Best Practices In Negotiation: Negotiate Your Time!

When most of us think of negotiating great deals, there is money involved. We negotiate for better compensation. We negotiate for the best price on a car or house. And we negotiate for various money-denominated goods and services.

What we overlook are money-equivalents. We need to brainstorm ways to improve our negotiations for things that are just as good as money, but which for some reason we don’t consciously believe are negotiable items.

The biggest prize of all, in many cases, is our TIME, the stuff that is always in short supply.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Time is money.” Let’s act like it.

For instance, some of my consulting clients have customers that seemed starved for attention. They phone constantly, asking the same delivery question, over and again.

“When is my package going to arrive?”

Only yesterday, they were politely informed that it would arrive in approximately four business days, yet here they are, on day two, asking for reassurance.

They’ve been given a tracking number, and they have equal access to delivery details, yet they call and call.

I advise focusing them on the carrier, UPS or FedEx or the postal service. Shift their attention to someone else.

Similarly, if a client is becoming too attached to me, finding that I am overly accessible, I’ll steer them to a different person, saying:

“At this point it is so-and-so’s job to get the package to you. My time is committed to something else.”

The trick is to say this as gently as possible, and to avoid sounding self-important. Yet, if it is inevitable that you come across as a bit aloof, this is the price you’ll have to pay to redeem your precious time.

I’ve worked in organizations where instant messaging was used to share information quickly, but it had the effect of shattering people’s attention spans.

In some cases, I’ve opted-out of text messaging, saying if you need me, call me or leave me a voice mail.

Uninterrupted time is essential for accomplishing numerous organizational tasks, so negotiating to get your time back is an ongoing struggle.

This could be as simple as closing your office door, letting it be known in advance that when the portal is sealed, your sanctum is sacred.

Peter F. Drucker, my former professor and world renowned management sage urged executives to “Know Thy Time,” as an essential first step in becoming more effective.

Good idea, but we can’t stop there. At every turn, we need to preserve it and deploy it smartly. Increasingly in this over-communicated world, that means negotiating for it, again and again.

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