My Secrets To A 30-Hour Workweek

In the fast-paced world of accounting, where time is one of our most precious assets, the idea of working fewer hours while achieving more might seem impossible. However, I’m here to share my secret to a 30-hour workweek. 

For decades, I’ve been managing my successful accounting career working 30 hours a week,  not by burning the midnight oil, but by understanding a better way to manage my time and how to manage my brain.  

The conventional belief that longer hours automatically translate into greater productivity is a myth I’ve debunked through my own experiences. In today’s episode, I want to share insights, strategies, and the transformative power of brain management that has allowed me to accomplish more than others working 50 hours or more.

Looking back, I can see that my journey into better time management started about 30 years ago after I had my first child.  I was working at Deloitte and there were no part-time positions, however, the Tax Partner didn’t want to lose me so he created the first part-time position in the office for me.

Because I felt so grateful for his recognition of my value, I made it my mission to get as much done in the 3 days a week that I worked at the time, as my coworkers did working 40+ hours a week.  Of course I got the sarcastic, “Working half a day?” comments when I left at 5:30 pm to pick up my daughter from daycare, but the Tax Partner reassured me that he knew I got more done than anyone else, so I should just keep doing what I was doing.

The funny thing is, I’ve learned so much more since then about better time management.  For the past 20+ years I’ve had 30-hour workweeks at my accounting job, and have also been able to write and publish a book, run a coaching business, coach clients, create 2 separate podcasts a week, and enjoy plenty of time with my husband.

How is this possible?  I’ve discovered that the key to success doesn’t necessarily lie in the sheer quantity of hours spent working, but rather in how efficiently we manage our most valuable resource—our brain.

Here’s the thing: More time does not equal more productivity.  In fact, more time often equals diminished quality of work and decision-making abilities. 

I want to help you make a paradigm shift—a shift that places emphasis not just on the number of hours worked but on the quality and efficiency of the hours dedicated to your work.

I’m going to be sharing the fascinating realm of neuroscience, exploring how the brain functions at its best and how we can harness its potential to maximize our professional output. This is not going to be about working harder; it’s about working smarter, and that begins with understanding the connection between our brain and our productivity.  

The Myth Of Longer Hours

I know there are books out there about working less hours, but I can honestly tell you that I haven’t read any of them.  Why?  Because what I’ve been doing for the past 3 decades has been working.

For many of us, especially in public accounting, our time spent is directly tied to the amount we can charge a client.  In fact, for many accountants, there’s a common idea that the more hours you put in, the more successful and productive you’ll be. 

But what if I told you that this belief isn’t true? Let’s challenge the notion that longer work hours automatically mean higher productivity.

Think of it this way: imagine you’re on a road trip. At the beginning of your journey, you’re full of energy and excitement. You drive for hours, making good progress. However, as time goes on, you start to feel tired. Your ability to focus decreases, and the joy of the journey diminishes. 

It’s similar in the world of work. At first, putting in extra hours might feel productive, but just like a long road trip, there’s a point where more hours does not equal more progress.

In fact, as I said before, since I’ve worked a 30-hour workweek, I’m able to get more done than anyone else, working less hours than anyone else.

Here’s the thing: When we work long hours without taking into account various factors that contribute to better time management, the quality of our work decreases, we’re more likely to make mistakes, we struggle to concentrate, and end up feeling stressed. In other words, we are creating diminished returns with our time.

The truth is that working longer doesn’t always mean getting more done—it can actually mean getting less done with lower quality.

Thankfully, by understanding how our brains function and taking steps to optimize their performance, we can achieve more in less time.  And when we can achieve more in less time, a 30-hour workweek isn’t just a dream; it can become a reality.

The Neuroscience Behind Productivity

As I often say in the introduction to this podcast, this is the place where brain science meets accounting.  And I can tell you that nowhere is it more important to understand brain science than when it comes to time management, productivity and achieving a 30-hour workweek.

So the easiest way to explain our brains is that they are like busy command centers. They control everything we do, from solving math problems to making decisions. 

The truth is that understanding the science behind how our brains operate can help us to literally work smarter, not harder. 

When it comes to accounting work, one of the most important things we need to learn is how to improve our focus.  Imagine you’re trying to build a tower with blocks. When you concentrate on each block, the tower stands tall and strong. 

But what happens if you try to build the tower while juggling, listening to loud music, and answering texts? It becomes tricky, right? 

Our brains work the same way. They love focus, and when we overload them with too many tasks, it’s like trying to build that tower while juggling—it gets shaky.

In order to improve your ability to focus you have to get clear about one important thing – what your brain is thinking, especially about the work that has to be done.  

As I shared in my book, “The Smarter Accountant,” our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings drive our actions, and our actions create our results.  If you want to get more done in less time, it all starts with what your brain is thinking.  

For example, let’s say you have a looming deadline for a complex financial report.  If the thought your brain is offering is something like, “I’m never going to finish this on time. It’s too much work,” you’re going to feel overwhelmed.

And when you feel overwhelmed, guess what happens?  You most likely procrastinate doing the report, avoid certain tasks, and constantly worry about not being able to meet the deadline.

And the result?  Incomplete or poorly executed report, heightened stress levels, and a negative impact on your productivity and overall work satisfaction.

But if you were to learn to be more intentional with what you’re choosing to think on purpose, you would be much more productive and be able to get more done in less time.

For example, let’s go with the same example of the looming deadline for a complex financial report.  If instead of letting the default part of your brain think, “I’m never going to finish this on time.  It’s too much work,” you could instead choose to intentionally think, “I can break it down into manageable steps” or “I’ve successfully handled similar reports in the past.” 

An intentional thought like either one of these is going to create a feeling of confidence instead of overwhelm.

And when you feel confident, guess what happens?  You create a detailed plan, break the report into smaller tasks, prioritize efficiently, and focus on one segment at a time.

And the result? A well-organized and completed financial report, reduced stress, and an increased sense of accomplishment.

In both scenarios, the circumstances remain the same—the looming deadline for a complex financial report. However, the thoughts, feelings, and subsequent actions are vastly different. 

By consciously managing your brain by choosing your thoughts intentionally, you can create more useful feelings and actions.  This, in turn, leads to improved productivity and the ability to get more done in less time.  

Remember, your power lies in how you choose to think about and respond to circumstances. 

Intentional Time Management

In the quest for a 30-hour workweek, you also have to learn to be more intentional with your time management.  This is not just for big projects, but for everything that has to get done.

Instead of haphazardly tackling various tasks or going down a to-do list, intentional time management involves making decisions with your higher brain; decisions about what needs to be prioritized, how long you’re giving yourself to get it done, what day, and what time of day.

