Today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics: time management. It’s one of those topics that is essential to being a successful accountant, but unfortunately, no one is teaching it correctly.
Let’s start with a few questions: have you ever felt like you’re racing against the clock? Like you’re trying to do a million things, but there just isn’t enough time? It happens to most of us
Think about the last time you had a loooong list of things to do. Did you ever wonder why it felt so overwhelming even before you got started? Is there more to it than just having lots of things to do?
Sometimes, we try to make everything absolutely perfect, spending tons of time on tiny details. Or on the other hand, we might procrastinate and then beat ourselves up afterwards. Do any of those sound familiar?
And how about this: your schedule is jam-packed with things to do, but you still can’t get it all done in a day. Ever felt that way?
Well, guess what? There are three tricky things hiding behind these problems that mess with our time management. They’re like sneaky little troublemakers!
I’ve been teaching accountants better time management for years, and I’ve noticed these problems coming up again and again. They’re like secret challenges that mess with our schedules and make us feel stressed and overwhelmed.
But don’t worry! In this episode, I’m going to shine a light on these hidden issues, look at them closely, and I’ll give you some tips and tricks to beat them. Whether you’re an accountant working for a company or even starting your own business, I’ve got some great tips for you.
I want you to know these secret truths about time management because once you do, you’ll feel like you have superpowers over your time management. No more feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day or being buried under a never-ending to-do list.
So, if you’ve ever felt like there aren’t enough hours in the day or found yourself overwhelmed by an endless to-do list, you’re in the right place.
Hidden Truth #1 – The Power of Simplification
Let’s begin by acknowledging a universal fact—we all have too much to do and not enough time. It’s a reality of our lives in this fast-paced, information-packed era. But the real question is, how do we respond to this fact?
Picture this scenario: your to-do list seems never-ending, your calendar is overflowing, and you’re constantly feeling the pressure of time. It’s a common experience for us accountants.
But here’s where it gets interesting. If it’s indeed true that we have more to do than time allows, what will you do about it? Will you, as author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss suggests, ‘ruthlessly eliminate the extraneous’?
Here’s the thing – simplifying your life, your tasks, and your commitments can be an incredibly liberating and effective way to regain control of your time. The key is focusing on the essential, refining your priorities, and making simplification a daily practice.
Think about it this way—everything naturally tends towards chaos and disorder, including our schedules. If we don’t actively work to simplify and prioritize, we’re bound to be overwhelmed by the chaos of life’s demands.
The truth is that simplification isn’t just about decluttering physical spaces; it’s about decluttering our schedules, our minds, and our priorities. When we commit to this process, we free up precious time and mental bandwidth.
Consider this scenario: your to-do list is so packed that you feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Emails, meetings, projects, and personal commitments all seem to be piling up, leaving you overwhelmed and perpetually racing against the clock.
If this resonates with you, you’re not alone; many of us experience this daily grind.
But here’s the catch – it’s not about how much you have to do; it’s about how you handle it. It’s about your willingness to simplify your approach. Let’s delve into this further with a couple of relatable examples:
One of my clients was dealing with back-to-back meetings, endless emails, and a never-ending to-do list. She used to think she needed to do it all, which led to exhaustion and burnout.
As we worked together she decided to take a step back and eliminate non-essential meetings and tasks. By doing so, she created pockets of uninterrupted time for focused work and personal well-being.
Another client worked from home and his workspace was cluttered with papers, old gadgets, and unnecessary knick-knacks. This clutter not only disrupted his concentration but also added stress to his workday.
As we worked together he decided to declutter his workspace, keeping only what was essential for his daily tasks. The result? A clean, organized workspace that boosted his productivity and reduced stress.
These examples illustrate that simplification isn’t just a lofty idea; it’s a practical approach that can transform the way we manage our time. By ruthlessly eliminating the extraneous – whether it’s unnecessary meetings, clutter in our physical spaces, or commitments that don’t align with our goals – we can regain control over our time and mental clarity.
Think of simplification as a constant companion in your time management journey. It’s about consciously choosing what truly matters and making room for it in your life. Remember, it’s not about doing less; it’s about doing more of what matters most.
Now, let’s explore some practical tips on how to start simplifying your life today. One of the first steps is to perform a comprehensive audit of your commitments and tasks. Ask yourself, ‘What can I eliminate? What can I delegate? What truly aligns with my goals and values?’ This exercise alone can help you reclaim significant time and energy.
Other tips include decluttering your space by going through your home or office and getting rid of things you no longer need or use. A clutter-free environment can lead to a clearer mind.
Another suggestion is doing a digital detox. Here you’re going to want to delete unused apps, organize your emails, and unsubscribe from newsletters you no longer read. A tidy digital space can reduce distractions.
