Time is money, and this is especially true for accounting professionals. The more efficiently you operate your schedule, the more money you’ll make and the less work you’ll have to do. Yet, time management is something that most accountants struggle with at one point or another, and something that almost all of us could stand to improve.
Effective time management for accountants means more money and more time to spend on the things that truly help to grow your business.
Time management for accountants is of paramount importance. If you feel like your schedule is getting away from you, try some of these steps to get it back under control and make the best use of your time:
Top Tips for Effective Time Management for Accountants
- Get your office under control. Accountants can waste all sorts of time simply trying to locate a certain engagement letter or to get a client’s contact information. Even if you’re not especially organized at heart, this is a skill you must develop if you want to make good use of your time. Taking ten minutes at the end of each day to make sure that everything is in its place will save you half an hour in frustration tomorrow.
- Get your phone and email under control. A single phone call can waste all sorts of time – in addition to the valuable time you actually spend on the phone. You can’t (and shouldn’t) discourage clients from calling, but you can establish office hours. Take a few minutes three or four times a day to answer emails and reply to voicemails and you’ll watch your productivity skyrocket.
- Track your time. Tracking your time has its own overhead, to be sure. However, it can be beneficial on a couple of levels. If you’re billing clients by the hour, you need to create a verifiable record of the time that you work on their accounts. Even if you’re not, simply tracking your time for a week or two can show you where your weak areas are and help you create a plan to eliminate or reduce those inefficiencies.
- Use a time management tool. For some accountants, a simple time management tool like Outlook or Google Calendar might be just fine. For those who tend to juggle a larger number of clients and a larger number of tasks, you might consider more in-depth project management and time management tools.
- Identify your natural rhythms. There are certain times of the day you’re more likely to be productive than others. You might get the bulk of your work done in the morning before the phone even starts to ring, or the afternoons might be your peak time. Tracking your time as mentioned above will help you identify those periods during which you get the most done. Plan your schedule around those natural rhythms.
- Reduce your paperwork. Accounting firms generate and maintain a large volume of paperwork. Some of it you’re required to hold onto for compliance reasons. Other paperwork you can eliminate altogether, and some you can convert to a digital format. Integrating digital documents into your workflow will give you added flexibility; pulling up a client’s invoices electronically is verifiably quicker than getting up, thumbing through a filing cabinet, and pulling out what you need. This also eliminates the risk of misfiling or misplacing important paperwork.
- Prioritize. You’ve heard of the Pareto principle – the 80/20 rule. It states, simply, that 80% of your results come from 20% of the effort. Identify those tasks in your business that produce the greatest results and put them at the top of your list. You can’t eliminate the 80%, but if it comes down to making a choice about what to cut out of a given day’s schedule, you know where to begin.
- Know when to say “no.” Sometimes, that means saying no to new clients. Unfortunately, that’s a surefire way to slow your business’ growth. If you’re finding that you can’t handle all of the work in your accounting firm, consider bringing in a partner or working with another professional to help balance out those busy times. Sometimes you have to say “no,” but make sure it’s truly necessary before you do.
Your productivity as an accountant relies on your ability to manage your time. Getting a handle on time management means not only that your business will run more efficiently, it ultimately means that your clients will get better service, as well. Put these principles into place and you’ll be surprised just how quickly your efficiency and productivity increase.
Even better, convert your billing methods to value-based billing. This becomes even easier when you add value to your client relationships through proactive tax strategies. Getting paid for the value you bring allows you to earn year-round premium fees while building better client relationships.
Learn more about strategies for time management for accountants. Become a Certified Tax Coach.