But here’s what’s missing from everything you’ve ever learned about time management: As I said before, since your feelings drive your actions, if you want to be super productive so that you can have a 30-hour workweek, you have to be intentional about how you need to feel in order to get things done.

One of the biggest mistakes that accountants make is not understanding the power of their feelings.  If you are trying to get work done from the feeling of overwhelm, stress, pressure, confusion, or frustration, you are wasting a lot of time.

In fact, stress and overwhelm are the biggest time wasters for accountants.  Why?  Because those feelings lead to ineffective actions.

Let me share what happens when you feel stressed and overwhelmed, and try to get accounting work done:

Procrastinating:  Feelings of overwhelm and stress can create a sense of paralysis, making it difficult to initiate tasks.  Procrastination sets in as a coping mechanism, delaying essential work and impacting deadlines.

Spinning in Circles: Overwhelm often causes us to feel stuck or trapped, leading to a cycle of spinning in circles without making significant progress.  This perpetual motion without clear direction contributes to time being wasted.

Catastrophizing:  When feeling stressed, there’s a common habit called catastrophizing. This means your brain tends to make problems seem much bigger and scarier than they really are. It’s like turning small challenges into giant, impossible mountains. This way of thinking can make our work seem much harder than it actually is, making it more difficult to get things done efficiently.

Excessive Email Checking: The feeling of stress often drives us to seek distraction through constant email checking.  This not only interrupts focused work but also creates a false sense of busyness without actual productivity.

Avoiding:  Under stress, we will naturally avoid challenging tasks or responsibilities. This avoidance can create a backlog of work and contribute to increased stress in the long run.

Micromanaging:  Overwhelm can lead to a desire for control, resulting in micromanaging every detail.  Instead of focusing on the big, important tasks, you end up spending too much energy on the little things. It’s like trying to organize every single puzzle piece instead of looking at the whole picture. This can make your work less efficient and keep you from doing more impactful tasks.

Perfectionism:  Stress often drives a need for perfection as a way to gain a sense of control.

Striving for perfection can lead to spending excessive time on tasks that may not need such attention.

Indecision:  Overwhelm can create a sense of indecision, making it challenging to make decisions or prioritize tasks.  Indecisiveness can result in time being wasted on overthinking without concrete action.

Overcommitting: Stress often leads us to overcommit in an attempt to meet high expectations.

Overcommitting can spread resources thin, causing burnout and diminishing the quality of work.

Negative Self-Talk: Feelings of stress and overwhelm often accompany negative self-talk,  self-doubt, and imposter syndrome.  Engaging in negative internal dialogue can chip away at our confidence and contribute to a negative mindset.

Lack of Boundaries: Overwhelm often leads to a failure to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Blurred boundaries can result in inefficiency, as work may spill over into personal time without significant productivity.

Overworking: In an attempt to catch up or alleviate stress, we may engage in excessive working hours.  Overworking can lead to burnout, fatigue, and a decline in overall effectiveness.

If you could only see how much more productive and efficient you’d be if you learned how to manage your mind and be more intentional with your feelings and your time management, you’d be blown away.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Creating The 30-Hour Workweek

As I shared before, becoming a Smarter Accountant involves a paradigm shift—one that challenges the traditional belief that success hinges solely on working longer hours. 

If creating a 30-hour workweek is important to you, let me share some of the most important factors you need to consider:

Embrace the Power of Time Management Math: Here’s what I tell my time management coaching clients all the time: Effective time management is math, not drama.  Time is like money; it’s limited, and you need to learn how to use it wisely to fit everything into a 30-hour workweek.

Example: I think of completing a tax return in two hours like solving a puzzle. I just need to stay focused, avoid distractions, and plan my time based on the steps involved in completing the tax return. 

Know Your Time Management Personality:  Understanding your unique time management personality is crucial. Time management is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, so knowing what works best for your personality is incredibly helpful.  If you don’t know your time management personality, you can take The Smarter Accountant Time Management Personality Quiz at https://thesmarteraccountant.com/personality-quiz/

Example: I am a classic Early Bird time management personality so getting my most complicated work done early is the best use of my time.  In fact, when I work from home I sit at the computer at 7 am and get more done by noon then most accountants get done in an entire day.

Set Clear Time Constraints:  You need to understand that Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to the time allowed.   Setting strict time limits helps you avoid wasting time and encourages you to work efficiently.

Example: I decide that checking and responding to emails will take a maximum of 30 minutes, preventing unnecessary delays and ensuring timely communication.

Make Decisions Ahead of Time:  Making decisions before you start working is crucial. It’s like planning your route before a road trip. This way, you use the higher, executive functioning part of your brain to plan, reducing stress during the actual work.

Example: I plan as much as I can in advance, always setting up my future self for success.  The more decisions I can make in advance, the easier it is for my primitive brain to follow the plan.

Drop the Perfectionism Mindset:  Understand that perfectionism is a huge time-consuming roadblock.  You can strive for excellence but recognize when a task is “good enough” to maintain efficiency and avoid unnecessary time investment.

Example: I know that accounting is a breeding ground for perfectionism, but I also know that B+ work is better than time wasted trying to make something perfect.  If I want to get everything done in a 30-hour workweek, then done is better than perfect.

Shift from To-Do Lists to Calendaring:  Replace overwhelming to-do lists with a structured calendaring approach.  The truth is that your brain gets easily overwhelmed by to-do lists and you do not want an overwhelmed brain trying to do accounting work.  Allocate specific time slots for each task on your calendar, providing a clear and focused roadmap for the day.

Example: Using a calendar has been the most impactful thing I’ve ever done.  I prefer a combination of a paper calendar for managing my time and a digital calendar for appointment reminders.  I would not be able to get more done in less time without my calendar.

Prioritize Tasks Strategically:  The fact is, your brain thinks everything is urgent.  To avoid this, prioritize tasks based on impact and ease.  Easy/High Impact get done first to create momentum and then Hard/High Impact items go next.  

Example: Effectively prioritizing takes practice, but it’s so worth it.  The few minutes it takes to label and group things by impact and ease, the easier it is to clearly see what needs to be done first.  

Utilize Time Blocking Techniques:  Effective time blocking has been a game-changer for me.  You want to implement time blocking to create dedicated periods for specific types of tasks.

Group similar activities together to maximize efficiency and minimize the cognitive load associated with frequent task switching.

Example: The Container Calendaring process I came up with is my saving grace.  When I’m calendaring the things I need to get done, I’m making decisions about what needs to be done, how long I’m giving myself to get it done, what day, what time, but more importantly, how I need to feel to get it done.  It’s how I’m able to eliminate procrastination.

