Management consulting is known to be a profession with a difficult lifestyle, tight deadlines, and frequent travel. Stress is a constant companion of the modern-day road warriors and top-tier consultants from McKinsey, BCG, or Bain.
Protect your energy
In order to succeed in the long run and enjoy the ride along the way, it is important to manage your lifestyle effectively. Below are several things you can do to manage/ improve your work-life balance.
Long-term measures to improve your consulting life
In the long-run (in consulting we are speaking about 1–3 months) choose the right projects to work on based on a thoroughly conducted due diligence on the leadership, team, client, client problem, travel schedule, etc.
You can circumvent the projects that do not fit your lifestyle needs more often than not. Also, make sure to have a team discussion on personal needs at the beginning of each project. This includes ways of working together, reachability in after-hours, core working hours where everyone is present in the team room/ at the client site, working from home office/ hotel, etc. Additionally, state and align your lifestyle needs such as dinner time, sports, and other activities with your team and manager.
Apart from that, I want to highlight the benefit of such things as daily meditation, healthy food choices, walking instead of taking the cab, using a standing table, etc. In the long run, they will go a long way.
In the end, it is all about protecting your energy and one demanding project might not kill you. However, there is a compounding effect, and the more stressful projects you do in quick succession, the quicker you will burn out.
Short term measures to manage your work-life balance in consulting
In the short run (on a weekly basis) make sure to check in on the lifestyle needs discussed at the beginning of an engagement. Consulting firms have introduced regular team surveys to gauge the development of the work-life balance on a project over time. Deterioration will be discussed with leadership to improve the situation for all involved.
In more extreme or prolonged cases HR staff and personal development managers will weigh in as well. When working towards an important milestone be mindful that hours could be longer and work could become more stressful. Being mentally prepared helps to manage expectations and stress levels as well.
On the other side of the coin, make time for nice team activities after such milestones have been reached. Celebrate success! Stay in contact with your friends and family throughout the week and make nice plans for the weekend to look forward to as well.
Lastly, make use of the flexibility consulting firms provide (and in turn expect from you). For example, even though you are traveling Monday to Thursday you can work from home on Friday and do not need to show up at the office.
Take extended breaks
Top-tier firms such as McKinsey usually offer the possibility to take additional days and weeks off between projects, on top of your annual vacation. Make use of it to recharge, go on a world trip, and just enjoy the prolonged time off.
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Florian spent 5 years with McKinsey as a senior consultant. He is an experienced consulting interviewer and problem-solving coach, having interviewed 100s of candidates in real and mock interviews. He started StrategyCase.com with the goal to make McKinsey more accessible for top-talent, using tailored and up-to-date know-how about its recruiting.