Time Management for Accountants (part 2)
4. Manage interruptions: don’t let them manage you.
There is an often-quoted statistic that the average worker experiences an interruption every 10 minutes, or approximately 6 an hour. This adds up to between 40 and 50 per day. Assuming the average interruption takes 4 minutes to handle and 1 minute to refocus, that’s potentially half the day that could have been spent on other tasks.
Of course, interruptions are often unavoidable. Instead, minimise the number of separate interruptions you accept each day in order to be more effective.
Some simple tips for managing interruptions:
a) Establish procedures for minimising direct calls. Have messages taken so you can respond to all your messages once or twice each day.
b) Use the admin team to screen calls and emails. They can then delegate messages to the right person for follow-up.
c) Introduce periods of time within the practice where interruptions are not allowed. For example, each day between 10am and 12pm may be set aside for quiet work on client accounts or other activities.
5. Manage client expectations proactively
Do you really know what clients expect from your firm? Every service-oriented business takes pride in the way it manages its client relationships. For all firms we work with, this means addressing client queries in a professional and timely manner. But if you were more proactive with the client relationship, the chances are you would have fewer queries and more time to spend on adding real value to the client relationship.
To manage client expectations more proactively, consider the following actions:
– Set the ground rules. Ensure clients clearly understand the terms of engagement up front. This includes scope of work and fees. Advise clients early if there is likely to be a change in scope.
– Inform the client that the firm has a team approach to their relationship. They should know who to contact for specific queries. They should know that the principal or partners are available for strategic advice, the client manager does the work and the administration team manage the process.
– At the end of every job, ask the client for formal feedback on the quality of work and communication with the firm.
– Develop your staff, especially client managers, to be able to understand their key clients better through face-to-face meetings and asking the right questions.
The challenge of changing behaviour
All of the strategies above are effective, however, they require us to change the way we think and to change the way we do things. Changing behaviour does not happen overnight. It can take weeks, months and even years of consistency and discipline.
Remember, time management isn’t about doing things faster. It’s about organising your time to make sure you give priority to the right things. Over time, you will respond less to issues and crises around you. You’ll find yourself spending more time focusing on tasks that add real value to clients and staff.