Embrace Optimal Focus Time:  Research has shown that our brain’s optimal focus time is around 90 minutes. Structure your work around this to be more effective.

Example: I will set a timer on my phone for 90 minutes so that I don’t get caught down a rabbit hole and then burn myself out.  I take short breaks, and then tackle the next task with renewed focus.

Delegate Effectively: Whether it’s at work or at home, you don’t have to do everything yourself.   Delegate tasks to others so you can focus on what you do best.

Example: The things I delegate the most are things where my time could be spent more wisely and effectively.  For example, sourcing out grocery shopping, clothes shopping, and meal prep have been incredible time savers. 

Establish Work-Life Boundaries:  You’re not doing yourself or your ability to work a 30-hour workweek any favors by not having clear boundaries.  Learn to set and respect time boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Example: This is something I’ve gotten very good at over the years.  When I say I work 30 hours a week, I truly mean only 30 hours a week (unless it’s tax season; I’ll work an additional 6 hours a week during tax season).  My boundaries around my time are clear and I have no problem setting them with clients, colleagues, or anyone else.

Monitor and Analyze Time Usage:  Regularly check how you’re spending your time. It’s like looking at your expenses to see where you can save money. Regular time audits help you make informed decisions about what needs to be adjusted or improved.

Example: You’ll be amazed if you do a weekly time audit.  It was so helpful to become aware of time spent on client meetings, project planning, and administrative tasks, allowing me to identify areas for optimization.

Foster a Culture of Efficiency:  Encourage your team to find ways to save time. It’s like everyone working together to make the workplace more efficient.

Example: Because I’m a Certified Professional Coach for accountants and I specialize in time management, I have the pleasure of coaching other accountants, weekly.  It is my passion to teach accountants how to be smarter and work smarter.  

Learn to Manage Your Mind: The Secret to Effective Time Management:  Hands down, the single most important thing you absolutely need to learn in order to have a 30-hour work week is mind management.  

Managing your mind is the ultimate key to effective time management. It’s about understanding and directing your thoughts and feelings, which directly influence how you use your time. When you can control your mind, you make more intentional decisions, reduce stress, and enhance your overall productivity.

Mind management involves recognizing unhelpful thoughts, reframing them, and consciously choosing thoughts that support your time management goals. I promise you that a 30-hour workweek isn’t possible without learning how to manage your mind.  

Making a 30-hour work week happen involves using smart strategies for managing your mind and your time, planning things out carefully, and focusing on efficiency rather than trying to be perfect. When you follow these steps, you’re on your way to getting the most out of your work time and finding success in a shorter amount of time. 

Just remember, the key is to work smarter, not longer.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I shared my secret to a 30-hour workweek.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tips.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, 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.

So 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.

When Things Seem Unfair

Let’s kick off this episode with a few questions that get right to the heart of the matter:

Have you ever felt like something wasn’t fair? It happens to all of us, and figuring out why we feel that way can teach us a lot about ourselves.

How does thinking something is unfair make you feel? Does it affect your mood or how you act? Sometimes, feeling that things are unfair doesn’t just stay in that one moment; it can sneak into how we feel and act in other parts of our lives.

Can you think of a time recently when you thought something was unfair? Maybe it happened at work or in your personal life. Pinpointing these moments helps us understand what’s behind our ideas about fairness, whether it’s in our job or with our friends and family.

Do you make decisions differently when you think something’s unfair? The idea of fairness can actually change how we make choices. It can influence our decisions, making them more about how we feel in the moment than what might be the smartest choice.

How do you usually react when you face something you think is unfair? Everyone has a go-to reaction, whether it’s getting frustrated, getting mad, or taking a step back to think. Exploring these reactions helps us see how we handle tough situations.

In what ways does feeling like something’s unfair affect your relationships, both with friends and at work? The feeling of unfairness isn’t just a solo act; it can affect how we get along with others. Understanding these effects gives us a full picture of how our ideas about fairness shape how we connect with people, whether it’s in our personal life or on the job.

So, as we dive into this episode exploring why things seem unfair and how it plays a part in our lives, these questions are like a map, guiding us to better understand our own thoughts and how they steer our experiences.

Here’s the thing – while things seem inherently fair or unfair, it’s still important to understand why things seem unfair.  Stay tuned because there’s a fascinating reason that will help you regain control when things seem unfair. 

Why things seem unfair

The most important thing to know is that our brains act like fact-checkers, always on the lookout for what it considers as fairness. It’s not just a preference our brain has; it’s a fundamental need.

Because fairness is a primary need for the brain, a sense of fairness can create a strong reward response.  Your brain responds to its interpretation of being treated fairly the same way it responds to winning money or eating chocolate.

On the flip side, a sense of unfairness can generate a threat response that can last for days.  This threat response is your brain’s way of protecting your survival, often preparing you for a fight or flight response.

In other words, when your brain perceives something as unfair, it triggers a defensive response. It’s your brain saying, “Warning.  This could be dangerous!”

I’ve mentioned this before on the podcast, but our primitive brain, the part that runs our life 80 – 90% of the time, has been with us since humans lived in caves.  The issue is that this part of our brain’s ancient survival instincts hasn’t quite caught up with the intricacies of modern living.

That’s why it’s important to understand that our brains have this default setting to, more often than not, see situations as potentially unfair, acting like an overly cautious friend warning us about possible bumps in the road. This tendency goes way back to when our ancestors needed to be on high alert for survival. 

The problem is that the primitive part of our brains haven’t fully adjusted to the nuances of today’s world. So, even something minor, like traffic or a coworker that’s slacking, can trigger this ancient survival mode, interpreting it as an unfair, dangerous situation.

Unfortunately, living in a world that seems inherently unfair is like navigating a maze with a blindfold on. Your brain, in its attempt to keep you safe, often interprets various aspects of daily life as potential threats. 

From minor inconveniences to more significant challenges, it’s like viewing the world through glasses tinted with the color of unfairness. 

That’s why understanding why our brains lean towards unfairness is crucial. Sometimes, this inclination goes into overdrive, making the world seem more unfair than it truly is. 

Think of it like untangling a ball of wires and charger cords.  By recognizing where these mental entanglements arise, you’ll be better able to restore balance and harmony.

What happens when things seem unfair

Now, let’s talk about what happens when our brains think something’s not fair – it’s like the ripple effect after dropping a pebble in a pond.

First, have you ever noticed how complaining can become a habit? In episode #20, I talked all about how complaining affects your intelligence so make sure you check that out.

The thing is that when we convince ourselves that life is a series of unfair events, it’s like playing a never-ending sad song. This constant complaining isn’t just background noise; it can become a never-ending tune that we listen to, day in and day out.   