The next suggestion is learning how to effectively prioritize tasks. My time management clients learn an incredibly effective tool called the Decision Matrix that helps you organize and prioritize everything you have to get done based on the ease and impact of the task. It creates momentum and streamlines your productivity.
The last tip is time blocking, but not in the traditional way. Most of us know how to schedule things in blocks of time on our calendar, but it’s our ability to follow through no matter what that makes all the difference. My time management clients learn my uniquely effective Container Calendaring process which teaches you how to get more done in less time.
It teaches exactly how to handle those moments when you do not want to do what was scheduled or you’re already feeling overwhelmed before you even get started.
Remember, simplification isn’t a one-time event—it’s an ongoing process. It’s about setting boundaries, learning to say ‘no’ when necessary, and focusing on the few things that bring the most value to your life.
Hidden Truth #2 – Managing Perfectionism
In many professions, especially accounting, a certain level of precision is essential. As accountants, we are trained to spot even the tiniest discrepancies, ensuring financial accuracy.
However, this meticulous attention to detail can sometimes evolve into unmanaged perfectionism, which can significantly affect our time management.
On the one hand, our brain is wired to seek perfection and precision, traits that make us exceptional at our jobs. On the other hand, this dedication to perfection can have unintended consequences.
For example, I worked with a coaching client who was an audit manager in a mid-sized firm. Her keen eye for detail was her greatest strength.
However, this strength often turned into unmanaged perfectionism. She frequently found herself poring over spreadsheets, double-checking every entry, and spending hours ensuring that every number aligned flawlessly.
While her dedication to accuracy was commendable, it came at a cost. Her meticulousness often led to extended working hours and constant stress, leaving her with less time for other essential tasks.
Another example is a small firm owner I coached. He was a tax consultant with a reputation for impeccable work.
His clients trusted their financial well-being to him because of his attention to detail. However, this commitment to perfection led to unmanaged perfectionism.
During the tax season, he meticulously reviewed every line of his clients’ tax returns, ensuring not a single deduction was missed. He often worked late into the night, triple-checking calculations and cross-referencing tax codes.
While his clients appreciate his dedication, he often found himself mentally exhausted, with little time left for anything else in his life. His pursuit of tax perfection made him feel like he’s constantly racing against the clock, causing unnecessary stress, impacting his overall well-being, and affecting his personal relationships.
While precision is crucial in tax consulting, finding a balance between delivering exceptional service and managing time effectively becomes paramount.
So whether you find yourself spending excessive time reviewing spreadsheets, double-checking numbers, or obsessing over calculations, the drive for perfection can become a problem if it compels you to go beyond the necessary, leading to overworking. This loop of perfectionism can consume valuable time, leaving you with less capacity for other things.
The interesting thing is that, on the one hand, when unchecked, perfectionism can lead to overpreparation, overwork, and an obsession with flawless outcomes. On the other hand, repressive perfectionism can result in procrastination, as the fear of not meeting impossibly high standards can paralyze you.
So, how can we manage perfectionism, particularly in a profession like accounting where perfectionism is often rewarded? Here are some suggestions:
Set Clear Standards: Redefine what ‘good enough’ means for different tasks. In accounting, some reconciliations may require near-perfection, while others can meet a ‘good enough’ standard without compromising accuracy. As I share with my coaching clients, know when B+ work is enough.
Prioritize and Delegate: Identify tasks where perfection is necessary and prioritize them. For others, consider whether they can be delegated or completed to a ‘good enough’ standard without compromising quality.
Challenge Negative Thoughts: Become aware of and change your negative thoughts associated with perfectionism. Remind yourself that perfection is unattainable and that striving for excellence is different from seeking perfection.
Self-Compassion: Cultivate self-compassion and self-acceptance. Understand that mistakes are part of growth and learning, and they don’t diminish your worth or competence.
Remember that perfectionism can be managed, and doing so can free up valuable time and reduce stress, allowing for more effective time management.
Hidden Truth #3 – Embracing Realistic Time Management
Picture this scenario: you have a mental list of all the tasks you want to accomplish, from work assignments to personal projects, household chores, and social commitments. You believe you can conquer it all, but time seems to slip away faster than you’d ever imagined.
Unfortunately, this is a common experience, and it often stems from living in a perpetual state of fantasy, believing that everything you want and need to get done is humanly possible within your available time.
Living without an awareness of reality is a scenario where you continually overcommit without acknowledging the practical limitations of time. You add one more client, one more project, and one more report, hoping that somehow, you’ll find the time to complete it all.
