Consultants don’t get enough credit. They hit project deadlines, give presentations, and write reports in order to help businesses achieve goals and solve problems. How do they get it all done? This article answers that question by providing four ways to effectively manage your days and time.
Most people don’t start their day with a plan. They instead react to whatever comes their way, from email requests to impromptu meetings. But this how deadlines are missed and consulting projects that should take two hours to complete, take four.
That’s why you need to start each day with a plan. Create a schedule with what you need to work on and find the blocks of time to get it done. Here’s an example:
- 9am – 12:30pm – Draft report for ABC project
- 12:30pm – 1:30pm – Lunch
- 1:30pm – 2:30pm – Prepare for presentation
- 2:30 – 3:30pm – Respond to emails and voicemails
You get the idea.
A detailed plan like this can be a boon to your productivity. Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and author, attests to the power of method: “A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.”
Plus, since you’re billing a client for the time you spend on a consulting project, you need to accurately report your working hours. Planning your days can help you accurately gauge the time you spend working—and your priorities.
Peter Drucker’s advice to do “first things first” is timeless.
As you plan your day, determine your priorities and stack them toward the front of your day and get them done. Don’t procrastinate and leave the important stuff for the afternoon when you’re mentally exhausted and rushed to get out of the office.
There’s a lot competing for your attention in the workplace, but multitasking is not the answer suggests a growing body of research. A Cleveland Clinic article explains that “for nearly all people, in nearly all situations, multitasking is impossible…we are wired to be mono-taskers.” Adding to the evidence is a study by Sophie Leroy, a business professor. When you start working on one task and switch to another, your mind is still thinking about the original task.
For example, say you’re writing a report for your client, Smith’s IT Firm. You’re 30 minutes into the task and you take a fiery call from another client about a past project. Now you’re thinking about your former client and how to remedy the situation, instead of the report you have to write. In other words, you’re distracted.
Your current client doesn’t want to pay you for spending time thinking about or dealing with past projects. So put your phone away, close your email and Slack tabs, and focus on the task at hand.
Instead of spending five minutes here and ten minutes there throughout your day on small tasks, bundle them together. Not only is this a better use of your time, but it also help prevent succumbing to distractions all day long.
In the above schedule, you’ll notice that one hour is dedicated to responding to email and voicemail. You’ll also notice this hour is scheduled toward the end of the day—after the important stuff is complete.
It takes a little discipline to follow the suggestions outlined in this article. But you’ll reap the benefits. Incorporate these strategies and you’ll likely find that your productivity soars.
Amy Haddad is a writer at BigTime Software. She writes articles about the company’s software for product users. She also contributes blog posts about product features, company news, and workplace productivity.