Start picturing your brain like the person in the front seat controlling the radio dial in your car, only allowing sad songs to be played.  Because it’s always scanning for things that it can interpret as unfair and seemingly dangerous, it makes it challenging to switch to a more uplifting radio station.

The truth is that believing that everything is stacked against us can negatively affect our view of the world. . 

Suddenly, people seem more difficult, situations appear insurmountable, and life feels like a perpetual storm. The truth is that recognizing how our minds shape our outlook is crucial because altering this perspective can be a game-changer in navigating life’s challenges.

For example, let’s say you’re at the grocery store, waiting in the express lane. Suddenly, someone with way more items than allowed hops in front of you. All of a sudden your brain goes from zero to annoyed or angry in seconds.  It’s as if your brain has a fairness referee blowing the whistle at every perceived violation.

In situations that feel unfair, your primitive brain leaps into action. It’s like having a vigilant body guard that spots potential threats everywhere. 

I remember during my own coaching session, I was complaining about some situations that I felt were unfair at work.  The coach said to me, “Who says things are supposed to be fair?”

That question stopped me in my tracks.  What if nothing has gone wrong?  What if life wasn’t meant to be fair all the time?  Then what?    .

The key for all of us is to be aware of how our minds react to unfairness. It’s not just about the situation; it’s about how we let it shape our emotions and, consequently, our behavior. 

You have to begin to pay attention when you believe something is unfair and notice your actions and reactions.  Are they helpful or useful?

It’s about navigating the balance between our brain’s automatic perception of unfairness and what would be a more helpful or useful interpretation.  .

What to do when things seem unfair

Now that you know why things seem unfair and what happens, let’s talk about shifting your lens from “unfair” to “understanding.”

This starts with differentiating between facts and opinions.  How do you do that?  Well, if the situation could be seen differently by different people, then it’s not a fact, it’s an opinion; even though it seems unfair.

When deciding whether something is a fact or an opinion, it’s helpful to know that a fact is often boring and neutral; an opinion is often more dramatic and creates an emotion.

Facts are indisputable and could be proven in a court of law.  On the flip side, opinions are subjective and open to interpretation. 

Understanding the difference between a fact and an opinion is incredibly important because while we typically cannot do anything about the facts in our lives, we do have control over our opinion or interpretation.

Examples of fact-based and opinion-based situations:

Fact #1: You’re assigned a specific project at work.

Opinion: I always get the challenging tasks. .

Fact #2: Your friend cancels plans.

Opinion: They prioritize other things over our plans; it’s not fair.

Fact #3: You receive constructive feedback on a presentation.

Opinion: Others get praised, and I always get criticized.

As you can see, these simple examples show you that your opinions shape how you perceive neutral facts in your life.  The amazing thing about having a human brain is that you also have a higher part of your brain that can question your opinion of the facts and can offer you a different perspective. 

Awareness is the key.  This is what I most want you to get from this episode – things aren’t inherently fair or unfair; it’s how your primitive brain is choosing to think about the facts of your life that creates the perception of fairness or unfairness.

If the belief that life is consistently unfair persists, you have to pause and ask yourself a very important question – is that belief serving me? It’s about challenging the automatic assumptions our brains make and deciding intentionally how we want to think about things in a way that’s helpful and useful.  

For example, here’s how each of those scenarios I shared would play out if you just let your  lower, primitive brain be in charge:

Fact #1: You’re assigned a specific project at work.

Opinion: “I always get the challenging tasks.”

Resulting Feeling: Frustration and resentment.

Unhelpful Actions: You’d probably complain about being assigned challenging tasks, procrastinate or avoid the project due to the perceived unfairness, and miss the chance to showcase your skills and grow professionally.

Fact #2: Your friend cancels plans.

Opinion: “They prioritize other things over our plans; it’s not fair.”

Resulting Feeling: Hurt and anger.

Unhelpful Actions: You might assume your friend intentionally prioritized other things without considering alternative possibilities, pull away emotionally, leading to potential strain in the friendship, and create negative stories about the friend’s intentions without seeking clarification.

Fact #3: You receive constructive feedback on a presentation.

Opinion: “Others get praised, and I always get criticized.”

Resulting Feeling: Defensiveness and resentment.

Unhelpful Actions: You might ignore constructive criticism and miss an opportunity for improvement, constantly compare yourself to others, leading to decreased self-esteem, and develop a resistance to feedback, hindering personal and professional growth.

In each case, the resulting feelings and unhelpful actions stem from the opinion your primitive brain made about the facts. By recognizing and questioning these opinions, you’re much better able to shift your perspective, leading to more constructive emotions and actions. 

You have to recognize when a victim mentality creeps in, acknowledge it, and then decide if that’s the role you want to play in the story of your life. 

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Asking powerful questions

Here’s the thing about your brain: it’s like a Google search bar.  It loves answering questions.

But the most important thing to know is whether you’re asking an empowering question or a disempowering one.

For example, “Why does this always happen to me?” is disempowering.  “What can I do about this? Is empowering.

When something feels unfair, it’s easy to get agitated. But what if, instead of reacting, you responded with curiosity? 

I have found that the most powerful question you can ask yourself when things seem unfair is, “How can I see this differently?  It makes it possible for your higher brain to go to work looking for other optional ways to see the same exact fact, transforming frustration into curiosity..

I promise you, questions are the key that unlocks doors to new ways of thinking. By choosing the feeling of curiosity over frustration, you engage the higher, more rational part of your brain. 

Suddenly, the situation that seemed unfairly stacked against you becomes an opportunity to feel differently and behave differently.  

Using the examples I shared a minute ago, let’s see the effect of asking the question, “How can I see things differently?”:

Fact #1: You’re assigned a specific project at work.

Opinion: “I always get the challenging tasks.”

Question: “How can I see things differently?”

Alternative Thought: “Getting challenging projects could be an opportunity for growth and showcasing my skills.”

Resulting Feeling and Actions: Empowered, motivated, and ready to take on the challenge rather than feeling unfairly burdened. You would take initiative and be proactive in tackling tasks and challenges.  You’d be more focused and efficient at work, resulting in increased productivity.

Fact #2: Your friend cancels plans.

Opinion: “They prioritize other things over our plans; it’s not fair.”

Question: “How can I see things differently?”

Alternative Thought: “Life can be unpredictable, and they might have a valid reason for canceling. It’s not a personal attack.”

Resulting Feeling and Actions: Understanding, empathetic, and less hurt by not taking the cancellation as a reflection of their priorities.   You would recognize that life can be unpredictable, offer support and understanding if the person is going through challenging times, and understand that it’s not a personal slight but possibly a response to life’s demands.

