As a consultant how do you keep your work life balance?

BCG McKinsey and Bain McKinsey Personal Life work life balance
New answer on Oct 18, 2020
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 01, 2020

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Allen
Expert
replied on Oct 02, 2020
Ex-McK Experienced Hire and EM - I show you how to perform at your best

Ah, the hardest question out there! There are two parts to the question

1) Finding your balance
2) Keeping it

You're asking about the second, but most people haven't figured out the first, so I'll start there with some thoughts.

In terms of finding your balance, you have to first know what does balance mean to you?
+ Hours: Does it mean X amount of hours per day? Does it mean X hours per weekday and Y hours on weekends? Does it mean reserving time for special events?
+ Special Activities: At McKinsey, an expression people used all the time, which resonated with me was "what brings you energy?" In other words, regardless of how many hours you work, as long as you have time for X, you'll feel great
+ Control over your time: Perhaps, regardless of hours, as long as they can be predictable, you'll feel balanced
+ Amount of travel vs. home.
In all of these, everybody is different and this can change over time, too.

Then there's keeping the balance:
+ Communicate it to your supervisors, managers, staffers, etc. and repeat it right at the start of a project
+ Work with people who respect your limits (this may depend on the firm you work for, so know what you're getting into)
+ Don't take crap from anyone, but be reasonable about rare exceptions
+ Overdeliver on your project work, so you never feel self-concious

I can tell you that, personally, at McKinsey, I was always scared to communicate my limits, but whenever I did, I was very impressed by the respect I received from my colleagues.

Happy to discuss further if you reply her or DM.

Best,
Allen

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Mehdi
Expert
replied on Oct 03, 2020
BCG | Received offers from all MBB & Tier 1Firms | Supporting you secure your top tier consulting offer

Hi there,

Here are some tips:

  • Set time off and make sure you stick to it
  • Communicate this to your Project Leader or Manager so that he/she knows that you have a cut-off time
  • Plan getaways with your SO, family and friends (important to have friends not working in Consulting to completely unplug)
  • Learn to disconnect from time to time (let your team know about this)

Management Consulting can be a though job and you will need some self-discipline to be able to balance it with your personal life.

Mehdi

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Henning
Expert
replied on Oct 02, 2020
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

All firms have internal trainings on this, so you don't need to worry about planning for that now. A few best practices are

  • Set boundaries and communicate them in the team upfront - you won't always be able to defend them but if you don't try, you'll get sucked into the case right away
  • Find something to energize you in your free time - the gym in the morning, the dinner with your SO or friends, daily mindfulness, etc.
  • Manage your case workload with your office leadership roles (recruiting, organizing parties, coaching junior consultants, etc.)
  • Monitor your physical and mental well-being carefully
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Ian
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Content Creator
replied on Oct 03, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

First: Assume that you won't

Second: Set expectations so low, that anything is a "plus"

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Figure out what work matters and what doesn't - Oftentimes, what you're doing can wait until the next day.
  2. Iterate and use 80/20 rule - Don't spend forever on making something look perfect before it has been reviewed. Gaurenteed the Principal/Partner will tear it up regardless, you may as well get feedback early on initial thoughts!
  3. Be efficient - Work efficiently to have more free time, multi-task your chores so as to have more free time, play sports with a friend as a catchup (duals as exercise AND social), etc. etc.
  4. Pay for things - You're earning a lot of money...so pay for time! Pay for drycleaners, home cleaners, babysitters, prepared food, etc. Especially, use your food budget during the week to eat healthy but without prep

Let me take a few excerpts from a Surival Guide I wrote here: https://www.spencertom.com/2018/01/14/consulting-survival-guide/

  • This job is inherently stressful, and you are not going to be the first person to struggle with stress. Consulting firms have mechanisms in place to try to keep consultants from burning out. If you are struggling, reach out early.
  • There will always be pressure, but not every task will make or break the bank. If the success or failure of the project relies solely on the one slide you’re making, there are bigger issues going on.
  • Having a life you are happy with is more important than being the perfect consultant. Figure out not just what is critical at work, but also at home. Knowing what is most important and when will help you strike the right balance.
  • If you find you’re working until 1am every night, take a look at your balance. Unless you’re working on a “make or break” task, try to leave early enough that you can pause, get a decent night’s sleep, and come in fresh the next morning.
  • You will do your best work once you are okay with being fired.
  • Your Project Lead/Principal is not inside your head. Learn how to communicate and guide their attention to what they need to know. Work to their style and your life will be easier.
  • You have to stand up for yourself. And people will respect you for it (98% of the time).
  • People’s perception of your performance is just as important as your performance.
  • Once you hit 12-18 months tenure, you have more power to say “no” than you think you do.
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Clara
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Content Creator
replied on Oct 03, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

TBH, most of the times you don´t, and this is why the average stay in consulting is 2-3 years.

This said, there are some people who are better at:

  • Putting limits
  • Setting boundaries
  • Prioritizing
  • 80/20

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Gaurav
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Oct 18, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi A,

Nice question!

Apart from the 80/20 rule and setting limits, I would say that physical activity together with some meditations (i.e. just getting rid of all unpleasant thoughts and having rest from all news, internet, etc.) are really essential for stable good health (both mental and physical).

It is also good to learn as fast as possible to distinguish between work time and personal life. Here I mean that when your work hours are over, they are over. It is really sometimes hard to switch.

Was this helpful for you?

GB

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Anonymous replied on Oct 16, 2020

Hi,

Let me keep it very simple for you. If you want to be a consultant, you need to forget something as work life balance. It definitely differs from company to company and nowadays new ways and means are being leveraged to ease the load off consultants like paid off/unpaid off..But lets accept the fact that work life balance is pretty bad in consulting firms.

I have had my share of it. I was on a major implementation program for British Petroleum where the actual work on the project wasnt too much but then travelling was hectic, from India to Baku, India to Egypt . Moreover you are also being pulled on to lots of other stuff like practice development, recruitment, events, PoV, White Papers, Annual business planning, account planning etc.

So its good to be prepared for a screwed up work life balance then be surprised later.

Thanks

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Allen gave the best answer

Allen

Ex-McK Experienced Hire and EM - I show you how to perform at your best
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