“Time management isn’t about managing time, it’s about managing ourselves”
Did you know that a firm of 10 staff could create additional capacity of $50,000 simply by finding an additional 12 minutes per day per person? Why don’t accounting firms focus more on time management to improve capacity?
Accounting can be a very reactive profession. You’re reacting to deadlines, client queries and demands, staff issues, telephone calls, emails … the list goes on. In being driven by external factors, it’s very difficult to take control of the working day. Even allocating extra resources to workflow doesn’t always solve the problem.
More staff can bring even more issues in relation to training and supervision.
Below are five practical steps that are guaranteed to give staff more time to do the things that are important, not just those that are urgent.
1. Structure your working week
Effective business people take the time to structure their working week. This means setting aside periods of time to undertake specific tasks and projects:
– Divide your week into 10 half-day periods.
– Determine what general tasks you will focus on each period. You may consider allocating specific time to practice development, client meetings, team coaching, systems development as well as chargeable work.
– Understand that you may need to be flexible from time to time. Allow 30 minutes each period to address the tasks that will simply come up.
2. Implement the 4-D rule – Drop, Do, Delegate or Defer
The 4D rule is a great way of managing unforeseen tasks that come across your desk each day:
– Does the task under consideration require any action? If it doesn’t, then DROP IT. If it does, then decide how this task will be handled.
– If the task is urgent, important or both and can be done quickly then DO IT NOW. Use the 2-minute rule. If you have an action that can be done in 2 minutes or less, then just do it! Why put an item in your task list when you can just go ahead and do it quickly?
– Can you DELEGATE the task? Who is best suited to complete this task effectively? Remember to delegate as many DO IT NOW tasks as you can.
– There will also be tasks on your list which don’t need to be done now but can’t be delegated. For each of these tasks your decision will be to DEFER IT.
3. Learn to delegate effectively
One of the greatest issues senior staff of accounting firms face is effective delegation. There is no point in delegating if the end process takes longer than you doing it yourself. You need to:
– Carefully select what can be diverted to someone else
– Match the skills and experience required with the appropriate person
The biggest mistake most managers make is to expect that the person they have selected doesn’t need to be coached. Managers often complain about staff who appear unable to follow instructions, but really suffer from lack of effective coaching as well as documented procedures.
The point is that you have to invest time up front. Once this person has been instructed and mentored in how to do the job well, you now have someone who will do this type of work to the same standard as you.