As a consultant, you are constantly being pulled in different directions. Often, you have multiple projects, and people, who need your attention at once. It can be overwhelming and some consultants can drown in it. The key to managing your workload, and your sanity, is effective time management. For consultants, time management looks a little bit different than for those with one job. You wear multiple hats, you juggle multiple roles, and you need to think outside the box a little to effectively manage your time.
Like anyone, consultants have the potential to waste time. The key is to stop yourself before you get headed down that road. This is especially true if you are working from home. Keeping yourself accountable for your time and the way you spend it should be one of your top priorities.
Consider grouping your clients and projects into sections throughout the day. Set aside a lump of time for each client and each project. Obviously the time spent on each will differ according to the amount of time you need to spend on said client, but you get the point. Allow a sizeable chunk for each client. This stops you from jumping back and forth from project to project throughout the day.
The same can be said for the tasks that you need to do within your day like checking your email, sending out invoices, etc. The best thing you can do is block out specific times in your schedule for these tasks. Set up ten minutes first thing in the morning to check and answer emails. Schedule two hours for working on project number one, schedule thirty minutes for your conference call, set aside an hour and a half for working on project number two, etc. The point is that you are laying out all of your tasks and allotting time to devote solely to each one. Give the specific project or client your undivided attention during that block of time.
For tasks like emailing, invoicing, and bill paying –remember to not let yourself get lost in them. If you schedule two or three times a day to check your email, stick to that. Otherwise you’re going to get lost down a rabbit hole. What you don’t want is to fall into distraction by starting to work on tasks that weren’t a priority on your list in the first place.
Another good thing to remember for effective time management is to set yourself up for success. There’s a lot to be said about creating your schedule for the next day before the end of the current one. This way you’re not going into the morning blind and scrambling for what should take priority that day. If it’s more convenient, create a weekly schedule and then just set aside ten minutes at the end of every day to go in and adjust the rest of the week’s schedule as necessary.
The thing about managing your time as a consultant is that you are often working on very different projects for very different clients. They don’t need the same things from you. Setting aside undivided attention to each is a great way to really dive in instead of working on one thing with your mind on another.
What are some effective time management strategies you’ve used? How does time management differ for a consultant? What are your thoughts? Comment below!