I'm someone who always has a lot of projects going - inventions, car resto-mods, home repair, programming, etc. Inevitably a proportion of the people I meet see this as an opportunity to get someone to implement their Big Idea for them.

There are a few people I trust to do projects for; the projects are limited in scope and we usually trade for time or if it's for a good cause. The ones that scare me are the completely open-ended projects ("revolutionize an industry", "million dollar idea"), or when they say "wow I might have regular work to send your way." (I already have a full-time engineering job.)

The problem is my personal time is my most limited resource. If I had additional time I'd use it to further one of my own backlogged projects. When I carve time out to be social, getting roped into another project as a result of that does not help me keep a balanced life.

I'm happy to teach, but few want to learn. I can critique an idea and advise how to fix it, but have learned the former is never welcome and the latter is never heeded.

Yet I'm still trying to be social. How do I tell someone, "I don't have time to do things for you," without coming across as saying, "I don't have time for you"?


1 Answer 1


Since you mention in your question that you can "critique and idea and advise how to fix it," I suggest that you tell your friends/acquaintances just that. Explain your limited time just as you explained it here - that you value the time you do have and you have plenty of your own projects to work on. That's all you have to say - it's perfectly justified, and you don't owe anybody anything else.

You can say something like:

That sounds like an interesting idea and I'd love to see how it turns out, but unfortunately I don't have time to take this on. If you want advice or feedback further into the process, I'd be happy to help you out with that.

Additionally, since you say that your criticism and advice generally hasn't been well received, I would recommend not offering it without being asked for it. Just make it clear that you're happy to give it if asked.

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