Ex-McKinsey BA/Associate across Australia and UK // Graduate and MBA case experience
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How to remain productive while putting long hours

Anonymous A

Hey guys,

Oftentimes, consultants work 80-100 hours a week. It’s not just the quantity of hours, it’s also the intensity of these hours.

Do you have a set of principles, tactics, tricks, balanced food intake, supplements or anything else that allows you to remain productive while putting these hours for months and years?

Some of the things I’ve heard so far:

  1. You just get used to it.
  2. You have to like what you do and what you do has to be big and important and then, impacting the lives of hundreds or even millions of people motivates you

What helped you remain productive?

(edited)

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Cameron
Expert
replied on 03/16/2018
Ex-McKinsey BA/Associate across Australia and UK // Graduate and MBA case experience

This is a really common question a lot of people ask when moving into consulting. A few thoughts from my experiences:

- You will simply NOT be productive if you are working 80+ hours a week for a sustained period. In 3+ years at McKinsey, touching every continent, I never exceeded 60 hour weeks for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Maintaining productivity in the shorter term in a very different prospective.

- Eating meals away from the desk helps - I was always more productive after a good meal break

- Try to build in a couple of activities a week (Gym, sports, music practice, etc) where you are completely offline for a couple of hours, and provides you something to look forward to. Your productivity normally increases when you are working to a deadline

- Try to work with others - working in a hotel room there can be a lot of distractions. If it's late and you are working next to someone you don't want to disturb your colleague too much

- Prioritise ruthlessly and ask questions like 'does this need to be done today', and 'will this change the answer'. Partners are people and are very open to these challeneges. New consultants are often afraid to ask these questions, but they are crucial in maintaining productivity

Hope this helps

Cameron

Vlad replied on 03/16/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

Here is my list:

  1. I've always tried to set the norms that I'm doing a workout in the middle of the week. Plus I've always tried to finish early on Fridays
  2. Sleeping as much as I could on Sat morning
  3. Right food, even on the projects in the middle of nowhere with no restaurants
  4. Sport Vitamins
  5. Powernap (It really works)
  6. No work on the weekends (you need to recharge the brains)
  7. Stopped drinking coffee. It sounds counterintuitive but in reality, coffee consumes your energy when you get used to it
  8. Limiting the number of flights (trying to get the projects locally)

One and most important: if you feel sad or angry - don't behave sad or angry. Other people should not suffer from your bad mood (lack of sleep)

Best

Francesco replied on 03/16/2018
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (1500+) | Ex BCG | 650+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Anonymous,

that’s a great question. In the end, the key is to be able to increase your productivity, thus be able to deliver more in less time – as Cameron said long hours constantly are simply not sustainable otherwise. These are the tips that helped me more:

  1. Create morning routines. One of the biggest shift in my life happened when I started to create routines to be implemented each morning to have the proper attitude, review my goals, and ultimately understand the purpose of that particular day before getting caught in social networks, emails, the traffic etc. You can create your own morning routines to feel energize. My suggestions would be
    1. Journaling
    2. Exercise
    3. Review your life goals (ideally with a visual support)
    4. Cold shower
  2. Exercise. It may be few minutes of push ups of pull ups in the morning but can have a great effect in energizing you
  3. Eat healthy. Cannot stress this enough – this can completely change your feeling in terms of energy, in particular towards the end of the day
  4. Use Pomodoro Technique. It’s a productivity method where you commit to work without interruptions for 25 minutes and have then 5 minutes of break. After four repetitions you take 15-30 minutes break. Not applicable always but I found can really double/triple your daily productivity when used.
  5. Organize weekly calendar I recommend that you avoid to keep a daily allocation, as a weekly calendar is better to define the ideal free slots for calls/chat/dinners with people you want to keep in contact with. This will allow you to avoid to over promise things and align with both your job and personal needs.

Best,

Francesco

Currently non-active expert
Expert
replied on 03/16/2018

Hey anonymous,

You can try to implement all the points others suggested... but at the end of the day, what really influences your lifestyle is the office and projects where you are at (​iif there's a tight deadline to fulfil, don't trust that you will always be able to push back on it), rather than any of those strategies.

Thus, depending on the country the right answer can simply be: be used to it... or leave! Harsh, but it's life.

Best

Bruno