AIC’s March 2012 event featured a presentation by Mark Ellwood from Pace Productivity on “Time Management, Planning—and Consultants”. After his presentation, Mark sat down with Past President, Keith Thirgood for an interview on his presentation:
From all the studies about how people spend their time, the main thing that we learned is that most people spend less time than they would like on their higher priority activities, and more time on their lower priority activities. Managers aren’t managing as much as they’d like, salespeople aren’t selling as much as they’d like, and everybody is spending more time than they’d like on administrative tasks.
The most important thing a consultant can do, to improve their time usage, is to delegate. That is, not doing the things that aren’t part of their core responsibilities. If you’re really good at being an accountant—great! Then do that but delegate everything else. The other thing that they can do is to automate. Use technology to automate repetitive tasks. If you’re writing a report the same way every time, then automate it. The last thing that you can do, is to build systems or methodologies so that you have the same approach to solving a problem or to doing a client engagement. If you can do those three things you can start to become more efficient.
People are people are always concerned about external factors that affect their productivity. As much as you can find a way to deal with them—or not have to deal with them then your productivity can increase.
We think that many things are outside of our control, but many things are within our control. Things like, not being focused or not determining what you are supposed to be doing. Procrastination comes up with just about everybody.
For any consultant, billable time is what you want to be doing a lot of. But there’s going to be a lot of other things—travel, for example, can be 10–15% of your time. Then there’s personal time and administration which can be 20–25% of your time. And of course planning, which is something that you want to be doing, can be another 10–15% of your time. If you add all those up, there may not be that much time left for the actual billable time that you want to be doing.
Successful consultants need to be selling as much as those just starting out. You’ll probably be spending in the range of about 20% of your time selling and marketing.
We looked at how much billable time successful consultants spent. The best consultants seem to be spending approximately 20 hours per week on client servicing activities, most of which is billable. And that 20 hours may be out of a 50 hour week! (or about 40% of your time). The successful consultants are logging 20 hours of billable time but the average consultant is logging only around 13 billable hours per week.
I believe that everybody can find about an extra hour per day. There’s the time that you’re spending that could be delegated, or the time that you’re spending that could be automated. I believe that most consultants can “find” something in the range of about 200 hours per year.
We have found in our TimeCorder studies that employees work around 47 hours per week; consultants are well above that – they’re up into the 52 hour range, and some work even more hours.
The SMART formula is a great way to articulate what your goals should be. Now other people have used this formula, and I’ve modified it a little bit:
S stands for specific, substantial and selective.
M is for measurable.
A is for appropriate (make sure that this goal is in line with your other goals and to your own skills and background).
R is realistic (a goal should be a stretch but have some degree of realism).
T is timely (put a date on when you want accomplish your goal).
If you can articulate your goals using that formula then you’re on your way to success.
One of the biggest issues in time management is procrastination. Everybody but everybody is putting stuff off. I’ve run a little module in my time management seminars where we link people up, and that seemed to work. So we’ve taken that and turned it into a website. It’s called BuddyHive.com (you can follow @BuddyHive on Twitter); it inspires people to get stuff done by linking people up with random buddies across the Internet making them accountable to each other to achieve small tasks within about a one-week time. We’ve seen people getting their taxes done, bake a cake, somebody else got a major presentation done, somebody else got a new design done for a website. All kinds of all kinds of business and personal tasks that people were putting off are now getting done because they now have somebody to be accountable to.