The issue is that this often leads to an unrealistic workload, missed deadlines, and the sacrifice of personal and family time. I see this time and time again with my coaching clients.
For example, one of my clients was a Tax Manager. During the tax season, he described his office like a bee’s hive, with a never-ending buzz of activity.
He took on any and all new clients, confident in his ability to provide meticulous service. However, as the filing deadline approached, his work hours stretched late into the night, and his weekends were consumed by paperwork.
He believed he could handle it all, often to the detriment of his well-being. He also lost some key employees because of his inability to see the big picture.
Another example was a client who was a forensic accountant with an ever-growing client list. She was known for her thorough investigations and reports.
However, she had a habit of consistently overbooking herself. Her calendar became a puzzle of overlapping appointments and back-to-back meetings.
Despite her determination to accommodate everyone, she often found herself rushing through important tasks, compromising the quality of her work.
The truth is that living without awareness of reality in the accounting profession can result in a constant battle against unattainable goals. It leads to stress, burnout, and a diminished ability to deliver the quality of work expected.
Thankfully, there is a solution. It begins with recognizing that time is finite, and there’s a limit to what you can realistically accomplish. It involves things like:
Realistic Scheduling: Take a step back and assess the practicality of your commitments. Be honest about how much time each task or project genuinely requires. Prioritize your most critical tasks and consider delegating or declining less essential ones.
Effective Time Management: As I tell accountants, there’s time management and then there’s effective time management. You have to learn more effective time management skills to allocate dedicated periods for focused work. This can help you regain control over your schedule.
Tracking Your Time: When I work with my time management clients, I suggest doing a time audit. That involves keeping a time log for a week or two to understand how you’re currently allocating your time. This can help you identify areas where you might be overcommitting.
Learning to Say ‘No’: Recognize the importance of setting boundaries and saying ‘no’ when your plate is already full. This allows you to protect your time and maintain your well-being.
By living in alignment with reality and understanding your limits, you’ll be better equipped to manage your time effectively and make choices that lead to more realistic and achievable goals. Remember, time is a finite resource, and the key to mastering it lies in being aware of the reality of how you allocate and commit to it.
The Smarter Accountant Way: Managing Your Brain For Better Time Management
Here’s the #1 thing that no one is teaching accountants about time management – before we can truly master our time, we must first master our minds. A managed mind makes it possible to feel less stressed and overwhelmed, to overcome procrastination, to not overcommit, to be more focused and productive, and to get more done in less time.
At its core, The Smarter Accountant Way recognizes that managing your brain is the cornerstone to better time management. It serves as the foundation upon which the other hidden truths we’ve discussed become not only attainable but also sustainable.
Here’s why:Imagine you have a meticulously organized schedule, realistic commitments, and a clear understanding of time constraints. However, your day is continually hijacked by distractions, procrastination, and a persistent inner critic. This is where brain management comes into play.
Managing your brain first makes better time management possible because of the following:
Improved Focus: By learning how to effectively manage your brain it improves your ability to stay present and focused during work hours. Brain management makes it possible to get more done in less time and reduces the impact of distractions.
Emotional Intelligence: Developing emotional intelligence is crucial for managing stress and navigating challenging situations effectively. The truth is that every accountant can benefit from understanding and regulating their emotions, which can lead to improved decision-making and more effective time management.
Overcoming Procrastination: Procrastination is a common challenge for everyone, but even more so for accountants. By addressing the root causes of procrastination, such as fear of failure or perfectionism, you can learn to tackle tasks more efficiently.
Building Resilience: As we all know, the accounting profession often comes with high-pressure scenarios. Building mental resilience equips us to handle stress and setbacks gracefully, preventing these challenges from derailing our time management efforts.
Self-Compassion: As accountants, we can often be our own harshest critics. Practicing self-compassion helps in mitigating the negative impact of self-criticism and fosters a more positive and productive mindset.
By incorporating brain management practices into your daily routines, you can unlock your full potential for effective time management. ‘The Smarter Accountant Way’ recognizes that it’s not just about managing time but also about managing the thoughts and emotions that shape our relationship with time.
This approach empowers you to navigate the intricacies of our profession while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It fosters a mindset that is adaptable, resilient, and conducive to excellence in both work and life.
Just know that The Smarter Accountant Way places you in the driver’s seat of your time management journey, offering the tools and insights you need to thrive in a dynamic and demanding field like accounting.
If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant or time management, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.
I’ll explain The Smarter Accountant 6-week Program and how you can apply it to whatever you’re struggling with.
That’s what I have for you, but make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.
Make sure you go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. You’re going to want to know if you’ve been underutilizing your accountant brain so that you have a starting point for becoming a Smarter Accountant..
Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast. The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.
The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.