Fact #3: You receive constructive feedback on a presentation.

Opinion: “Others get praised, and I always get criticized.”

Question: “How can I see things differently?”

Alternative Thought: “Constructive feedback is an opportunity for improvement, and everyone receives it. It’s not about comparison; it’s about continuous growth.”

Resulting Feeling and Actions: Open-minded, motivated to improve, and less inclined to see feedback as a personal criticism.  You would probably identify specific areas for improvement highlighted in the feedback, take proactive steps to enhance skills, and seek additional guidance or mentorship to further understand and address the feedback.

By questioning the initial thoughts and considering alternative ways of thinking of things, you can shift your emotional response from frustration and feeling unfairly treated to more positive and constructive feelings. 

This process is much more empowering than labeling things as unfair.  It helps in fostering resilience, personal growth, and a healthier mindset in various situations.

Instead of just seeing one side and assuming your perception is the only way to look at something, try turning it around. If a situation feels unfair, consider the other perspectives involved. 

Embracing different angles broadens your understanding and paints a fuller picture. For instance, in a disagreement, considering the other viewpoint can unveil insights you hadn’t considered, creating a more collaborative approach.

The truth is that, if you always see situations as unfair, you’re instructing your brain to find more examples of unfairness. But by choosing different perspectives, you rewrite the script. 

It’s like becoming the director of your life rather than just a passive audience member.  

The next time your knee-jerk response is to label something as unfair, think twice.  There may be something you are missing that could make a difference.

Remember, asking the question, “How can I see things differently?” will help you to engage that higher, rational brain, giving you a much better result.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I shared how to handle when things seem unfair.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, 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.

The Top 5 Things For Accountants To Unlearn

Today’s episode is going to be all about something that we can often overlook in our fast-paced world of accounting, which is effective time management.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—time management might sound like a boring topic, but trust me, it’s the secret to turning your chaotic workday into a well-oiled machine. As accountants, we juggle many tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities, and let’s face it, time is often our most precious commodity.

But here’s the thing: it’s not just about learning new time management strategies; it’s also about unlearning some habits that might be holding us back. Yes, you heard it right—unlearning. I’m not trying to add more to your plate; I’m here to help you declutter and streamline your approach to time management.

Picture this: getting more done in less time, not taking work home at night or on the weekends, and being so efficient that you get back at least 5 hours a week.  Intrigued? Well, you’re in the right place.

In today’s episode, I’m going to be exploring the top five things accountants need to unlearn when it comes to time management. These are the subtle roadblocks that might be hindering your efficiency without you even realizing it. 

So, whether you’re a seasoned CPA or you’re just starting in the accounting game, stick around—you’re going to pick up some valuable insights.

But before we dive in, let’s take a moment to understand why time management matters. It’s not just about squeezing more tasks into your day; it’s about working smarter, not harder. Effective time management can reduce stress, improve work quality, and even open up opportunities for a better work-life balance. And who wouldn’t want that?

Throughout this episode, I’ll be not only sharing what you need to unlearn but why your brain may find it challenging.  I’m also going to share some exercises that will help you to unlearn some of the things that have been getting in the way of better time management. 

I want you to get ready to challenge some preconceived notions, rethink your approach, and discover a newfound sense of control over your time. It’s time to unlearn, relearn, and revamp your time management skills. 

#1 – Unlearning the 9 to 5 Mentality

When it comes to time management, one of the first things we need to unlearn is the ingrained 9-to-5 mentality. For decades, the traditional workday has been synonymous with these fixed hours. But let’s dive into why this structure might not be the most conducive to optimal productivity.

Research in neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t operate like a clock. It has natural peaks and valleys of energy and focus throughout the day, known as circadian rhythms. 

The 9-to-5 schedule often forces individuals to work against their natural energy patterns, leading to a dip in productivity during certain hours. Recognizing and adapting to these natural rhythms can significantly enhance efficiency.

So, what’s the alternative? Flexibility and adaptive scheduling. Acknowledging that not everyone is wired to be most productive from 9 to 5 opens up the possibility of arranging work hours in a way that aligns better with individual energy levels. 

This might mean starting the workday later or earlier, taking longer breaks during low-energy periods, or even working in bursts of intense focus.

In a flexible work environment, individuals can capitalize on their peak productivity times, resulting in higher-quality work and reduced stress. It’s not about working more; it’s about working smarter.

Now, let’s get practical. Breaking free from the 9-to-5 mindset requires a shift in perspective and a willingness to experiment with your schedule. Here are a few tips to help you make this transition:

Identify Your Peaks and Valleys: Take a week to observe your energy levels throughout the day. Note when you feel most alert and focused and when you experience dips in concentration.  I am a morning person, so when I work from home, I start at 7 am.  Because it’s my optimal time, I get more done before noon than most accountants do in an entire 8-hour day.

Experiment with Flexible Hours: If your work environment allows, try starting your day an hour later or earlier, or taking a longer break during your natural low-energy period. Monitor how it affects your productivity and well-being.

Communicate with Your Team: If you’re part of a team, open communication is key. Discuss your experiment with flexible hours and ensure that it aligns with team goals and collaboration needs.

Implement the 90-Minute Rule: Research suggests that the brain operates in cycles of approximately 90 minutes of high focus followed by a brief period of fatigue. Structure your work in 90-minute intervals, taking short breaks to recharge.

Remember, the goal is not to abandon structure entirely but to find a rhythm that maximizes your productivity and well-being. By unlearning the rigid 9-to-5 mentality, you pave the way for a more effective and fulfilling work experience.

#2 – Unlearning The Downside To Multitasking

Multitasking has long been considered a badge of honor, especially in fast-paced professions like accounting. Many believe that juggling multiple tasks simultaneously is a sign of efficiency.

However, it’s time to debunk this myth. In the accounting world, where attention to detail is paramount, multitasking can lead to errors, oversights, and decreased overall productivity if it’s not managed properly.

For those of you who’ve taken The Smarter Accountant Time Management Personality Quiz and scored as a Multi-Tasker, there’s nothing wrong with your time management personality.  There are just some things that will make your time management much more efficient.

Common misconceptions include the idea that multitasking saves time and that it’s an essential skill for managing heavy workloads. The reality is that it often results in a lower quality of work, increased stress, and a longer completion time for each task, again, if it’s not managed properly..

Here’s what you need to know about multitasking – Neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t truly multitask; instead, it rapidly switches focus between tasks. This constant switching incurs a cognitive cost known as “switching fatigue.” 

The brain requires time to refocus and regain momentum each time it switches between tasks, leading to a decrease in overall efficiency.

