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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#626: Amaze Yourself with How Much You Can Fit Into 24 Hours

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 8, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 8, 2011
When I left my mid-sized consulting firm two years ago to start my own practice, I knew it meant more time on administration and marketing. However, I did not count on the amount of time required to forge a new brand, especially when the nature of consulting is undergoing (another) big shift. I am a little overwhelmed with the new research, new marketing, new services, etc. Am I making too big a deal of this?

You feel what every small firm consultant who wants to pursue, or is being pushed into, a new market is experiencing. Some felt this a year ago; others will feel it over the coming year. This disruption can be paralyzing, given all that has to be done to maintain your skills, divine future markets, and compete with other consultants also expanding their services. It varies by industry whether managers see consultants as expenses they can't afford, replacements for staff they can't afford to hire, or essential sources of expertise they can't do without. Each circumstance has its own pressures on suggesting that we need to work harder to keep up.

What you can do is to not get overwhelmed with the amount of things you could do. If you don't remember it, read A.A. Milne's poem "The Old Sailor" to get some perspective on what happens when you are so engrossed with everything you could do and don't step back and do what you need to do. In your case, consider cutting out half of your to do list (or whatever amount is needed to leave you with a solid work week). What did you cut out that you really needed to do this week?

Tip: There is a saying, "If you want a job done, give it to a busy person." This is not to suggest that you are not busy, but there is something about a full, well-managed schedule that prevents the less important tasks from even getting on your to do list. Be ruthless with new tasks - only accept jobs from yourself that have a definitive ROI for your business.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  practice management  time management  trends  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#620: Tame Your To-Do List

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 29, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 29, 2011
Professional services like consulting and law generate lists of tasks that never seem to decline. Especially if you are running a litigation team or consulting practice, it is like two steps forward and three steps back. How do you get through the day without being pulled in all directions?

There are two issues - your inbox and your outbox. Logic, and a lot of time management techniques, focus on the path between the boxes. Presumably, if we work faster, the inbox pile magically becomes the outbox pile. Improvements like delegation, streamlining and parallel processing (all familiar to operations consultants) dispense with your work faster and hopefully better.

However, consider a different approach - constraining the size of your inbox. This probably horrifies most consultants trying to market and sell, serve their clients and manage the practice. There's just too much to do! Well, consider what happens to many of the tasks that move from one To-Do list to the next To-Do list, some of which are finally abandoned. We know urgent and important are not the same thing, but how are we going to set priorities, execute with discipline and feel like we have had a productive day (week, month, year)?

Here is a clever idea - adopt the open and closed task list concept. Basically, you create a list of tasks for the day and once done and affirmed, the list is closed for the day. Any new tasks that come up (with consideration for different job types and how much of your job is responding to emergency requests) go on another day's list. This really forces you to trade off the urgency and importance of tasks and, when they can't go on today's list and there is no room compared to other tasks on tomorrow's list, many tasks may disappear without ever landing on any list.

Tip: If It Won't Fit On A Post-It, It Won't Fit In Your Day discusses this intriguing approach. I suggest you adopt this for a week or two to see how well it enforces the discipline needed to manage your inbox. Combined with the time management tips to dispense with tasks once they have landed in your inbox (on your post it note), you will be able to say "no" more often with minimal impact on your productivity or effectiveness.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  planning  practice management  project management  time management  your consulting practice 

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#566: Capture the Benefits of a Sense of Urgency

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 16, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 16, 2011
Having left a large consulting firm to start my own practice, I spend a lot of time doing things I never had to do before, incuding administration. Is it just a more efficient use of time to be in a (scalable?) larger firm?

One of the great things about being an independent consultant is that we have a lot of control over our time. At some point in our career, we can take the clients we want and negotiate our schedules. The opportunity of flexibility is not an obligation to waste time. Precisely because you have control of time means you should treat it as a precious commodity. Consultants, and managers, who respect time make steady progress against their goals by using it well.

As the expression goes, hard work always beats talent that doesn't work hard. The same is true of people who use time as well as their talent. Those with a sense of urgency will get started, and get finished, with their work sooner and accomplish more.

Make this sense of urgency a habit and a develop a reputation with others for using your, and their, time wisely. Prepare your daily, weekly and project schedules to make the best use of time and regularly evaluate and revise them. Expect that those with whom you work also treat time with respect, especially yours. Ask for updates to their schedules and what they think may put them off schedule. Always remember that time wasted is time gone forever.

Tip: Give the gift of time to others. Think of ways you can save others time in your interactions with them. Suggest ways of combining tasks or running them in parallel. Offer to provide a service for someone to save them time or suggest a process for saving time. There is no greater gift.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  goodwill  performance improvement  reputation  time management  values  your consulting practice 

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#468: Turn Travel "Down Time" Into Productive Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, December 29, 2010
How can I make non business hours while I am on client travel more productive?

Some consultants travel a lot and if this is you, then you can appreciate that it is not so much time wasted and time that you can't better use (subtle difference). This is because you are away from the people, resources and spaces you'd prefer to have available. Given that you are on the road without those things, here are some tips to make your travel time more productive:
  1. Improve your ability to work from the road. Consider investing in mobile technology so you can work from anywhere and at anytime. Make sure to thoroughly evaluate a product's durability, flexibility, weight and adaptability. Although it might cost you more, you will need to rely on the dependability of your equipment to allow conduct your business at the drop of a hat.
  2. Actively manage your travel time for maximum productivity. Although many of us find working on planes is very conducive to getting work done, we often fail to consider other "downtime" opportunities such as cab rides, waiting for flights, etc.
  3. Free evenings on the road (as well as the morning hours before work) can be used for more focused work and rejuvenation -exercise, planning, reading, etc. As Covey puts it, use these pockets of downtime to "sharpen your saw" (i.e., nurturing and renewing your physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being).
  4. Keep yourself well-organized and take a little time to plan what you are going to pack in advance. Take whatever you think you might need with you on a trip. Keep it light, but take it.
Tip: Exercise, work, relax. Make that travel time work better for you. Instead of feeling constrained by traveling, feel temporarily liberated from your normal work schedule, free to do things for which you usually "don't have time."

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  time management  travel 

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#433: Get Your Online Life Back

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I spend a fair amount of time online, with a lot of time attending to social media, email, web-based or database research and quantitative analysis. Most of this is presumably productive, but what is a "right amount?"

There is no "right" amount because each of these activities may be highly productive for your particular consulting practice. It is easy to feel like any one of these is "too much" because, compared to the past, you are spending much more time on that activity. How much time did you spend 15 years ago on email? Is what you spend now too much or too little? New web applications, new distractions, and new resources can skew our appreciation for what is really most useful.

Consider RescueTime, an application that intelligently tracks what applications you spend your time with, including where you spend most of your time surfing. It has a really clever feature, called Focus Time," in which you set a time during which it will warn you if you stray off your chosen task (to, say, respond to that "urgent" instant message, or "quickly" look up something on a website - that lasts 5 minutes).

Tip: Before tracking your time, estimate how much time you spend throughout the day on various activities and adjust to what you think is an appropriate proportion for each. Once you get your usage data, you can see what, based on your own criteria, is too much (or too little) time spent in a given activity.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  project management  social media  time management 

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