The bonus of an empty diary


Having spent my entire career till now on payroll I’m used to having a diary planned months and sometimes years ahead, mostly around the predictable and repeating cycles of large organisations. So,January and February always brought final budget meetings for example, and more often than not budget presentations to trustees.

April or early May meant a year-end review, and early September the first of many planning meetings for next year’s budget. If we weren’t actually planning a new budget we were at least thinking about the old one.
Sticking with all things financial, every month had year-to-date budget review meetings, and reforecasting meetings, as well as reforecasting review meetings where we tried to work out how well we’d done with last month’s reforecast (and how to avoid the same mistakes for the next one).


If the meetings weren’t about money they were usually about the people who raised it: Weekly team meetings, supervision meetings, appraisal meetings, training-and-development meetings. All this before campaign concept meetings, first copy, sign-off meetings and campaign reviews. And if that wasn’t enough, add in senior management meetings, trustees meetings, away days and strategy workshops.


I remember once working out that a whole quarter of a working year – about sixty days by my reckoning – was already committed to something before the old year was out.

Time it is a-changin’
Now though, I’ve got about ten days booked up, which gave me a terrible sense of alarm when I looked at the diary on the second of January. What am I going to be doing all year? It almost feels like I don’t do any work at all.
But the whole point is that a consultant shouldn’t have anything like the number of meetings that a senior in-house manager has to deal with. I’m learning that a consultant’s workload is often erratic and unpredictable because clients ask for help when they need it, and mostly this has nothing at all to do with the repeating patterns of the financial year.


So what am I going to do with all this apparently free time? The answer of course is that there’s nothing ‘free’ about it at all. It’s time to seek new contacts, new clients, more work and to build The Desired Effect’s business. It’s also when I’ll be reading the newest research, the latest best practice and trying to stay ahead of who’s doing what and with whom.
All of which any self-respecting senior manager should be doing as well. But of course they can’t, can they, because they’re in meetings until next Christmas.

Andy Taylor is a consultant at The Desired Effect.

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