How to be a Great Consultant and Still Have a Life


When you’re a consultant, you are lucky to experience a lot of variety throughout a jam-packed day almost every day, but it’s not the easiest lifestyle and it’s certainly not for everybody. So, if you’re thinking about becoming a consultant, you’ll need to focus on making sure you have a proper work/life balance or you face the risk of serious burnout. Below are three tips I’ve learned over my consulting career that can help you better achieve that proper work/life balance and avoid the stress of burnout.

Define Where You Want to Be

Many people do not know what they want. Try asking 3 friends where they want to be professionally or personally in 3 years. You’ll likely get contemplative stares or abstract, immeasurable responses like “I want to move up the ranks.” The problem is that if you don’t know what you want, you are blind as to where you are going. Time will pass and you may end up somewhere you never wanted to be, at which point you would pay a lot of money to go back and relive the moment you are experiencing right now. Want to avoid the existential crisis? Write down what you want today! Block off an hour, turn off your phone, and define where you want to be professionally and personally in 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, 6 months, etc. Let all of your dreams out, and avoid letting your preconceived biases of what you think is possible and impossible limit what you write down. For many, it is possible to be an A-player consultant for my client, run a marathon, and learn a new musical instrument all within the next year. It may be difficult and push you outside your comfort zone. But difficult is not impossible. Effective planning and discipline make the ridiculous possible.

Be Proactive with Your Time

Now that you have your x-month plan defined, how do your days, weeks, and months need to look in order to achieve it? The answer will vary depending on what you want to achieve, but a key principle is to be proactive with your time, not reactive. This goes for both your professional and personal time. If you know that you need to spend x-hours per day 5 days per week at your consulting engagement in order to be an A-player, block that time off first. Next, define how you will spend your time at your consulting engagement. When you sit down at your desk on Monday morning, make a list of the 3 or 4 critical items that need to be completed by the end of the week no matter what. Make time on your calendar for those items first. These 3 or 4 critical items should always be prioritized over other items that may come across your plate. By the end of this exercise, your calendar should be populated with your plan to complete everything that needs to be completed by weeks end. This will free up mental space that allows you to get things done. Next, define how your weeknights and weekends need to look in order to achieve your personal goals. Do you need to practice your instrument for 30 minutes a day in order to meet your goal of perfecting Baden Powell’s Mahna De Carneval by the end of next week? Block the time off. Do you need to fit a longer run in on Saturday mornings in order to move closer to your goal of 26.2 miles? Have the discipline to get up and do it. You can think of living your dream as a Tetris game with your schedule. Make time to do what you want.

Say ‘No’

Propositions come across our plates every single day: Do you have the bandwidth to take on this task? Do you want to grab coffee on Wednesday? Do you want to check out a concert this weekend? We often say ‘yes’ to propositions like this. However, ‘yes’ is often a reactive response, not a proactive one. Before saying ‘yes’, critically think about it. Does this item get you excited, or are you so-so about it? Will this item contribute to your goals and dreams, or will it dilute your focus? Every time you commit to spend your time on something you are so-so about, you also commit to forgo spending your time on the critical things that matter. It’s easy for your calendar to become filled with these one-off requests. To avoid this trap, make a point for ‘no’ to be your automatic response instead of ‘yes’. The habit of saying ‘no’ to things that do not help you achieve your goals will keep you laser-focused on the things that will. Great consultants produce great work, and great work can only be achieved with adequate time invested in the things that matter. This goes for your personal life, too.

Want to learn more about how you can be an A-player consultant while still achieving a balance between your work and personal life? Contact me today to continue the dialog: