Woman upset because she is double booked

3 Tips for Managing Consultant Calendars

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Introduction

Cream cheese, toilet paper . . . consultants? Yes, it is time to add consultants to the list of COVID-19 inspired shortages. Bloomberg Business reports “nearly 2-in-3 consulting firms say they’re short-staffed, and 1-in-5 are turning down work as a result, according to a survey from Source Global Research, which provides research and analysis for the professional-services industry.” This shortage coincides with a higher demand for consultants across most sectors of the economy. In fact, Business Wire predicted that global management consulting would grow from $819.79 billion (2020) to $895.46 billion in 2021. Again, this compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is heavily influenced by the pandemic as companies are seeking to expand services, hire individuals with specialized skills, and understand how the market will continue to shift in a (hopefully) post-pandemic world.  The shortage of consultants, paired with an increased desire for them, as well as the mass shift to work from home (WFH), means some consultants will be strapped with work. As a result, it is perhaps now more important than ever before for consultants to maintain robust organizational skills as they seek to balance a multitude of clients, potentially both near and far (even Forbes proclaimed: “Calendar management is integral to preserving the well-being of individuals and optimizing the productivity of the collective workforce.”) With this in mind, below we reveal how enhanced organization, specifically calendar management, can reduce common pain points consultants often face.

Pain Points & Solutions for Consultant Calendars

Consultants must be highly organized given the need to balance multiple clients and their data, the high expectations from paying clients, and the required networking to secure future clients. Maintaining robust organizational systems has been simultaneously made easier and more complicated due to technological advances. Consultants we spoke with noted three common pain points related to organization and scheduling: balancing multiple calendars due to working with multiple clients (and their personal lives), keeping calendars up to date in order to avoid double booking, and managing the time-consuming administrative tasks of scheduling and booking clients.

Pain Point: Multiple clients = multiple calendars

Having different availability in different client calendars is a recipe for disaster

Dylan Kissane, founder of scriblr.fr and an independent marketing consultant, notes: “Trying to schedule a meeting when you have at least three different calendars is a problem. In my case, I had an Outlook Calendar at one client, a Google Calendar at another, and my own Google Calendar for my business. Keeping all of those calendars in sync was a major hassle…”

Solution: Sync calendars for accurate availability in all calendars

Calendar syncing across multiple calendars eliminated Kissane’s frustration: “With CalendarBridge, I can set up syncing so that my primary calendar is always up to date. If an event is added to my Office 365 calendar or a different Google calendar, it instantly syncs to the primary calendar. If the event is shifted or deleted, it is gone from my primary calendar, too.” “For just a few dollars a month, I am less frustrated and more confident that the calendar I am looking at is the same one that my clients see, no matter what platform they are using.”

Consistent availability across all your client calendars makes life easier for you and your clients

Having accurate availability in all your calendars is a best practice when it comes to organization. This sentiment is echoed in techrepublic: “For a long time, my wife kept a separate calendar for family matters, and I only kept work-related items on my calendar. That was disastrous. I’d never remember to consult her schedule before making commitments to mine. She still keeps her own calendar, but anything that involves me in the slightest gets put on my integrated calendar as well.” 

Pain point: double bookings and other time management conundrums

As a busy consultant, trying to balance commitments to your clients, friends and family, and your own wellness can often feel overwhelming – like a house of cards waiting to collapse

Solution: Proactively block off time

Calendar blocking is a simple technique with the ability to save your sanity as a busy consultant by both supporting work-life balance and increasing your productivity and focus. Blocking time to work on a specific task breaks the cycle of interruptions and distractions that are the hallmark of modern work and allows us to focus on the most-important tasks. As noted in Entrepreneur, “blocking time on our calendars encourages us to work on a specific task at a time. This not only prevents us from multitasking, it also allows us to have single focus on what we’re doing at the moment so that we can accomplish more in less time.” Proactively setting aside focused time for specific work and personal tasks results in happier clients and a happier you.

Because manually blocking off time on each of your calendars can be time-consuming and error prone, using a calendar sync tool such as CalendarBridge is recommended to ensure that time blocked on one of your calendars is automatically blocked on all of your calendars.

Pain point: Time wasted to schedule meetings

Many consultants must also juggle delivering value and expertise with administrative tasks such as scheduling. Having to manually schedule each meeting through back-and-forth emails wastes time and irritates your clients.

Solution: Use a scheduling tool that makes it simple to share your availability

For clients that don’t have direct access to your calendar, scheduling pages make it easy to book time with you

Using a scheduling tool, such as CalendarBridge scheduling, can save time for both you and your clients by eliminating the back and forth email game and empowering you both to schedule based on current availability. In fact, this ability to take ownership of the scheduling process and eliminate wasted time is why so many consultants and external-facing teams (e.g., recruiting, sales, and customer success) have started using scheduling tools to make it easier to schedule meetings into their Outlook and Google Calendars.  Tools that help streamline the scheduling process while still respecting everyone’s scheduling preferences improve both the employee and client experience.

Additional Considerations for Leveraging Calendar Management Tools

  1. Select a tool that is as simple as possible – you are already busy, and perhaps even overextended. Most importantly, the tool should not require extra work or create frustration for the client. 
  2. Privacy and security are paramount – the solution must be secure to protect your information, as well as that of your clients. Security and data protection are integral parts of a consultant’s reputation and are, therefore, critical components of a successful consulting business. Choose a solution that asks for bare-minimum access to your data.

Take Back Control of Your Time

Research shows one of the reported benefits of consulting careers is “having more control over their time and more flexibility in balancing their work and personal lives.”  This benefit will be enhanced by leveraging calendar management technology such as CalendarBridge, which assures an organized approach to scheduling client meetings and supports efficient time management in general.