As you likely already know, good time management is crucial for everyone in an accounting firm. This post will show you how the most profitable firms and businesses organize their day to improve efficiency and productivity. I recommend trying this method personally for 2 weeks. Once you realize how much more productive you’ve become, hold a training session for your staff to show them how to implement it… summer’s a great time for these changes.
MINIMIZE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT REPORT TO YOU
For every person that reports directly to you, you’re going to get updates, check-ins, requests for advice, etc. These are all things that take away from your truly productive time that should be used to grow and improve the firm. As a general rule, no one should have more than 6 people that report directly to them, so restructure if you need to.
Brainstorm the best way to do this. For example, you could have all junior staff to report to senior staff, who can then report to you. If there’s more than 6 senior staff then split them into groups and have each group report to a different partner. Get creative, there’s no hard rules on how this has to be setup.
Remember, more than 6 people reporting to you is going to result in more wasted time.
MINIMIZE POP INS
Pop-ins are so disruptive to your day and your workflow. Instead, reserve a one-hour meeting/week for the whole firm if you’re small enough or for each department if you’re larger. This is the time when everyone can share their ideas and thoughts they normally would throughout the week in a “pop in”. These meetings will end up being way more productive and results-oriented than 20 short 1-on-1 meetings throughout the week.
You can also use this time to assign to-do tasks and assignments so that the problems that come up can be dealt with by the most fitting person for the job, instead of mainly you.
When you’ve decided to start using the 1 hour weekly meeting, make it clear that it’s to replace pop-ins and that they shouldn’t be done unless it’s an emergency.
TOUCH IT ONCE
I’m sure you’ve read this idea before in 100 different productivity books. There’s a reason- IT ACTUALLY WORKS and saves you time.
The rule is “If you touch it, take action”. Don’t open that email or letter or file until you’re ready to deal with it. Don’t waste your time opening the same email 4 times. If you’re ready to answer it then, that’s the time to open it.
Bonus: To get a better idea if an email is something you can deal with right now, insist on very specific subject headings for emails. That way you know right away what’s in it and whether you’re ready to deal with it. This can be done for inter-office emails and with clients.
This will prevent you from being reactive and help you focus on high priority activities.
There a lots of different strategies for writing To-Do lists and if you’ve already got one that works for you than you can stick with that.
Here’s the layout that I prefer if you’re looking for ideas:
- Before you leave at night, write down the six most important things to do the next day, each should be about a 1hr job. This gives you six hours of work with 2 hours of buffer to deal with any problems that come up throughout the day
- Rank each in order of importance – 1 being most important, 6 being least
- Re-write them in order 1-6 on the other side of the page
- Assign an actual time frame for each job (8:00am-9:00am), giving the most important activity the earliest time slot.
Here are some interesting stats about multi-tasking that you may have not seen:
- A recent Harvard Business Review articles says that multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity and increased stress (Bergman, 2010).
- When we shift between tasks we take 50% longer to accomplish a task, and make up to 50% more errors.
- We take, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages (NY Times, Microsoft study).
- When workers multitask their IQs drop 10 points (University of London).
You should understand that people don’t really multitask, they just hop sequentially from task to task and perform each one less effectively than if they did the tasks one at a time. Just understand that multitasking does NOT make you more productive. Instead, give your full attention to each task you’re working on until it’s done.
Laura Berthiaume is the cofounder of Email Stopwatch, (http://www.emailstopwatch.com), an email management tool allowing managers and users to passively track all the time spent in Outlook. You can reach her with questions at email@example.com