How to improve time/project management as a consultant?

time management
New answer on Jun 05, 2020
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 02, 2020

I'm the kind of person who tends to procrastinate. Even though I don't procrastinate, I tend to spend time planning, thinking, and structuring my projects. My previous role was in account management in banking, and I came to realize my characteristic clearly since my boss was the total opposite type. He used to be a trader, so his decision was instant, fast, and efficient. Based on this experience, I understood my working style and personal characteristic is totally different from him, and I kind of enjoy thinking into details and spend time planning. I am thinking about how to make a good balance - my personal characteristic/work style vs. being fast and efficient.

Now I'm transferring into a consulting career, I am thinking of this topic. Does the personal characteristic really matter? I'm thinking of how to change my characteristic and habit, and try to be a person that can make quick decisions. I'd also like to know how to improve the time & project management skill that a consultant needs? It seems that this skill could only be trained on the job, but I'm keen to listen to any advice! Thanks a lot!

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Clara
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replied on Jun 02, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Don´t pre-worry!

There are different personalities and ways to work, and they are all welcomed as long as they´re well done.

Furthermore, you will be done the MBTI test as soon as you arrive to precisely get to know which type you are. For what you are saying, mostly attention to detail !

Few toughts to avoid problems with your future teams -particularly when you end up in a team of "doers" like your trader ex-boss:

  • Communicate constantly: to manage expectations well, to give visibility on what you are doing, etc. It´s key and will prevent misscommunications and problems down the road.
  • Take feedback as a present: meaning that, you can take it and incorporate it when it´s good -most times it will be amazing and will make you grow a lot-, or just say thanks and file it in the "none cares" file if you think does not apply.
  • Scope very very carefully: don´t take more than you can handle, and actually, be very conservative. It´s better to have extra time, since issues will araise.
  • Learn from the best: Identify the best and spend time and energy learning from them: their way to communicate, analyse... to me, this was fascinating in consulting.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Anonymous replied on Jun 02, 2020

Hi there,

Nothing to worry about - if anything consulting needs someone to have the ability (and enjoy) planning and thinking about the structure and storyline.

Most of the time, consultants are thinking about the storyline and the storyboard - creating the slides is the easier part.

To find a nice balance between thinking and producing, you would just need to plan your day/week backwards.

  • Know your deadlines and understand the deliverable
  • Identify what tasks are needed to create the deliverable
  • Create mini-milestones in your plan (e.g., have the first storyline create by noon - have first 2 slides ready by 2 pm, have the remaining 3 slides ready by 5 pm - be ready to discuss them by 5:30 pm)
  • In case you are falling behind your plan, follow the Pomodoro technique, it helps.

Best

Khaled

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Anonymous replied on Jun 02, 2020

Hello,

Spending time framing and structuring your ideas is very positive. Spending a lot of time developing or refining your ideas is also important. These are things that we do all the time in consulting.

However, in consulting there is a real culture of fast delivery. When you have first ideas, you will be asked to put them on paper to be able to challenge them internally with your manager or your partner for example or externally with your client. It will therefore be necessary that you take this fold but for the rest no worries, we also procrastinate a lot in consulting !!!

Best

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Réka
Expert
replied on Jun 03, 2020
3+ years McKinsey consulting experience|Strategy @ Coursera |Oxford MBA

Hi,

I am a procrastinator myself and there are many of us in consulting. We even use a personality framework in McKinsey called the MBTI (since we use frameworks for everything :P) to describe ourselves. The last dimenstion of the MBTI talks about your natural working style - whether you are naturally organized and like planning ("J") or you are more spontenious ("P").

The fact that you are a "P" does not mean you are "worse" or that you won't deliver on time etc, it just means that your natural preference to get things done is through a different process - many argue it's a more creative process (see Tim Urban's famous TED talk). However, if you want your lifestyle in consulting to be sustainable, you'll have to improve your time management skills. You'll learn a lot from others (the "J"s :)) on the job. I'm still learning!


Best,

Réka

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Anrian
Expert
replied on Jun 03, 2020
Ex Kearney Senior Manager | Ex McKinsey Engagement Manager | Interviewer & Case Coach at McKinsey (200+ Real Interviews)

Hi There,

I feel you, but I think as long as you deliver the result - a great result, you should worry nothing.

However, you need to really watch out your surrounding, client sand peers. The pace is significantly faster in Consulting and is definitely much more intense. So, as long as you can manage that, it shouldn't give you any trouble.

Also, making a quick decision and doing quick work are 2 different things, just be clear on your main problem. If it's the latter, here are the things that I personally do:

  1. Start working on something really small with minimum effort e.g., change the deck cover, make the title of each page, name the excel sheet
  2. Use this 45+15 rule, 45 mins for working on serious things, 15 mins to relax
  3. Do something fun (e.g. playing game, call somebody, etc.) after 3 consequent 45+15, but you have to timebox it properly not more than an hour
  4. Set up an alarm to remind you that the works are starting to pile up

If your problem is making a fast/instant decision, then it's a matter of experience with quick thinking. You will get to expose that in consulting. Don't worry about it :)

Hope this helps!

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Axel
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Content Creator
replied on Jun 03, 2020
Bain Consultant | Interviewer for 3 years at Bain |Passionate about coaching |I will make you a case interview Rockstar

Lots of really good advice here already but I will add one thing and that is developing the ability to prioritize and always be 80/20 in your approach. In my experience in consulting, the ability to plan well and always be focusing on the right issues was the biggest difference between those that always would hit their deadlines and have better work-life balance and those that struggled.

The ability to prioritize well comes with experience, business judgement, and leveraging your manager to make sure that you are working on the right issues and that your approach makes sense.

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Ian
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replied on Jun 03, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

My #1 piece of advice is be flexible and open-minded - allow yourself to be trained.

You will learn how to operate in the consulting way over time, but just be ready to learn!

That being said, consulting balances planning with agility. What this means is, you should always have a plan/timeline, but you should also continuously review/update this plan.

Two other tips:

1) Todo List: Use stickies, a notepad, or an online tool (trello, outlook drafts, google tasks, etc.) to track your tasks daily. Set yourself up so that you stay organized and clear in what you need to do next.

2) Organization from the get-go: Setup your email folders, your document folder structure, etc. so that you always know where everything is and can easily locate it. Be a 0 inbox person!

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Anonymous replied on Jun 05, 2020

Dear A,

Undrestanding your problem is already 50% of success to reslove it.

If you really concern about procrastination, you can surf in the Internet to find a lot of information about why it arises and even more advices to tackle it. Also, if you really keen to work on your self efficiency, I would recommend you to take life-coach who would help you to work on that.

If you need any help or recommendations, feel free to reach out,

Best,

André

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Clara gave the best answer

Clara

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McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut
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