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Independent Consulting (IC) TIG Week: How Scheduled Personal Days Keep Me Going as an Independent Consultant by Alicia Kiremire

Greetings, AEA365 readers! A quick note: this post was originally published on July 5, 2023. We thought that the tips Alicia provides are so great, they deserved a second posting. Happy reading!

-Liz DiLuzio

Hi, I’m Alicia KiremirePMP, and in 2017 I became a forever fan of independent consulting. After all, I get to do meaningful work and have scheduled “Alicia days.” The freedom to protect my own mental health is why I stay independent; I cannot wait to tell you more. 

Lessons Learned

Personal days prevent burnout. My scheduled personal days started from a place of burnout. I, like many early independent consultants, said yes to every project. During a particular project, I knew I needed a break… but the next available day was two weeks away! So I blocked off that day on my calendar: Alicia day. This kept me going for the next two weeks, knowing I would be spending a day doing all fun things (or staying in bed) – whatever would fill my tank for the next project.

Then it happened again a few months later. Crazy busy, I scheduled another Alicia day two weeks away. Finally I realized… what if I scheduled personal days as a preventative tool and not as a treatment for burnout? So that’s what I started doing. Here is my system.

Hot Tips

Make a list of 5-8 activities that refresh you, that give you life. I got this idea from Christy Wright’s book Take Back Your Time. You will pull from this list when planning personal days.

My list includes activities like taking a long walk at my favorite park (pictured below), cooking a creative meal, meeting my college roommate for lunch in the city, and repotting my houseplants.

My “Alicia day list” specifically does not include responsibilities like medical appointments, car maintenance, or family commitments (but hey, if sitting in a mechanic’s waiting room gives you life, go for it!).

Use technology to build personal days into your life. I love Asana and use it daily. First, I created a new Asana task called “Alicia day.” I set the deadline to repeat every other month. In the task description, I pasted in my “refreshing activities” list described above.

When the Asana task pops up, it’s time to plan an Alicia day. So I look at my online calendar for the next week or so, and block off a day. Ideally 8 to 5 – I’m talking all day. I choose 3-4 activities from my list for this Alicia day; I want plenty of time to enjoy them and not be rushed. 

Don’t feel guilty. I tell people I’m tied up that day, and quickly follow with “do you have availability on Thursday instead?” No one questions it because no one knows (except you, now you know). But my clients stay happy because I keep doing good work for them. My periodic personal days sustain that work, allowing space for good ideas, brainstorming, strategic planning, catching up with old friends, enjoying nature – all the good stuff.

So what about you? When is your next personal day, and what will you do? If you don’t have the flexibility for a full day, maybe an afternoon. Let’s sustain ourselves so we can keep showing up for our colleagues, clients, families, and friends.

Rad Resources

Take Back Your Time by Christy Wright – This book showed me I was doing too many tasks. It helped me to set strategic priorities both for my business and my personal life, and then to spend my time (only) on things that align.

Asana – I use the free version for task management. Combined with time blocking on my Google Calendar, it helps me to add structure to the flexibility of independent work.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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