For accountants, the cost of multitasking can be particularly high. The nature of accounting work demands sustained attention to complex details, making the constant shifting of focus detrimental to accuracy and quality.

So, how do we break free from the multitasking trap? The answer lies in adopting alternative strategies that promote sustained focus and efficiency.

Single-Tasking: This is where you dedicate specific blocks of time to individual tasks without the distraction of other projects. This allows your brain to fully engage with and complete one task before moving on to the next.

Prioritize and Sequence: Instead of trying to do everything at once, prioritize your tasks based on ease and impact. Sequence your work so that you can focus on one task at a time, completing high-impact items before moving on to the next. When I work with my time management clients, I teach them how to prioritize based on the Decision Matrix.

Batch Similar Tasks: Group similar tasks together and tackle them in a single session. This might involve grouping data entry, analysis, or report writing tasks. One of the best things you can batch is email.  It will exponentially improve your ability to focus.  Batching tasks minimizes the mental effort required to switch between different types of activities.

So here’s an exercise you can try in order to unlearn multitasking.  It’s called The Uninterrupted Focus Challenge

Try the Uninterrupted Focus Challenge for a week. Choose a task that requires your full attention and commit to working on it without any interruptions for a specific period—start with 30 minutes and gradually increase. Turn off email notifications, silence your phone, and communicate to colleagues that you’ll be unavailable during this time.

Monitor your progress and note any changes in the quality and efficiency of your work. You might be surprised by the positive impact of sustained focus on your overall productivity.

Remember, unlearning the multitasking mindset involves recognizing its cognitive costs and embracing alternative strategies that foster concentration and efficiency. By doing so, you’ll not only enhance the quality of your work but also reduce stress and improve your overall job satisfaction..

#3 – Unlearning Perfectionism

Perfectionism, while often seen as a positive trait, can truly sabotage us when it comes to effective time management. In the world of accounting, where precision is important, the pursuit of perfection can lead to things like analysis paralysis, missed deadlines, and unnecessary stress.

The brain’s role in this is fascinating. Perfectionism triggers the brain’s fear of failure, activating the lower brain’s need for safety and then leading us to not take necessary action. 

In other words, this response can lead to procrastination as the brain perceives the task as a potential threat. Understanding this connection between perfectionism and procrastination is crucial for unraveling the grip of perfectionism on your time management.

Needing something to be perfect is so threatening to your brain that it would rather you procrastinate than finish.

So how do you handle this?  Setting realistic goals is the antidote to perfectionism. 

It involves acknowledging that perfection is not only impractical but also counterproductive. Realistic goals are achievable, allowing you to make steady progress without giving in to the paralyzing effects of perfectionism.

When you set realistic goals, you also activate the brain’s reward system. Achieving these goals releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, reinforcing positive behaviors. 

This shift in focus from the fear of failure to the satisfaction of accomplishment is key to breaking free from the perfectionism trap.

Now, let’s explore some practical techniques to overcome perfectionism and improve your time management:

Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Instead of viewing a task as an overwhelming whole, break it into smaller, more manageable steps. This not only makes the task less intimidating but also allows you to celebrate small victories along the way.

Set Time Limits: Assign specific time limits to tasks. This not only prevents you from getting lost in the pursuit of perfection but also encourages focused and efficient work. Use a timer to create a sense of a boundary around your time.

Embrace the 80/20 Rule: Also known as the Pareto Principle, this rule suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. Identify the critical tasks that contribute the most value and focus your energy on them, letting go of the need for perfection in less crucial areas.

Remember, overcoming perfectionism is a key ingredient in mastering time management. By understanding the brain’s response to perfectionist tendencies, setting realistic goals, and implementing practical techniques, you can free yourself from the paralysis of perfection and enhance your productivity and job satisfaction.

#4 – Unlearning Technology Time Wasters

While technology offers incredible tools to enhance productivity, it’s easy to get caught up in time-wasting technologies that hinder rather than help. 

We often get caught up in checking emails too much, scrolling through social media, and being tempted by lots of apps that claim to make us super productive but don’t always deliver on their promises.

What’s interesting is that understanding the brain’s role here is crucial. These technologies often trigger the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine with every notification or social media update. 

This dopamine hit then creates a cycle of distraction, pulling you away from important tasks and eroding your precious time.

But while technology can cause us problems there are many time-saving tools and apps specifically designed to streamline accounting processes and boost efficiency. From accounting software that automates data entry to project management apps that keep tasks organized, the right technologies can be game-changers.

Again, this is where the brain’s role is fascinating. When you use technology to automate repetitive tasks, you free up mental bandwidth for more complex and creative aspects of your work. 

This not only enhances efficiency but also helps us to get more done in less time.

To make the most of technology without falling into the time-wasting trap, consider these tips:

Identify Pain Points: Pinpoint areas in your workflow that could benefit from automation or improvement. Whether it’s data entry, communication, or project management, technology should address specific pain points to be truly effective.

Test Before You Invest: Before committing to a new tool or app, take advantage of free trials or demos. Ensure that the technology aligns with your needs and integrates seamlessly into your workflow.

Prioritize Integration: Look for technologies that can seamlessly integrate with your existing systems. This prevents the need for constant context-switching, optimizing your efficiency.

Set Boundaries: Establish boundaries for technology use. Schedule specific times for checking emails and notifications to prevent constant interruptions. This helps in reclaiming focus and minimizing the negative impact on productivity.

Here’s an exercise to help you unlearn technology time wasters: The Tech Detox Challenge.

For one day, challenge yourself to a tech detox. Turn off non-essential notifications, resist the urge to check social media or emails incessantly, and focus solely on tasks without the interference of technology. 

Use this day to observe how technology habits affect your concentration and productivity.

Remember, embracing technology wisely involves recognizing the potential pitfalls of time-wasting technologies, understanding the brain’s response to these distractions, and strategically integrating tools that genuinely enhance productivity. By selecting the right technologies and setting boundaries, you can leverage the power of innovation to your advantage.

#5 – Unlearning The Procrastination Cycle

Procrastination, the notorious productivity thief, often stems from many psychological factors. Understanding these roots is the first step towards breaking free from its grip. 

In the brain, the higher brain, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and goal-setting, often battles with the lower, primitive brain.  When tasks trigger anxiety or fear of failure, the lower brain can overpower the higher brain, leading to procrastination.

Digging deeper, perfectionism, fear of inadequacy, and even a simple lack of interest can contribute to procrastination. Recognizing these psychological causes is crucial for developing effective strategies to overcome this common challenge.

