This piece of advice is simple, but it can save you a lot of trouble.
Oftentimes, when you are assigned new work, you do not necessarily have to start working on it immediately – maybe the deadline is still far away, or you know it won’t take a lot of time, or some other topic needs to be finished first.
When you get a new piece of work – do a report, prepare a market analysis, crunch some numbers in Excel, etc. – whatever it is, try to get the first draft done as quickly as possible. Even if it is a shitty first draft (either because you don’t have time to do a better one, or because you don’t have all the necessary information yet, still waiting for parts from a colleague, etc. etc.).
Do that shitty draft. Quickly.
The concept of the “shitty first draft” is not mine – it is from the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It is a simple argument: acknowledge that the first draft will be rubbish. This actually makes it easier to get started. Better to do something that needs a lot of rework than not doing anything at all.
In a way, this principle works in consulting as well. Seeing how something comes to be – your calculations, your report structure, your storyline – will help you to…
- make necessary adjustments – While it is still easy to do
- quickly see what questions you still need to ask – before it is awkward to do so, because you reveal how long you waited to tackle the problem
- identify what additional research needs to be done – while there is still time for it
So: get going on the first draft of any deliverable as soon as you can. It can save you a lot of trouble.Read More
As consultants, we live and breathe deadlines, like it or not.
They come in all sizes – from having to send an email at a certain time, to finishing the big deck of slides for the project’s final presentation. They overlap. They shift. Some are rigid, some can be bent – but you better not break them.
Here are some tips on how to tame this wild animal – your next deadline. Because not making the deadline is just not on the list of cool things to do.
Being able to concentrate under deadline stress is crucial to keep you productive.
- Set the email-check to manual. The ping/notification every time a new mail comes in (that you cannot attend to now anyways) will distract you, and you would need precious time to get back to concentration and pick up your train of thought. Blackberry users, set your profile so that you do not get a ring/buzz on incoming email.
If you are expecting important mail, ask the sender to give you a quick call once the message is sent, so you can check you inbox then.
- Disable all IM clients. Doesn’t matter if it is private or corporate, IM has to go off. You have no time to chat.
- CLOSE, not minimize, all applications that you do not need. If you are working in Powerpoint and Excel, close the browser. Close Outlook. What you don’t see doesn’t distract you.
- When working in an office with many people, check if there maybe is a quiet office/conference room available where you can hack away without being distracted by other people’s phone calls, conversations, etc.
- Get everything off your desk that does not relate to your current work.
It is good to be concentrated. That is enough for tasks where you are just hacking away and can put your mind on “execute”. But what if you need to actually be creative, as in thinking of possible concepts for a strategic option?
- Have pen and paper available. For developing ideas, the link between your hand, eye and mind is more direct than when you are sketching things in PPT. When available, use your company’s yellow pads (those that are giving you the PPT-slide-frame, so that you can fill in action title, etc.
- Use a brown paper for your storyline. When creating a story, it is important to see it in its entirety. Again, this is better done on paper than on screen. Print out your slides (they must not all be ready to do this, you can start with only titles on the slides), put them on a board/brown paper/wall.
- Talk to someone who is not involved. Of course, you are short on time, so this is not the place for a tea party. Nevertheless, if you are braining away on an issue and do not come to a conclusion, present it to someone who is not involved. Often, the act of expressing exactly what your issue is, helps you to process and solve it.
Unfortunately, deadlines often result in late nights or all-nighters. So you need to stay awake beyond your normal comfort zone.
- Get yourself a decent supply of caffeine. For me, a good mix of coffee and coke works well (not cocaine, buddy. We are not bankers ). Energy drinks tend to create too much of a sugar/caffeine high that fades quickly and leaves you more tired than you were before.
- Switch all available lights on. Trick your body into believing it is day.
- Make it cold. Not freezing cold, but the warmer the room is, the easier you get tired.
- Sit at a desk. When working away in the hotel, chances are the bed looks really nice to sit on and do some work… and then you wake up in the morning with the imprint of the keyboard on your forehead. Sit on a chair at a desk.
- Listen to energizing music. Chances are that your customer is already at home with wife and kids when you get cranking – so it might be possible to get the earplugs out and put some good vibes on. Avoid singer/songwriter type of music – the type where you actually listen to the lyrics -, you don’t want to distract yourself too much, just crank up the mood.
- Take power naps. In your chair. Set the alarm to LOUD, set it to 15 minutes. Not more. When the 15 minutes is up, stand up, stretch, move around, get back to work. DO NOT EXTEND THE 15 MINUTES, that most of the time means you are losing the war against sleep. For power napping, I love pzizz. For the extra kick, you might want to try the caffeine nap.
What are your favourite techniques for cranking the deadline? Share in the comments!Read More
Monday is GTD day at KillerConsultant, but before we dive into a quick intro on what the David-Allen-GTD is all about, a quick primer.
Do consultants even need stuff like that?
I mean, come on. This is a performance profession. Consultants must have all this down from the get go, right? Have you ever met a consultant who struggled juggling tasks? Oh… you did. Have you ever seen a consultant working longer hours than he already does, because things got a bit lost on his big list of “Priority 1″ items? Oh… you did. So the answer of course is (and you saw that coming): YES, we do. Dearly. And because our job is so fast paced most of the time and because we are in the professional services industry, it is crucial for our success and our sanity to be organized, get things done and juggle our plates.
What this GTD-stuff is all about
GTD, the methodology, not the wish to get things done, was created by David Allen. GTD is about…
Capturing anything and everything that has your attention.
Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps.
Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based onhow and when you need to access them.
Keeping current and “on your game” with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of yourcommitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)
(Taken from the source, here) Sounds good? Sure did to me. As there are many many good intros to GTD, I won’t try to sum it up again. For a start, read the great article on 43folders, and when you are done there, and you still like the ideas of GTD, then fork out the ten bucks and get the book (amazon us / amazon de).
Now that you got an idea what GTD is about, get ready for next week, where I will introduce the first of many GTD-tools to you that can make your life as a consultant a more organized, stress free and relaxed one.Read More