Top Productivity Hacks for Management Consultants

So you’ve done the work and landed an offer with a top tier consultancy—congrats!

Now it’s time to ensure you succeed in your new job. To help you, we’ve rounded up the best productivity and performance tips from consultants.

Be your own master

There are so many hours in the day – even in a Consultant’s day. If you want to get some sleep, you need to focus your time on getting your job done. For example:

  • Be proactive and manage upwards

There’s nothing worse for your productivity than being at the mercy of someone else’s agenda. To reduce the chances of being thrown off kilter by your manager, be proactive in how you plan and manage your workload by communicating and managing upwards.

In other words, tell your manager what you plan to do that week or during that day to make progress towards the agreed outcome. This reduces the chances of you going down the wrong path and avoids them throwing seemingly random additional work on to your plate, because they’re already aware of your workload and priorities.

  • Create and use inventory

Think of your workload as inventory where you accumulate and sell your inventory by completing and releasing pieces of work. Only you know your inventory stocks (completed work) so you’re able to build up ‘buffer’ by storing non-time critical inventory and creating time and space for yourself for larger or longer pieces of work later on.

For instance, if you have completed a piece of work ahead of schedule, do not necessarily share it right away with your client or manager. They are likely to come back to you with extra work that is not necessary. Instead, use the time to move forward on your own priorities.  

  • Minimize interruptions

It goes without saying that instant messaging, unscheduled calls, colleagues tapping your shoulders and other forms of distraction are not conducive to having a productive day.

Don’t let this happen. Block time in your diary and move to a quiet room so you can get some work done uninterrupted. Keep these distractions for breaks.

  • Be there 100%

Commit to being fully present, whether in a meeting, creating a slide or on a call. You may miss something important if distracted, or worse: you may get asked a specific question while on a call that you’ve zoned out of! Multitasking is not always a good thing.

Take shortcuts

Before jumping into tasks, remember to consider the fastest way of getting the job done. For example:

  • Always make the output the number of priority

In other words, draw the slide and type of chart you want to show before doing the analysis of the data to make sure you avoid wasting time in Excel.

  • Do heavy tasks at the last minute

This means leaving the boring, laborious tasks—such as formatting a whole deck—until the end. It’s easy to spend seven hours on a boring, trivial job that could take only two hours when in a time crunch!

  • One-touch emails

Only read an email once by only looking at emails when you have the time to respond. This avoids the inefficient habit of reading an email, saving it until later and reading it again later to then reply.

It doesn’t work for time-sensitive emails, but approach your inbox with discipline and you’ll get a lot of time back in your day.

  • Learn keyboard shortcuts

Become a whizz with your computer by learning keyboard shortcuts for your most common tasks, and especially Excel to become a real pro!

Organize your time

It can be challenging to organise your time in a turbulent client environment with multiple stakeholders where priorities and information can change.

However, there are some things you can do to ensure you have more control over your time. For example:

  • Set clear goals for your day and week

There’s usually a Monday team meeting to set priorities for the week; make sure to come with your priorities and goals in mind.

  • Break deliverables into single-step tasks

When trying to eat an elephant, make sure to do it in small chunks; the same goes for large tasks.

  • Schedule all calls and meetings

Don’t risk chasing people by trying to “catch” them on the phone between meetings, because this will only result in wasting time.

Instead, schedule in all calls, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, and consider scheduling a regular daily/weekly call with key people on the team (e.g., Junior Partners) to ensure you always have a touchpoint with them.

  • Try early morning work

Your most productive hours are likely to be the ones where you’re not being distracted by team members or clients, so try working early in the morning to get a batch of work completed before the day starts.

  • Use short breaks for emails

Avoid the email rabbit hole first thing in the morning by only opening and responding to emails during breaks.

Invest in your development

You’re unlikely to stay in consulting for a long period of time, so it’s worth soaking in all the learning and development you can to maximise your experience, and become more effective at your job.

You can do this by:

  • Request feedback

You can request feedback from your manager, peers and senior manager/partner. Do this even if it feels scary to do so! You’ll likely receive a lot of feedback anyway, but if you want to focus on being the best you can at the job, be sure to solicit feedback when it’s useful to do so.

  • Commit to taking advantage of training opportunities

It’s all too easy to say you’re too busy with client work and miss the training days, but this is false productivity because the training is likely to add skills to your toolbox that will make you more effective and faster in future.

  • Learn from and emulate the high performers

Seek out the great managers and work with them and learn from the consultant on your team who’s been around the longest, even if their role is more junior to yours on paper. You’ll learn a tonne from those who are thriving in the job.

Leverage your colleagues

Consultancies are a resourceful web of people who know a lot of stuff you don’t—remember to leverage them. The client doesn’t buy you, they buy the whole firm, so it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re bringing the best of the firm to your work by learning from and requesting support from others where you can.

For example:

  • Use support services to do your work

Large consultancies often have support services to help you clean up formatting on decks, book travel, file expenses, and research niche topics. Leverage these resources to make sure you’re focusing on the work of a consultant, rather than a graphic designer or travel agent!

  • Keep track of what others owe you

You’re likely to have asked the Research team for information, the Visual Graphics team for slides, your manager for input, two experts for their industry expertise and your colleague for analysis.

Instead of focusing on what you owe, keep on top of what others owe you and make sure to check in with them to avoid a delay becoming a bottleneck in your progress.

  • Request solutions and ideas from others (where appropriate)

Maybe it’s the high achiever in them, but it’s astounding just how helpful and resourceful a typical cohort of Consultants or even a whole office function can be when you’re in need of a specific solution. Ask for what you need, no matter how obscure, and chances are there will be someone who can help you!

  • Be nice to Partner’s secretaries

Partner’s secretaries are the gatekeepers of the diaries you’re wanting to get into and can either make your life really easy or really difficult depending on how pleasant you are to them.

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