Working on weekends is a hot topic when it comes to consulting. Many think it comes with the job, and it sure is part of the whole consulting life myth. In reality, as with all myths, that is only partly true.
There can be situations where working on a weekend cannot be avoided – but there are many more situations where you can. Today’s post is all about how to achieve that and make sure that as many weekends as possible stay free – ’cause you are working enough from Monday to Friday.
- Scope with a hidden agenda
You have a secret plan. You do not want to work on the weekend. Of course, you don’t want your project lead to know, because you’d seem all weak and “not taking one for the team” or even “not cut out for the job” (I am joking. Mostly.) Scoping to the rescue! It’s simple in theory: To avoid working on the weekend, plan your work so that the need does not arise. In real life, that might be trickier. My best tip is: Don’t agree on Monday as deadline for a deliverable. You’ll often end up on Friday thinking “gosh, I need to finish that… but hey, it’s only due in three days!” and end up sitting on the desk the next two days while your buddies are out having fun. On the other side, your project lead – depending on their style – might think “hey, he’s got some extra time for that over the weekend!” and adjust their expectations accordingly.
At many of my assignments I need a rental car to get from the nearest airport to the client, the hotel and back. The travel policy of my company tells me what class of cars I can rent – but of course, this is just were the game begins: What upgrade can I get for free?
- Get the plastic
Every car rental I know of has a bonus card. The standard ones are usually free for everybody and only carry your details, so that you don’t have to provide address, etc. every time you rent. The better ones (“platinum”, “privilege”, etc.) often entitle you to free upgrades. You get them by either simply renting a lot of cars (just a matter of time) or, if you are lucky, your company already has a deal with them, so that you not only get a special rate, but also that desired piece of plastic. Check with your colleagues when you are new – everybody plays this game, so it should not be hard to find someone in the know.
- Build a relationship to the people at the counter
This works great when you are renting in smaller airports / train stations / cities, where the crew at the desk of the rental firm does not rotate too much. In the best case, there is always the same person there when you arrive, half awake, on Monday morning. This is your chance! Those at the desk have, most often, direct influence on what car they give you. The hold, so to speak, the keys to your rental luck. Be nice to them. Cheer them up. Don’t be pushy, and don’t force it. The key (again!) lies in making it a positive experience for THEM, so that they can happily reward you with a bigger/faster/nicer car. If not this week, then next.
- Ask for an upgrade. NICELY.
The times I got a shiny sportscar while paying for a Golf? That was when the customer before me was a rude idiot who tried to push the clerk at the desk into giving him a big car. Of course, he did not. If I remember correctly, he walked away with a Ford. Serves him right. When it was my turn, we first shared a laugh about that ridiculous guy, and when I gave her my piece of plastic and said that I had a reservation, I just said “something that fits the good weather would be great!”. Her response: “Hm, let me see. Wait a minute!”… off she went to the back office, and when she came back she was almost apologetic – “I am sorry, there was no convertible left… but I think you’ll like it still!”. Let’s just say I was never faster at client side than that day.
Remember: Asking for an upgrade is perfectly fine. Just be nice and casual about it. And don’t bitch if it doesn’t work – see point two, you might see her again next week!
On a sidenote: I do recognize that it does not matter at all in a real-world-sense what car you get as long as it takes you where you want to go. Still, being a road warrior, it often is a very welcome goodie that makes the Monday-morning routine just a bit more fun.
You have heard of TED, because you are always on the lookout for new trends and developments in science, technology and economics, right?
If you do not know TED, you are missing out big time. It is one of the most spoken about conferences where “the world’s greatest thinkers and doers” meet every year to present their newest findings, discuss, engage and enjoy.
TED started out in 1984, and stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design.” Participation is expensive – and chances are, even if you have the cash you won’t get a seat, because TED is sold out in advance, way in advance. But do not despair! The internet is here to save the day for you.
Almost all TED talks are available online, making ted.com one of the most inspiring and interesting resource for brain food I know of these days. You can search by attributes “inspiring, funny, jaw-dropping…”, topics, speaker – and trust me, almost all of those talks are more than worth the 5-20 minutes you will spend watching them. Seriously. So take the time and dive in. You will laugh. You will be excited. You will be surprised.
Here are some of my favourite talks – your mileage may vary of course:
- Clifford Stoll – 18 minutes with an agile mind
- Malcolm Gladwell – what we can learn from spaghetti sauce
- Lawrence Lessig – how creativity is strangled by the law
- Rives – select from three videos on the site, and once you are hooked, his website has some more media to indulge
- Ben Saunders – three things to know before you ski to the north pole
- Will Wright - toys that make worlds
- Aubrey de Grey – why we age and how we can avoid it
- Richard St. John – 8 secrets of success
- Hans Rosling – the best stats you’ve ever seen (well, at least as non-consultant, as the Consultant Ninja points out)
And you will find John Doerr, Bill Clinton, Philippe Starck, Richard Branson, Larry Page, Stephen Hawking, Norman Foster, Jane Goodall… it just goes on and on. (To be honest, it took me two days to complete this post because whenever I was looking through the list of talks for the one I really liked, I discovered new ones that I just had to at least skim through)
To round things off, this year’s sponsor Autodesk has had visual artists work out pictures mirroring the contents of the various speeches, which you can download in one big (over 50MB) PDF from their site. They call it “TEDBIGVIZ”. This way of visualization is really powerful. You can grasp the concepts and ideas of the talks without having heard/seen the talk, but of course it is even better when you use this to recap contents already familiar to you.
So, instead of getting dull TV, I recommend you feed your brain with some quality stuff.
Of course, if there are other resources (preferably free) for inspiration and insight, please share them in the comments!