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A Smarter Way to Manage “Pick Your Brain” Requests

by | Jul 6, 2017

After a certain point in a writing career a curious phenomenon  happens. One day you open up your email and see this subject line:

Pick Your Brain?

Uggghhhhh…what’s an introvert to do?

The ask: “Can I pick your brain?”

“Pick your brain” requests are sometimes couched in other language. Occasionally it is, “Can I take you to coffee?” or, “Do you have time for a 15-minute phone call?”

But, ultimately it’s a request for time and expertise.

I write about retail and fashion and used to own a wardrobe consulting business. This results in a plethora of emails from young women who want to talk about how I got here (wherever “here” is supposed to be).

It’s an interesting quandary — how can I encourage others while still working within my personality type so I don’t feel drained or used?

Writing is a solitary career in many respects, but reaching out to other writers and editors is a necessary part of building a career. I’ve been lucky to get advice at pivotal points in my life. The right statement at the proper moment can cause deep influence, and the thoughtful part of myself recognizes and respects unabashed ambition.

Yet, this type of request made me want to hide. It was overwhelming. I would continually go through mental gymnastics of what I should give back versus protecting my time and safeguarding my energy.

Until I came up with the Friday Morning Solution.

The Friday Morning Solution to “pick your brain” requests

I stumbled upon it by accident. A very…uhhh…let’s say enthusiastic (i.e. pushy) person sent me a note through every possible means of email and social media requesting a brain picking session. I said yes, but the only time available on my schedule was Friday at 8 a.m.  

Then the craziest thing happened. That person ghosted me. No more messages through Twitter, Facebook, email or LinkedIn.

Hmmmm….what happened? Was this about scheduling?

Turns out, yes. It was very much about scheduling. For the next couple of weeks, for every “Can I take you to coffee?” email I received I suggested we talk on Fridays at 8 a.m. No one took me up on the offer.

In the months that followed I kept to my dedicated day and time, but soon discovered another concern fluttered to the surface. My inbox became a series of back-and-forth emails that essentially said, “That’s great and all, but can we do it another time?”

This lead me to write the below form letter. Its primary purpose is to cut down on the number of administrative emails that pile up and make me want to hide under covers.

My email response


If you are receiving this message it means you have contacted me for a “pick your brain” meeting or have offered to take me out for a cup of coffee so we can talk about work.

Here’s the scoop: I frequently receive emails asking for these conversations. I’m an introvert, so meetings with strangers (plus consuming that much coffee) would make me a jittery mess. Plus, I need to do other things like make money to pay my mortgage.

However, I know what it is like to need a word of advice that just STICKS so life makes more sense. That’s why I set aside Fridays at 8 a.m. EST as “pick my brain” meeting time.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: That’s great, but can we do it on a Wednesday?

A: Nope. Fridays.

Q: Uhm, cool – but can I schedule it at 10 a.m.?

A: Nope. 8 a.m.

Q: Can you schedule it later because I have to clean my house, work on my abs, catch up on Real Housewives, drive my aunt to work, feed my dog, sleep, etc:

A: Nope. Fridays. 8 a.m.

Q: Why would I be catching up on Real Housewives?

A: Because it’s easier to get up in the morning when there’s an episode waiting. Atlanta is the best franchise, by the way. You can’t argue with me on that because I’m Gone with the Wind fabulous.

Q: I don’t know what “Gone with the Wind fabulous” means.

A: You need to catch up on Real Housewives Atlanta.

Q: I live in the same city as you. Can we just meet up?

A: Nope. Because getting there, waiting, and getting back home takes time. So, the 30-45 minute meeting that was promised inevitably turns into 90 minutes.

Q: I live in another time zone, so can we change the time?

A: Nope. I’m not a morning person either. It stinks. But, this is the time that works for me.

Q: You are sounding mean right now. What’s your problem?

A: I’m trying to maintain sanity, be available to cool people and pay my bills at the same time. Fridays at 8 a.m. equates to healthy boundaries.

If you would like to go forward email two options of Fridays that work for you, your Skype name, and a phone number (in case technology decides not to work that day), and we will go from there.

Thank you!

To be clear, the Friday Morning Solution was never about manipulating people.

It honestly fits perfectly within the framework of my calendar. I can make myself available prior to the start of my work. The proposed conversation can take place before the introvert part of me needs to recharge later in the day.

I’ve had the Friday Morning Solution in place for two years. Over 100 people have requested meetings. Guess how many people have taken me up on the offer?

One. Just one person.

And, that meeting? It was awesome because we both wanted to be there. I was safe within the framework of the Friday Morning Solution. I could truly be present for the person who wanted to chat and I didn’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted.

Make this “pick your brain” solution work for you

Your Friday Morning Solution can be another day or another time. The idea is simply to place boundaries that match both your calendar and personality type.

Another solution is to charge for your time because you deserve to be paid for your expertise.

Picking your brain (or mentoring) can serve as another income stream within your larger business plan. I personally don’t want to pursue that option right now. Instead, I will continue to hold that 8 a.m. spot.

If no one takes me up on it? It’s more time I can be by myself and gather energy for the day ahead.