Time Management as a Consultant

As a consultant who works from home, time management is very important. I’m constantly juggling projects for multiple clients on any given day. Also, working from home can present some unique challenges when it comes to time management – I’m not just juggling time between clients, but also juggling time with personal projects on my to-do list (like laundry, taking the dogs for a walk or even working out). I am the first to admit I’m not a morning person and it takes me some time every day to get my brain engaged into the days projects. My clients are really great and have been really understanding about that. Any client I have on the East Coast of the US generally won’t schedule a call with me before noon (which is 10am my time), although I am willing to meet earlier if necessary (I’ll be there, I just can’t guarantee being completely coherent!).

So taking into account the fact that I’m not the best in the mornings, I often will work into the evening or even wee hours of the morning, in order to meet a deadline. I am often more productive in the evening and enjoy getting a good block of time with no interruptions from meetings, phone calls or emails from clients. During the day I try to be responsive to client communications, despite the fact they can often be disruptive. However, with my habit of working into the evening hours, I am still easily able to meet all my client deadlines.

One way I manage to stay on top of all my projects (both professional and personal) is to keep a day planner (I personally prefer the Franklin Covey planner). I keep a running to-do list of all the things I need to get done – research a solution here, pull data for a report there, along with tossing in a load of laundry or running out for a quick grocery run. As long as I write them down, they are more likely to get done. I’ve tried a variety of online/electronic time management tools in the past, however I find just jotting down a quick note in my  planner is still the best way for me to stay on top of all my projects – including fitting time in to write the occasional blog post. It may seem silly to write down “walk the dogs” or “workout” in my to-do list, but I am definitely more likely to follow-through on those tasks. If it’s not written down, I may remember I have to do it, but I tend to push it off and procrastinate by doing other tasks. Writing it down helps me prioritize. Here’s my step-by-step time management strategy:

  • Write down any to-do item immediately.
  • Categorize my to-do items by client vs. personal
  • At the beginning of each day note which to-do items were completed, in progress or not worked on from the previous day
  • Transfer all in-progress and not started tasks from the previous to the current day
  • At the end of each day, check my calendar for the next day to make sure I am aware of any client calls I have scheduled for that day

By following this process, I make sure I stay on top of my projects and don’t miss any calls with my clients. What strategies do you use to manage your time? I’d like to hear other people’s methods to keep themselves from getting too distracted from their tasks.

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