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Navigating mental health in the workplace | Part 2 Rob

A career in consulting

My name is Rob Graham. I’m a Senior Consultant at Deloitte, where I work on designing organisations that are going through transformation in the public sector, the majority of which are driven by the impact of digital. I haven’t always been a consultant though, I have had a wide variety of jobs and this short blog is to written to share my experience and offer advice to people wishing the make the transition to consulting, with a focus on proactively managing your mental health and wellbeing to avoid becoming “burned out”.

What I didn’t want to happen!

Staring out as a consultant

I had many preconceptions about what it would be like to work as a management consultant. First and foremost, what on earth would I actually be doing? What did being on the bench mean? I’m supposed to be the expert, am I good enough to do this? All of these questions rear their ugly heads at some point or another for everyone. The important thing that I have learned over the last 12 months is how an effective set of tools and techniques can help to manage your own wellbeing first and foremost.

For my first project I was working away from home and whilst I had done this with previous jobs, it had not been for the same amount of time or with the same degree of intensity as now. It’s fair to say that I struggled to adapt to this routine and it took its toll on me, leaving me lacking confidence in my own ability and asking myself if this was this really for me. I’m pleased to say the answer to that was yes, but I to make a decision on how I was going to manage these types of situations in the future; I knew if something didn’t change quickly this cycle of events could quickly lead to me being burned out and unhappy.

So after a few conversations with some trusted friends both inside and outside of work, I decided that I would take 4 meaningful actions to stop this happening again. I’ve tried to put these into words below.

4 ways I manage my own wellbeing

  1. Ensuring that I focus on me first. Part of what I learnt is that to help other people, you have to have your own house in order first. For me this means ensuring I have a manageable workload, and learning that you can say no to things I still come out alive. Often, I felt that I would have to say yes to things, be that from a college or client otherwise X, Y, Z would happen. I was so eager to get involved, be part of something exciting and make a good impression. But the workload quickly mounded up, with the result being a collection of disparate tasks that left me going round in circles. So when I started say no to things, it did feel a bit uncomfortable at first but it was actually the right thing to do for me, my colleagues and clients because it allowed me to focus on what I knew to be valuable and stay engaged and energetic about my work.

  2. Planning time to reflect. Reflecting on events is not something that comes naturally to me. I tend to complete the task and move on. But one thing I have found really useful to challenge my own biases and negative thought patterns is to make time to reflect on events such as conversations or workshops that didn’t go how I thought they would, my reaction to certain things in the working day or even how I felt in response to certain things happening around me. Scheduling time, even 5 minutes, to do this has really helped me to keep my emotions in check and maintain perspective on what is important.

  3. Being more mindful. For me this has been the easiest to implement and most important too. Mindfullness has become a bit of a buzzword across businesses over the last couple of years but for me it can be simply distilled into 3 actions that help me become more focussed; being present in the moment (I usually wiggle my toes every now and then), being aware of my breath (taking a deep one every now and then), and using short guided meditations every now and then to help focus on what is important.

  4. Creating my own routine. I am a real believer of the statement “we become what we repeatedly do”. Humans are creatures of habit; we receive a cue, perform an action, and then we receive a reward. The nuances of habits is fascinating (and probably one for another blog post) but trying to have a set routine on how I manage my work and the activities outside of work that I enjoy has really helped me. One of these techniques is scheduling time blocks in the day or week to look at my e-mails, operating an “inbox 0” policy (for a great short read on this visit, and compiling a daily to-do list and prioritising these to batch tasks together (my cue), completing the tasks in order of priority (performing an action) and taking scheduled breaks (reward). A great productivity technique is the Pomodoro technique (40 second vid here) which involves breaking your day into 25 minute blocks and applying some rules and principles to ensure you don’t become distracted. For knowledge workers, being able to create your own routine is vital because guess what you’re paid to impart….. Your knowledge, not your ability to fire off 200 emails in a 3 hour period, or sit on mute on countless conference calls.

I hope that the above tips can help you whether you want to work in consulting or not!

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