As an accountant, you’re probably well used to a fast-paced work day. In fact, you might well enjoy the busy nature of your work. But sometimes, keeping on top of everything – big tasks and small – can feel like more of a juggling act than ever. You might have sleepless nights, worrying that something vital is going to slip through the cracks.
Here are eight time management strategies that work … however busy you are.
- Reduce the Time You Spend in Meetings
While some meetings are going to be essential to your work as a CPA, others may not be quite so necessary. Yes, you’ll need to meet with the clients whose business you’re auditing – but could you cut down how many times you meet or how long you meet for?
When it comes to internal meetings within your firm, can you shift some meetings to be quick email or Slack check-ins instead? It’s easy to fall into a pattern of meetings because that’s how things have “always been done” … but even reducing a few 60 minute meetings to 30 minutes could save you a lot of time each week.
- Schedule Time for Administrative Tasks
A lot of your time might be spent reviewing documents and poring over the details of accounts. These tasks take time – and you should schedule them on your calendar, just as you would with meetings.
What if you struggle to correctly estimate how much time you’re going to need? You might find that it’s helpful to know how long it takes you to get through a certain number of pages of reports, or to go through a certain type of account.
- Have Specific Focus Times During the Day and Week
It’s hard to make much headway if you’re being interrupted by phone calls every 5 minutes. While you likely want to be responsive to your clients and fellow team members, that doesn’t mean being always on.
Figure out some times of the day or week when you can switch off your phone and really focus. Maybe 8 am – 9 am is a good time to spend each day on focused work, before most clients are likely to call, and before other demands start to take up your time. You could even try to block out a whole morning or afternoon for focused work, when you don’t take calls.
- Use Technology Effectively
Are you spending time doing things manually that could be easily automated? Or are you using outdated systems that are slow and clunky, requiring lots of work to simply enter data and run reports? There are so many software options out there to make your life easier.
That might mean using software like QuickBooks (a fully-featured business and financial management suite of tools) or some specific tools for different clients.
It could also mean using software like Zoom to streamline your day by minimizing travel time. If a client can meet over Zoom for a 30 minute meeting, that’s a lot more efficient than needing to travel 30 minutes each way to their office – tripling the time you have to devote to the meeting.
- Outsourcing to External Services, e.g. for Payroll
As a CPA, you can’t (and shouldn’t!) be doing everything yourself. It often makes sense to work with external services, such as virtual administrators, freelance bookkeepers, or others who can take work off your hands. For instance, you might use a specialized company to take on the role of a payroll service provider.
While it can seem like more work to choose a firm or individual and delegate to them, it’s well worth investing a few hours upfront to save hundreds of hours over the course of a year. Plus, by outsourcing less specialized work, you can focus on what you do best – and bill more hours too.
- Avoid Using Social Media During the Workday
Many people find that social media is a huge distraction … and CPAs are no exception to this. While it’s often tempting to quickly check in on Facebook or Twitter, social media can be very distracting – breaking your focus and drawing you into reading a stream of updates.
You may find it helps to remove social media apps from your phone altogether. If that’s a bit drastic, you could at least turn off alerts from these apps, so you don’t get a “ding” that sends you instantly reaching for your phone.
- Integrate Physical Activity into Your Workday
Taking breaks during the workday helps keep your mind sharp and focused. One of the best things you can do is to move your body. This helps keep you alert and it also helps to build your long-term health.
Something as simple as a 5 minute break to stretch and get a glass of water can help. If possible, take a longer break at lunch to exercise – you might fit in a swim, a gym class, a jog, or anything else that you enjoy. This can make a huge difference to your energy and focus levels in the afternoon.
- Set Goals for Each Week and Each Day
Every week, look at the projects you’re tackling and pick three big goals that you want to achieve by the end of Friday. Write these down somewhere you’ll see them every day, like in a post-it note that you can move between the pages of your diary or planner – or as an all-week event in Google Calendar.
Then, at the start of each workday, choose three small goals to complete that day. At least one of these should be related to your three big goals for the week. Of course, you’ll likely need to tackle other tasks during the day too – but the three daily goals you’ve chosen should be your priority.
Getting to grips with time management won’t happen overnight. You may have some good days – and some when you end up in endless meetings, or when you feel distracted and unfocused all day. Don’t be tempted to give up: keep applying the tips above, and you’ll soon start to see steady progress.