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The Negotiator’s Mantra: Time is Money: Money is Time

By JB Shelton

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Einstein feverishly scribbles equations on a blackboard in Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoon. The caption reveals the answer to one of life’s mysteries: Einstein discovers that time is actually money.

After our grins fade, we negotiators realize that phrase conveys a solid truth. Its counterpart is equally valid: Money is actually time.

Taking Time

Taking time is a positive mindset to seize the day with thoughtful respect for the power time has over our lives. It’s the diametric opposite of lollygagging through life in idle thoughts and inconsequential activities.

Time you invest in preparing yourself and the specific details of your negotiation project goals is essential to success.

De-briefing yourself and your colleagues after winning is worth the time you’ll spend together. It is the perfect way to recognize those aspects of the negotiation that you can use in future negotiations.

In a negotiation, taking time relates to how you decide to pace and control your communications. The patient, closed-mouth negotiator waits (despite uncomfortable silence) for his opponent to be the first to reveal financial terms. Be patient. Show little emotion and confident body language. Relax your demeanor.


Pilots and ship captains define leeway as the amount a plane or vessel is blown or drifts off its normal course by crosswinds. Back on dry land, leeway means extra time, space and materials. For negotiators, leeway is a degree of freedom for action and thought.

Have you let leeway disappear from your life? Are you so tightly committed to a negotiation that a minor blip causes a quickened heart rate and necessitates last-minute changes in your well-honed plans?

Leeway provides breathing room and space — excellent for mental health and clear, unpressured thinking. One effective leeway action is regularly scheduling time with and for yourself. For example, calendar your leeway meeting with yourself every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m.

Overestimate the time necessary to achieve each step toward your negotiation goal and include that extra time for flexibility in your plans.

Perfectionism and Control

Ah, you are so good at doing so many things. Multitasking is part of your genetic makeup. But have you considered asking yourself, “Am I the best person for this job, or would my time be better focused on achieving something else?”

Two intertwining issues come to mind: Perfectionism and Control. Consider one step in a negotiation project near and dear to your heart:

  1. Does it have to be done perfectly?
  2. What are the consequences of a slightly imperfect result?
  3. What are the time, energy and resources required in each case?
  4. Assign a project to a staff member, even if your inner control freak fears she won’t do it perfectly.

Stop Thinking: Start Doing

You think about what you have to do, then you don’t do it, perhaps even praising yourself just for thinking. You spend time frustrated, worried, procrastinating. Whenever you spend more time thinking about a task than actually taking actions to accomplish that task, Stop Thinking: Start Doing. The more you do so, the more natural and easy doing so will become.

Money is Actually Time

You can invest in yourself by using your money to buy yourself time.

Upgrade technology as soon as it fits into the criteria of making you more efficient and effective. Give your personal or virtual assistant additional responsibilities that don’t require your expertise or attention.

Invest in activities that better your mental, emotional and physical health. Thinking more clearly, communicating more effectively and having more energy are valuable in seizing the minutes, hours and days of your life.

Benjamin Franklin

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin played many roles, despite having the same 24 hours a day you and I do. He was a successful author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. In his 1748 pamphlet Advice to a Young Tradesman, Franklin wrote, “Remember, time is money. Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both.” His advice holds true for today’s negotiators.

JB Shelton is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches ‘Reinvent Yourself in Writing’ at Duke University in Durham, NC. You may reach JB by e-mail at [email protected].

Copyright © 2012 JB Shelton
Copyright ©   2012  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (June – July, 2012)