So what can you do about procrastination?  Let’s explore some practical strategies to conquer procrastination:

Break Tasks Into Smaller Steps: The brain often perceives large tasks as overwhelming, triggering procrastination. Break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Completing these bite-sized portions not only reduces anxiety but also provides a sense of accomplishment.

Set Clear Goals: Clearly defined goals provide a roadmap for your work. The brain responds well to specific, achievable objectives. Write down what you want to accomplish, breaking it down into tangible steps.

Visualize the End Result: Create a mental image of the satisfaction and relief you’ll feel upon completing a task. This positive visualization can counteract the emotional resistance that leads to procrastination.

Building a proactive mindset is the key to efficient time management and breaking the cycle of procrastination. Here’s how you can cultivate this mindset:

Prioritize Tasks: Identify and prioritize tasks based on their ease and impact. Tackling high-impact tasks first can create momentum and reduce the likelihood of procrastination.

Set Realistic Deadlines: Establish realistic deadlines for yourself. I tell my clients all the time that they need to be kind to the future version of themselves that has to get this thing done.  This helps create a sense of importance and prevents tasks from lingering on the to-do list indefinitely.

Celebrate Progress: Acknowledge and celebrate small victories along the way. Recognizing your achievements, no matter how small, reinforces positive behavior and motivates continued effort.

Here’s an exercise you can implement: The 5-Minute Rule

Here’s how it works: commit to working on a task for just five minutes. Often, getting started is the most challenging part. Once you overcome the initial resistance, you might find yourself more engaged and willing to continue.

As I tell my time management coaching clients, the most difficult step is going from 0 to 1, not going from 0 to completion.  By just working on a task for 5 minutes, you create the momentum needed for the next 5 minutes.

Remember,  breaking the procrastination cycle involves understanding the psychological factors that contribute to procrastination, implementing practical strategies to overcome it, and cultivating a proactive mindset for efficient time management. By addressing the root causes and adopting proactive habits, you can transform procrastination into productivity and propel yourself towards success.

As I wind up this episode, let’s reflect on the overarching theme—the profound impact of our mindset and habits on how we manage our time.

Our brain is our intricate time management guide. Understanding its tendencies, from the dopamine-driven distractions to the anxiety-triggered procrastination, empowers us to reshape our habits effectively. 

Time management isn’t just about squeezing more into our schedules; it’s about optimizing the way we work to achieve better outcomes with less stress. It’s a dynamic process of unlearning outdated norms, adopting innovative strategies, and continuously refining our approach. 

The tips and exercises I provided are not one-size-fits-all solutions.  They are invitations to experiment, adapt, and discover what works best for you.

As you begin to implement these insights, remember that change takes time. Be patient with yourself, celebrate progress, and remain open to refining your strategies. The goal is not perfection but continuous improvement.

If better time management is something you’re interested in, I suggest taking The Smarter Accountant Time Management Personality Quiz. You’ll gain some valuable insights into your particular time management personality and how to leverage that to get more done in less time.

Simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/personality-quiz and as a bonus, you’ll also receive “The Ultimate Time-Saving Guide for Accountants.” This guide is a must-have for any accountant who wants to improve their time management.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I shared the top 5 things for accountants to unlearn.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tips.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, 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.

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.

Your Time Management Personality and Why It Matters

Today’s episode is going to approach time management in a different way than you’ve probably ever discussed it.  I’m going to be talking about your time management personality and why it matters. 

Now, I know what you might be thinking, “Time management personality? Seriously?” But trust me, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill productivity lecture. I’m going to explore how your unique time management personality can make or break your success.

Let’s start by considering a few questions:

Do you find yourself hitting the snooze button every morning, or are you up with the birds, ready to conquer the day? Which one are you?

Do you consider yourself a multitasking expert, or do you prefer to take things one step at a time? What’s your go-to strategy for managing your workload?

Are you the kind of accountant who always lends a helping hand and thrives on collaboration? Or do you prefer to tackle tasks solo?

Here’s the thing – we’re not all cut from the same cloth, and that’s a good thing! Just like we have different approaches to tackling tax returns or working with clients, we also have distinct time management personalities that influence how we navigate our daily grind.

In this episode, I’m breaking it down into four categories: the Early Bird, the Multi-Tasker, the Deliberator, and the Helper. You’re going to discover where you fit in, what your strengths are, and how to use your personality to get more done in less time.

So, whether you’re the type who thrives in the early morning hours or the multitasker who’s got ten windows open on their computer right now, stick with me because you’re going to walk away with actionable insights to level up your time management game. 

It’s time to take control of your time by understanding your time management personality better., 

Stay to the end because I’ll be sharing a link to take The Smarter Accountant Time Management Personality Quiz.  It will only take you a few minutes and not only will it be super helpful in determining where your personality lies, but you also might be surprised at your quiz results. 

The Early Bird

Let’s start with the first time management personality category – the Early Bird. Whether you’re an early riser or you’d rather hit the snooze button, you’ll find valuable insights here

So, what exactly is an Early Bird? Early Birds are the early risers, the ones who seize the day at the crack of dawn and have everything organized before most people even hit “snooze” for the first time.

I am a classic Early Bird time management personality.  I get up around 4:30 am and actually enjoy it.

If you’re an Early Bird like me, you probably know the perks of starting your day early. You’ve got the morning all to yourself when the world is quiet, and it’s a perfect time to set the stage for a productive day. You’re already ahead of the game!

But what makes Early Birds tick, and how do they use their unique time management style to their advantage? Let’s explore both the pros and cons of being an Early Bird with some helpful tips.

Advantages of Being an Early Bird:

Advantage 1: Increased Productivity in the Morning

As Early Birds, we tend to be at our peak productivity in the morning. Our brains are fresh, and we use this time to tackle important tasks and decision-making. For example, when I work from home, I start my work day at 7 am and get more done by noon than most accountants do in an entire day.  .

Advantage 2: Ability to Plan and Prioritize

As Early Birds, we have the luxury of time in the morning to plan and prioritize. We can set clear goals and agendas, ensuring we make the most out of our working hours. As an Early Bird accountant, you might use the early hours to meticulously plan your client meetings, organize financial documents, and strategize your approach for the day.

Challenges of Being an Early Bird:

Challenge 1: Burnout Risk

While Early Birds have a strong start, we might experience burnout if we don’t manage our energy levels throughout the day. Pushing too hard early on can lead to exhaustion by mid-afternoon. It’s important to find a balance.

Challenge 2: Social Obligations

As an Early Bird, we can find it challenging to accommodate late-night social events or adapt to flexible work hours, especially if our work environment or social circle operates on a different schedule.  I’m in bed by 8:30 pm most nights so staying up late is very challenging.

