Consulting is very demanding in the first 2 years. You usually work 10-15 hours a day 6-7 days a week. I have gone through my share of projects and become pretty efficient. Below some of my favorite life and work hacks that I have used to survive and prosper 😉 :
- Befriend the customer / be likeable. No matter whether you are Business Analyst or Partner always try to find friends on the other side. Don’t concentrate on only Directors, CEO and owner (besides they are usually not the most interesting people in the firm) but try to get in touch with people on all levels especially the assistants, specialists, top managers that are the main engines propelling the company. As a consultant you are selling very intangible product and whether they will pay you or not depends not only on the quality of your work but also on the whether they like you or not.
- Always be 2-3 steps ahead of the customer and your boss. In consulting you have to be thinking ahead and be pretty proactive. If your boss still has not asked you to do some analysis but you know that there are needed just do them ahead of time. Otherwise, you will get 2-4 sudden requests at some point (usually very near the deadline) that will crush you and you will have to switch from working 10 hours a day to 20 hours a day. I have been there, I have done that and try to avoid this….
- Prepare a head of time. Most of the things during the project that cause you to work late hours are actually things you could have done before the projects. After I had suffered, my fair share of nights with little sleep I would start sending the customer data request 1-2 months ahead of time. On the very first date of the project I had my issue tree prepared as well as the templates for presentations and the to-do list. Obviously, the first version would change but I was ahead of everybody and could relax. Besides, if you prepare a head of time, most people will start considering you to be a genius – not a bad thing, especially if you want to move up fast or ask for a raise 🙂 On top of that if you are not constantly tired you can concentrate on important business issues and really understand the customer’s businesses in-depths.
- Outsource whatever you can. You will have no time for other things than work, so try to outsource whatever you can: cooking, cleaning, driving, data gathering, analyses. I did not drive during the projects and instead took the train / plain or hired a driver and slept my way to the customer. I even paid out of my pocket for a person to gather some data instead of me. Quite often I would make the customer gather the data instead of me as well. Having good relations with him also helped. On many occasions I was very bold / arrogant and instead of making the process optimization on my own I would make the customer create a team of his people that I used to optimize all the process. The job was done in 4 days instead 3 months, they were happy because they learnt new things; I was happy because I did not have to do much and still get paid pretty well. In short perfect win-win situation. Just try to be smart lazy 🙂
- Be efficient. Consulting is the best school of efficiency. The whole situation makes you work faster. I would still recommend implementing some management consulting productivity hacks. Have a look at the full list in my presentations. I achieved huge spike in efficiency by creating a lot of templates, modules, using the 80/20 rules, working with to-do list both for, the team and the customer
- Use any opportunity to sleep. Not sleeping or sleeping 4-5 hours sounds as a tantalizing options (after all you gain 2-3 hours more) but to be honest it does not pay off. You are so tired that your efficiency drops drastically. I strived to sleep at least 6.5 hours and even took a nap after the lunch.
- Create the sense of urgency for the team and the customer. Most projects fail delivering on deadlines because people suffer from student syndrome – you postpone the work till the last moment. Therefore, I would always set very short deadlines and remind about them on regular basis. Always be pushing 🙂 If you are not breading down their necks others will and this will for sure delay your work.
- Don’t go home too often. Sounds crazy but if your project is in a different city / country it makes much more sense to stay at the city where your customer is located rather than going back home. By going back home you waste a lot of time (back and forth travel, packing) but most of all your family would have missed you so you have to catch up with them as well. In this way you went from one stressful situation to another. I practiced going home every 2-3 weeks and felt much more rested
- Sport and food. It sounds maybe crazy but your body as every machine needs maintenance. This means having 3-4 times a day healthy food and doing some exercise. I am lazy like hell so I would just run twice a week for 5-8 km and I tried to walk 10 km a day (most of this done on intervals during work – every 1-1.5 hour of work I would make a break of 15-20 minutes)
- Simplify and don’t get overwhelmed by details. For most people business seems very complicated. They see an endless number of variables that can influence the situation and this makes them powerless. In most cases you have 3–5 drivers that you have to identify, concentrate on them and intentionally neglect the rest. In this way you can see what matters and structure well the problem. If you want to train this check the presentation with management consulting cases that are used during interviews when recruiting people to consulting.
- Sharpen your tools. As a consultant you have to sharpen your tools, especially master the main techniques used by consultants and business analyst, learn essential Excel, be able to create financial models. I would spend the low seasons with little project work to get better in those area to be able to work faster during projects. Have a look at my course How to become world class Business Analyst for more hands-on practical tips and hacks in this area
Apply at least some of them and you will get a step closer to becoming a badass consultant.
Just to wrap it up. Thanks to my approach I went from 12-15 hours day to 2-4 hours and still I managed to deliver more and faster than others. Working hard is one of the way. Still working smart is the better option 🙂
Stay tuned for new post and some other seemingly crazy yet powerful tips.
For more check my online courses:
- Management Consulting Productivity Hacks
- Essential Excel for Business Analysts and Consultants
- Business Analysis Fundamentals for Management Consultants