For CPAs who face the ordeal of losing against time, here is something for you — a quick list of effective time management tactics. Remember, if you fail to govern the clock, you’ll get governed by it - Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel
Has it ever happened to you? You’re making your way through a big project for what seems like minutes, only to realize that it’s already been five hours? Or you’ve been running around all day, shuffling through responsibilities, only to realize that you’ve barely made it through your to-do list? Both are a result of poor time management.
CPAs have numerous duties: updating accounts, analyzing financial reports, managing debts and more. With all of these responsibilities, losing against time is only natural. But there are ways to tackle the issue:
- Track your time. If you bill clients by the hour, time tracking will help you keep a verifiable record of the time you work on their accounts. Even if you’re not billing them by the hour, tracking your time will help you identify your problem areas and create a plan to eliminate or reduce any shortcomings.
- Plan your schedule around your peak hours. Another benefit of tracking your time is that it helps you identify your peak performance hours. There likely are certain times when you’re more productive than others. I had a friend, a CPA (he was also my client) who, in the morning, couldn’t make heads or tails of his duties, but as the afternoon came, he was at his analytic and problem-solving best. You probably also have specific productive hours, and whatever they may be, try to plan your schedule around those times.
- Focus on one task at a time. According to a 2015 joint multi-tasking paper with authors from the Utrecht University, University College London and Lingnan University, IQ scores drop when people try to focus on more than one thing during cognitive tasks. Some of the participants who multitasked had a 15-point drop in IQ, leaving them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old. Imagine an 8-year-old filing taxes — horrifying, isn’t it? So, to avoid losing your IQ, do the critical, complex, urgent and highest-value action items first, and save the easier ones for later.
- Group your minor tasks and save them for later. Sending and replying to emails, filing documents and making phone calls are essential to achieve more significant tasks. However, you’ll fail to achieve the end goal if you spend most of your time and brainpower on minor tasks. So, to avoid getting sidetracked, you can group these tasks and save them for the time when you don’t feel particularly productive.
- Get organized. It may have happened to you a couple of times: you think you had a specific engagement letter saved on your computer, but you forgot in which folder, or you thought you had a client’s contact information but don’t know where it is now. Such circumstances can cause you to lose a significant portion of your time at work. You can start small — take some time at the end of each day to ensure everything is in place — and gradually build up your organizing skills.
- Delegate tasks. Don’t try to do everything. If you’re in a senior position, only handle tasks that demand your skills and expertise. Assign the rest. If you’re a one-person accounting office, you can hire a virtual assistant or a temp to help you during the busy tax season.
- Take a few breaks. You might get the urge to power through your responsibilities in a single sitting. But, experts opine that taking breaks between work has several benefits like improved memory, a boost in energy, less stress and increased productivity.
Time management is one of the fundamental skills that every professional needs to master. Those who do enjoy a significant advantage over others.