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Busted! 5 Myths About Time Management That Consultants Must Know

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Published:
September 7, 2022
Reading Time:
10 minutes
Leo
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.
Here’s the scenario: You wake up at 6:00 AM, and instinctively, you check your emails and to-do list. By the time it’s 9:00 AM, there are more items on your to-do list than there were before. Then, an important client invites you for an urgent meeting through video call. A few hours later, you have your lunch with your laptop next to you to get some more work done. And at 6:00 PM, you only finish half the tasks you planned to do. 

Does all this sound familiar? Well, that’s life in consulting. Even though there are lots of articles on the internet about time management, you can’t rely on all of them. After all, not all the methods mentioned in them apply to consultants. That’s why this article is dedicated to busting some myths around time planning and management. 

If you’re a consultant who is applying generic time management advice and not getting results, this article is for you. So, without further ado, let’s bust the 5 myths about time management. 

Myth #1: Multitasking Can Help You Get Through More Tasks

Several studies and surveys have concluded the same thing—multitasking doesn’t work for everybody. According to a Psychonomic Bulletin & Review study, only 2.5% of the 200 participants could multitask efficiently. Despite this, people dabble in multitasking, and consequently, lose focus and produce mediocre results. 

Now you may be thinking: “Well, I watch TV while checking emails and talking to my kids, and it all works out.” Hate to break it to you, but we aren’t talking about those kinds of tasks here. To put this in context, “tasks” refer to the complicated tasks that you perform as a consultant. Let’s suppose that you’re working on two consulting-related tasks. First, you have to analyze data from 10,000 sources to find the top three products for a client. And the second one is conducting a focus group interview to learn the shopping behavior of ten Gen Z representatives. 

Now imagine this: You’re analyzing 10,000 data points on your laptop while conducting the focus group interview. Will it ever work? Undoubtedly, it won’t. Consultants with poor time management skills often find themselves working on multiple tasks simultaneously. The result —average performance with a lot of mistakes in the results. That’s why you should focus on one task at a time, give your 100%, then move on to the next. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Simple tasks, like watching movies while eating, may be easily performed simultaneously. However, complicated consulting tasks must be performed one at a time. 
  • Instead of creating a priority list, use the Eisenhower Matrix and focus on urgent and important tasks.
  • Don’t just rely on daily planning, plan your weeks and months as well. 
  • Time management methods and techniques that work for one person may not necessarily work for you.
  • Expediting important tasks to finish them in a short time may result in poor outcomes. 

Myth #2: Setting Priorities Will Always Help You Manage Time

First, let’s discuss the etymology of the word ‘priority’. This word is derived from the Latin word ‘prioritas’, which literally means ‘first in rank’. So, logically, only one entity can be first—there are no plurals here. However, throughout the years, we pluralized the word priority and started giving equal importance to many tasks at once. We have completely forgotten that there can only be one priority—not multiple. 

When it comes to time management, consultants often set priorities in order to manage time effectively. But what if you have to get through ten different tasks of equal importance? Can you get it all done in 8-10 hours? Probably not. Although time management gurus may emphasize the importance of setting priorities, the truth is that it won’t always work. 

So, what’s the solution? You see, instead of creating a list of priorities, you could use the Eisenhower Matrix. This matrix is divided into four quadrants keeping the urgency and importance of tasks in mind. A list of priorities doesn’t have a time constraint, but this matrix does. In order to manage time well, you should replace the term ‘priorities’ with ‘urgent and important’, as shown in the matrix. And if a task is important but not urgent, you can schedule it for later. 

Myth #3: Planning Daily Tasks Results in Better Time Management

Here’s another myth: Blocking out time for tasks on a day-to-day basis saves time. Umm, there’s some bad news: This doesn’t always work for consultants. A consultant’s job isn’t always linear. In an ideal world, a consultant would start a project with a hypothesis, collect data, analyze it, offer recommendations, and finish. The reality, however, may be very different and can affect the way you manage time. 

time management, Busted! 5 Myths About Time Management That Consultants Must Know
For instance, a client may request you to collect more data, then analyze both old and new data together, and amend the recommendations. This is very likely in consulting and you may find that things may not always go according to your plans. Sometimes, the decisions of clients or stakeholders may disrupt your schedule and require you to change it. 

So, when it comes to time planning, you may want to think on a weekly basis. You could create a list of tasks you want to get through in a particular week. You should also do time planning for the coming month and quarter. Simply relying on daily planning may not be the best idea in an industry like consulting. It’s not like you’re selling ice creams. Consulting is complicated work and things may not always go according to plan.

Myth #4: Proven Time Management Methods Work for Everybody

It should be noted that a time management method that works for one person may not work for others. This includes the Eisenhower Matrix we discussed before. The fact is, time planning and management are just one part of getting tasks done on time. This is because there are some more aspects that determine how well one can perform tasks. Factors such as work experience, physical health, family life, emotional stability, and support from mentors also play a huge role.

Let’s discuss some of these factors briefly. First, let’s shed some light on work experience. Suppose a junior consultant is tasked with creating a new operational process for a client. In this case, they may need more time to even understand the task. Meanwhile, a seasoned consultant may be able to complete the task relatively easily. This is because they’ve probably worked on similar tasks dozens of times before. 

Similarly, people with chronic illness or family problems may not be as focused as their colleagues with fewer personal problems. So, to manage time efficiently, one must also consider factors that have nothing to do with time. For example, if stress is slowing you down, you may want to speak to a medical professional. And if a lack of experience in a particular task is slowing you down, seek help and upskill yourself. 



Myth #5: Performing Tasks Faster Will Help You Save Time

You may have heard the saying: “Rome wasn't built in a day.” And if it were built in a day, we won’t give it as much importance as we do now. The same goes for your tasks as a consultant. If you panic and try to wrap things up before you should, you are asking for trouble. This is because consulting is a profession that requires a lot of responsibility. Certainly, there’s no room for guesswork here. 

For example, if you’re creating a questionnaire for a client’s customers, you may need at least a few hours. But what if you try to finish the questionnaire in 30 minutes? Maybe because you want to go home early or to get through other tasks. In this case, you may forget to add important questions. As a result, the data you accumulate is bound to be incomplete and vague. 

In conclusion, if a task requires a typical number of hours, you must devote that much time to it. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. So don’t expedite sensitive tasks and derail the whole project.  And that brings us to the end of the article. It’s fun busting myths sometimes and changing people’s perceptions, isn’t it?

We hope that you learned new ways to manage time through this article. Now, it’s your turn. Apply the lessons from this piece to your day-to-day life as a consultant. And if you want to share this article with our fellow
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