You’re the unrecognized heroes that fuel any successful business. That’s right. Consultants like you drive business all over the world and require a particular skill-set. When you’re independent, you have to come up with your own strategies for meeting your clients’ deadlines, and that’s a serious challenge for any consultant to overcome.
Without some help, arriving at deadlines on time can get complicated, fast. It isn’t an easy problem to overcome, but every consultant draws from a broad and useful set of planning tools, especially when it comes to deadlines. Here are some helpful tips for consultants who need a few more techniques for their project-planning toolbox.
Make a Plan that Sticks
Even before you check your email at work each morning, come up with a plan for doing the top-level tasks that you need to complete, and stick to it. When you make a schedule for the workday, whether it’s by hand or on a digital calendar, all you have to do is to write down the highest-priority tasks. That’s all. Keep it simple, and you’ll assure that everything gets done.
You shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you’re only ever reacting to work that clients send your way. If you wait to react to the work that other people send you, rather than setting your own goals for work every day, then you’re never really working at your best. That’s how work starts to pile up, and a two-hour project can turn into an eight-hour project, in no time at all.
Instead, before you start work each day, make a schedule that will give you more than enough time to devote all the necessary attention to your clients. For example, if you know a task will take about 90 minutes, schedule a two-hour block of time to guarantee you’ll be able to give the project your undivided attention.
The idea is to plan everything out in multi-hour blocks, not just so you can devote all your attention to just one project, but also so you won’t get distracted from what’s most important on the day. For consultants, block scheduling helps you keep an eye on the little picture, as well as the big picture.
Here’s the secret: schedule according to priority, so you’re always working on what’s most important to you and your clients. According to productivity blogger Paul Minors, “When you know that you have a set amount of scheduled time to do something, it allows you to stay focused so you can get everything done within a specific time.” That’s such an easy way to increase your productivity, especially for contractors, whose time is divided between so many clients.
Do One Task at a Time
In today’s office, you share a lot of responsibilities with your team and others, so work often means being pulled by your co-workers in lots of different directions. For consultants in particular, who may be working with multiple clients at a time, there’s no shortage of stakeholders to distract you from the tasks at hand.
To be more productive, you have to fight against distractions. When some consultants get busy, they try to avoid distractions by multitasking their client commitments, as if they could do lots of things at once without any problems. Contrary to what some think, multitasking won’t ever solve the problem of being over-committed your clients, and it may in fact make your job worse.
You see, in the long run, multitasking may do more harm to businesses than good: according to research by the American Psychological Association, “multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error.” Since multitasking is so prone to error, it may actually reduce productivity.
When you’re planning out your workday, commit to doing just one task at a time, no matter what distractions come your way―and they will. Just as you schedule time to complete one task, you should block-off some time for responding to the things that distract you, no matter if it’s emails, phone calls, or anything else.
Here’s a secret: make time for everything important, and give everything its time, even if the task is unimportant. If something must be done as soon as possible, then make time to do that task, but also make time in your schedule to work on what is unimportant, distracting, or easy to accomplish. That’s it: work on the right thing at the best time for it.
Communicate Absolutely Everything
Once you have a schedule, and you’ve added to it your high-priority tasks, then you have to communicate it to the appropriate stakeholders. Share your schedule to let them know when you’ll be working on which task. Be as transparent as possible, and you will see that the stakeholders are much better-informed about what to expect from you, and when to expect it.
You might think that communication is too simple a solution for your complex consulting work, but you’d be surprised. “Communication is more than just a buzzword in boardrooms,” writes Team Synerion. “It’s a necessary skill for the company to cultivate to create a more cohesive workplace and gain the benefits of a more productive workplace.” Where you find a consultant that can communicate, you also find a productive consultant.
So what should you communicate better? Your clients matter most, so work with them to set the priorities for your work, and update them with your progress as the deadline approaches. If there are any unforeseen problems, whether on your end or your clients’ end, then you have an open channel to discuss the next steps.
Here’s another secret: be completely transparent when it comes to sharing information with clients, no matter if it’s about deadlines, project deliverables, your expectations, or your role as a consultant. Put everything on the table, and let your client sort out what’s most important to them. Every client has different expectations, and your consulting reputation is important, so keep your lines of communication open and always busy.
There isn’t a shortcut for meeting your clients’ deadlines, but if you put in the time to make a schedule, to commit to it each day, and to communicate your status with stakeholders and clients, then you’ll always meet important deadlines. Besides, if it looks like you might miss a deadline, you always have an open line of communication with clients who trust you.
When you’ve mastered these tools for meeting your deadlines, and you are ready to use a Cloud-based PSA for managing your clients’ projects, contact us for a free demo of BigTime.
About the AuthorMore Content by Matthew Corey