity which presents themselves, fiercely protect their workouts and fundamentally understand that the only thing which matters in the end is the work they put in.
With every request — ask yourself: Does it help your goals? If not — say (politely) “no” and get back to work.