Time management techniques and practices present an interesting contradiction, in that in order to implement them, one needs to have the time to do so. Any accountant knows that time is a precious commodity and in all too short supply. Implementing time management techniques—while they may cost some time up front—can be critical in gaining control of a busy accountant’s schedule.
Here are some tips that can help you get that control:
It’s impossible to successfully improve a situation without properly understanding it. Understanding where the time of the day is spent is critical to gaining control of the day. Utilizing time tracking applications can record how much time is spent in particular programs or websites. These applications can help identify if time is being wasted on email, time-wasting websites, or other electronic distractions. For time spent in non-electronic endeavors, a time journal or even a simple notepad can help an accountant note how they spend their time. This doesn’t have to be complex, just noting the activity and time spent is usually enough.
One thing a busy accountant can do to improve efficiency is to look at automating whatever is possible. This can range from automating and improving billing processes, scheduling office supply purchases, or even automating direct business processes such as account reconciliation. The more work that is done automatically or nearly automatically, the less time the accountant has to spend on it.
It can be very easy to start on tasks in ways that seem to make sense but may not be the most effective. As new tasks arise based on the priorities of other people, they may all appear overdue. However, this may not be the best way to go forward.
The best process for the accountant? To take about fifteen minutes at the beginning of each day to prioritize the tasks for that day. Generally, an accountant is going to want to prioritize things that are urgent, must be done soon, and important; they have a significant impact. These items should come first. This short process also lets the accountant break down larger projects into actionable tasks. This fifteen minutes a day can save hours of haphazardly attempting to figure out next steps or work spent on less important tasks.
The Calendar Is Your Friend
When there is a task to be completed, put it on the calendar. This has three big benefits:
- This should help avoid meeting requests for those times. It almost certainly won’t stop them, but it should reduce them.
- The accountant will get a notification that can be a handy reminder that it’s time to start on the task.
- If the accountant works primarily from their email client, it becomes easy to see and hard to ignore reminder of what needs to be worked on next and for how long.
This helps time-box the task to the originally defined timeframe. It tends to be easier to work on a task diligently when there is an obvious deadline.
These are some relatively easy ways to improve time management in an accountant’s practice. None of these take much time and all can yield great improvements in how time is spent and how efficient the workday is.
Until the next time,