Time Management: A Consultant’s Best Friend

Being late is one of my biggest pet peeves. I do not like people having to wait on me, because I know that everyone’s time is just as important as mine… and I expect people to treat my time the same. Making sure I’m on time means managing my time and planning ahead. It starts in the morning: I determine how long it will take to get from my house to my destination, then set a time that I need to leave the house and work backwards from there. What do I need to have done before I leave the house (feed the dogs, shower, get dressed, fold laundry)? How long will it take to accomplish each of those tasks? Once I figure that out, I know when I need to start in order to leave on time! This approach can easily be utilized by a consultant. And it is very important that they do, because the client relies on the consultant’s ability to deliver a successful project, as promised and on time.

So what happens when a wrench is thrown into the initial plans a consultant has laid out? Adjust. Be flexible. Take steps to get back on track as soon as possible. For example, I recently had a baby and if there is one thing I was not expecting, it was how much extra time you have to factor into your routine in order to be on time! It took us a few months to figure it out, but now we’re back on schedule and doing a much better job of time management. Sometimes a consultant will deal with a client who continually increases the scope of the project, or an uncooperative vendor who does not answer in a timely manner, or an unanticipated hiccup in the project. These are all commonplace happenings and can easily be dealt with if the proper steps are taken to adjust the timing and complete the project on time. One tip: in the initial planning of the project it is smart to allow for a little cushion time should any of these sorts of problems arise. I prefer to estimate a longer time for completion, and deliver early if there are no complications, rather than over promise and fall behind. Consultants should look for ways to adjust their work style to accommodate the schedule, budget, and overall requirements of the project. This is particularly true when faced with pressure to maintain high-quality results within finite time and budget constraints.

Not only is time management essential in the overall planning of a project, but also in the day-to-day milestones a consultant must accomplish. Little milestones help achieve the bigger ones!  Animato processes payroll for one of our largest clients. It is critical that the consultants on the project manage the time for each and every task related to payroll, as one late file could hold up payroll processing for an entire population.

Good time management requires focus and that sometimes means separating ourselves from all distractions until we have accomplished the days’ goals. Turn off the phone, log out of e-mail, get off the internet, put your instant messenger on away message – all those little distractions eat into valuable productive time. There are many ways to achieve undivided focus on your work – try different ones until you find what works for you! It could just be one day without these interferences that can get you back on track and on schedule. What proves successful for me is putting on my headphones and listening to Michael Buble while I finish my work (or this blog…). What works for you?

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