So, we’ve seen that your first option to spend less time on unimportant things is to say no to activities that are not important and that you don’t want to do. But what if you can’t say no? What if it’s your boss, an important customer, a good friend, or your partner?
Suppose your partner wants you to visit their parents for the weekend, but you don’t particularly want to go, as there are lots of other things you’d rather be doing. You could just say no, but that’s pretty selfish; there is an element of duty in any relationship.
For such situations, there is the second option: negotiations.
For example, you could say, “I’d love to visit your parents, but I do have some other things I’d really like to get done on the weekend. Could we travel up in the afternoon on Saturday instead of the morning? And would it be okay if I take my laptop and do a bit of typing at some point while we’re there?” This could save you several hours of ICT (in-law contact time) and give you several more hours of productive time.
Ways to Negotiate
There are number of different ways you can negotiate over the time you spend on something. Depending on a particular situation, you may apply one of the following options:
1. You can negotiate to only do part of what they are asking for: Perhaps they can do some of it themselves or prepare it for you so it’s easier. For example, you could say, “If you bring me the data in spreadsheet format, sorted by country, then I’ll have a look at it.”
2. You can negotiate over when you do it—for example, “I can do it but not until next week, is that okay?”
3. You may consider negotiating over how long you spend on it. For example, “I’d love to have a drink, but I probably won’t get there till about 9, if that’s okay?” (instead of, “See you at 8”) or, “Yes, I can certainly come to that meeting, but I’ve got another meeting straight after. Is it okay if I slip out at 3?” (instead of being stuck in the meeting till it finishes at 4).
4. You might be able to negotiate over resources. For example, maybe they can lend you a person to help.
5. You can negotiate over future occurrences: Maybe you can agree to do it this one time, but they have to watch how you do it so next time, they can do it themselves.
6. You can negotiate over who does it. For example, “We will sort out your job for you, but it won’t be me who comes, it’ll be my expert in that particular area, who’s very good.”
7. You can even negotiate over where something happens. Suppose a customer wants a meeting, and they are half an hour away from your office. If you can say, “I’d love to meet, but I’ve got a terrible week. I don’t suppose you could come to me this time—I could get us some coffee?” This will save you half an hour each way.
But don’t become a negotiating demon who haggles over everything! “Pass the sugar, please.” “You’ll have to make it worth my while.” Just every now and then, take the opportunity to spend less time on things that are not important for you.
I’ll see you tomorrow for the third of my five options.
Homework: Make a list of things that could be negotiated over. Can you include things from both home and at work? And will you negotiate to squeeze it into less time?
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