Few accounting and finance pros complain about having too much time on their hands. Whether we’re trying to get payroll in on time, dealing with tax due dates or just have a To Do list that never ends, time management is essential for delivering quality work by the deadline while making room for much-needed down time. Maybe you think you don’t have a spare minute to devote to time management, but time management is a lifestyle, not a quick fix for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and disorganized. Take a look at these five time management tips for number crunching pros and work towards making them a part of your routine.
At the end of each day, create a list of tasks that need to be accomplished tomorrow, and prioritize tasks from most to least urgent.
When you get to your desk the next morning, start working on the most important tasks before you do anything else. Don’t open your email or take phone calls until you accomplish the most urgent tasks.
By creating a plan for the day, you avoid being reactive in responding to events of the day. Without a plan, the day is over before you know it and you’ll wonder where the time went.
A 2016 survey from Adobe Digital Insights found that workers spend an average of over four hours a day checking work-related email.
Many of us use the email inbox as a To Do list, then spend all day in there reacting to the most recent emails while other important correspondence gets moved further down the page.
Instead, schedule time each day to process and organize email. Set a goal never to close an email back to your inbox. Choose one of six options:
- Delegate it
- Add it to your To Do list
- Set an appointment on your calendar for it
- Take action immediately, or
- Delete it.
How many time a day are you interrupted by alerts from email or social media accounts? These little interruptions are a productivity killer. A study by the Danwood Group found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover from email interruptions, no matter their urgency.
Turn off notifications on your email and phone, so you don’t get a pop-up or a sound every time a new email or social media notification comes in. Only check email at regularly scheduled intervals.
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in meetings.
There are times when meetings are productive and valuable, but they can also be productivity killers if they aren’t well-planned and managed.
Every meeting should have a written agenda that is shared with all participants. Allocate a set number of minutes to each item, and be sure to stick to the agenda during the meeting. You may be surprised at how quickly things get accomplished when you stick to an an agenda.
When your workload seems unmanageable, taking a break may sound counter-intuitive, but that’s precisely the time when we need a break most. A 2011 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revealed that people who take breaks actually perform better than those who don’t. The reason? After a while, our brains become numb to the constant stimulation, and we are unable to continuously focus on important tasks.
Taking a short break to have a conversation with a friend, get some physical activity, or just watch an entertaining video can provide a much-needed boost, allowing us to get back to the task at hand with renewed energy.
Remember that time management is really self-management, so it is up to us to decide how to use the 24 hours we have in each day. Get in the habit of being disciplined and accountable for how you spend your time and you’ll soon find that limited resource being put to better use.