4 Tips to Negotiate Your Commitments and Get Your Time Back

Negotiating skills often come naturally to business owners. For sales-savvy individuals, securing a seat on a board or signing up for a leadership position isn’t necessarily the problem. However, getting out of these commitments is. These responsibilities come at a cost.

Professional and personal obligations quickly add up and can start to drain your time, energy, and focus. Streamlining burdens from your life will free up your calendar and move you closer to the Double Win. As Michael says in his book Free to Focus, you need to “Flex your no muscle.”

Negotiations, Winston Churchill once declared, are “conversations of silk and steel.” There’s real magic in a scenario where both sides feel like they have achieved their goals. There is also a reason why it’s called the ‘art’ of negotiation. Strong negotiators are skilled at securing what they want from a deal while leaving the other party satisfied with the outcome.

The first action to take is to understand what commitments you need to remove from your personal and professional life. Once you have isolated the obligations that drain your energy and resources, (The Freedom Compass and the Task Delegator can help you here) it’s time to negotiate out of them. In these conversations of silk and steel, you need to stay true to your goals while delicately navigating with the other person to achieve what you both want. Though you might not realize it, you already have the skills you need.

So, how can you move forward and eliminate unnecessary tasks from your life while still maintaining your integrity and staying true to your principles? In the book Free to Focus, Michael offers four tips on how to negotiate out of existing commitments while still honoring yourself, your time, and the relevant organization.

Tip 1. Take Responsibility for Making the Commitment

Respect the fact that you have agreed to take on this role or commitment and the associated functions and responsibilities. Do not try to backtrack. You might say, “I recognize that I agreed to join this board position when you approached me in January.”

Tip 2. Reaffirm Your Willingness to Honor Your Commitment

Communicate that you are willing to follow through, despite your newfound reservations. For example, “While I hope to find an alternative, I am prepared to honor my commitment.”

Tip 3. Explain The Best Outcome for the Other Party

Be honest and direct. Explain that you believe stepping back from the role may be in the best interest of the board, as you cannot commit yourself fully to what is required of you. Say, “However, I don’t believe I can give this organization the attention it deserves at this moment in time. You need someone in this role who has the bandwidth to devote themselves to your needs.”

Tip 4. Offer to Help Solve the Problem with Them

Be solution-oriented. Offer to find a replacement board member and put forward a friend, colleague, or business associate who can offer the same caliber of professional acumen that you possess. Conclude with, “I want to work with you on this. I have three individuals who I believe will be a great fit for this.”


Ultimately, the negotiation out of your existing commitment must be a transparent, respectful process that doesn’t damage your reputation or relationships and also is perceived as a positive for the other party.

Negotiation is almost all about perception. As long as you can manage the process with integrity, everyone will feel better for it. Leveraging your ability to name the needs of others and offering a solution to their problems will empower you to make more room in your calendar.

Last modified on April 5th, 2023 at 9:59 am

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