Tips for Early Birds and Those Adapting Early-Bird Habits:

Tip 1: The Power of Morning Routines

Creating a consistent morning routine can help anyone become more productive, even if you’re not naturally an Early Bird. Start with what lights your brain up first.  I was able to write and publish my book in one year because of the power of my morning routine.  This sets a positive tone for your workday.

Tip 2: Maintaining Energy Levels

We need to know how to maintain our energy levels throughout the day. We have to avoid energy crashes by staying hydrated and taking short breaks to recharge. It’s all about pacing ourselves. For example, as someone trying to embrace early-bird habits, you could schedule short, rejuvenating breaks into your day to stay focused and energized.

Whether you’re an Early Bird or aspiring to be one, the key takeaway is that understanding your time management personality is the first step to unlocking your full potential.

The Multi-Tasker

Now let’s dive into the world of the Multi-Tasker. So, whether you’re someone who’s always juggling multiple tasks or looking to embrace a more adaptable approach, stay tuned because you’re going to gain valuable insights no matter what.  

What exactly is a Multi-Tasker? Well, they’re the accountants who thrive when their to-do list is a mile long and every day is a whirlwind of tasks. They are adaptable, flexible, and masters of managing the chaos.

So, what are the pros and cons of being a Multi-Tasker, and how can you make the most of this time management personality? 

Advantages of Being a Multi-Tasker:

Advantage 1: Handling Various Responsibilities Simultaneously

Multi-Taskers excel at handling multiple responsibilities at once. Picture this: you’re a Multi-Tasker accountant, and you’re coordinating a client meeting, analyzing financial data, and managing your team’s tasks, all at the same time. It’s like a symphony of productivity.

Advantage 2: Efficient Use of Time

Multi-Taskers can be experts at making the most of their time. They can shift between tasks quickly and efficiently, making them well-suited for jobs that require adaptability and quick decision-making.

Challenges of Being a Multi-Tasker:

Challenge 1: Risk of Overwhelm

Multi-Taskers can oftentimes find themselves overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks on their plate. Trying to do it all can lead to stress and reduced attention to detail.  Plus, there’s the issue with a switching cost; the time it takes to fully focus and engage when you’re managing multiple tasks.

Challenge 2: Reduced Focus

While Multi-Taskers are great at doing many things, they may struggle to focus deeply on a single task. This can lead to errors or incomplete work if not managed properly.

Tips for Multi-Taskers and Those Adapting Multi-Tasking Habits:

Tip 1: Identify When to Multitask

As a Multi-Tasker, it’s crucial to recognize when multitasking is beneficial and when it’s not. Save multitasking for routine or low-priority tasks, and make time for deep focus on high-priority work.

Tip 2: Using Tools and Apps for Staying Organized

Use tools like task management apps or project management software to help you stay organized. These tools can help you keep track of your many tasks and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Whether you’re a natural Multi-Tasker or working to develop some multitasking skills, remember that understanding and harnessing your time management personality can help you excel in your accounting career.

The Deliberator

Now let’s dive into the world of the Deliberator, the meticulous planners and analytical thinkers.  Whether you’re naturally a Deliberator or looking to embrace more thoughtful and methodical approaches, you’re in the right place.

What exactly is a Deliberator? These are the accountants who take their time, weigh every option, and leave no stone unturned when making decisions. They’re the analytical powerhouses who ensure precision in every financial endeavor.

So, what are the pros and cons of being a Deliberator, and how can you make the most of this time management personality? 

Advantages of Being a Deliberator:

Advantage 1: Making Well-Informed Decisions

Deliberators are masters at making well-informed decisions. As a Deliberator accountant, imagine this scenario: a client seeks your advice on a complex financial investment. Your careful analysis and thorough research lead to a decision that safeguards their assets and ensures a sound financial future.

Advantage 2: Reducing Errors and Stress

Deliberators reduce errors and stress by ensuring that every detail is accounted for. They prevent costly mistakes by approaching tasks systematically and methodically.

Challenges of Being a Deliberator:

Challenge 1: Time-Consuming

Deliberators can often spend too much time pondering decisions, leading to a slower workflow and potential missed opportunities.

Challenge 2: Analysis Paralysis

There’s a fine line between careful consideration and analysis paralysis. Deliberators may struggle to take action, constantly seeking more data or reassurance before making decisions.

Tips for Deliberators and Those Embracing Deliberation Habits:

Tip 1: Time Blocking and Prioritization

Deliberators can definitely benefit from a better time blocking process and more effective prioritization techniques. Schedule specific blocks of time for decision-making and use prioritization methods to ensure you focus on the most critical tasks.

Tip 2: Set Decision-Making Deadlines

To combat analysis paralysis, set specific deadlines for making decisions. Once you’ve gathered the necessary information, commit to a timeline for taking action.

Whether you’re a born Deliberator or trying to incorporate more deliberation into your approach, remember that understanding and embracing your time management personality can enhance your effectiveness

The Helper

Now let’s talk about the final time management personality, The Helper, or the team player and collaborator of the financial world. Whether you’re a natural Helper or looking to embrace more people-oriented strategies, let’s discuss this personality.  

So, what exactly is a Helper? These are the accountants who thrive on supporting others, working collaboratively, and building strong relationships. They’re often the glue that holds teams and projects together.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of being a Helper, and discover how to maximize this unique time management personality:

Advantages of Being a Helper:

Advantage 1: Building Strong Relationships and Networks

Helpers excel at building strong professional relationships and expanding their networks. For example, as a Helper accountant, you’ve developed an extensive network of contacts, making it easier to collaborate on projects and share resources.

Advantage 2: Achieving Goals Through Teamwork

Helpers know the power of teamwork. They leverage their support network to achieve collective goals. Imagine you’re a Helper in a busy accounting firm, and you’ve organized a team project that streamlined the financial reporting process, saving both time and resources.

Challenges of Being a Helper:

Challenge 1: Balancing Personal and Professional Commitments

Helpers can sometimes struggle to balance their personal commitments with their professional responsibilities. It’s essential to establish boundaries and prioritize self-care.

Challenge 2: Overcommitting

In their eagerness to help, Helpers may overcommit and find themselves stretched too thin. They need strategies to manage their workload effectively.

Tips for Helpers and Those Embracing Helper Habits:

Tip 1: Setting Boundaries

Helpers need to establish clear boundaries between personal and professional life. They need to protect their personal time to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Tip 2: Effective Communication and Delegation

Helpers need more effective communication and delegation skills. They can optimize their time by effectively involving team members and delegating tasks when necessary.

Whether you’re a natural Helper or looking to incorporate more Helper habits, remember that understanding and leveraging your time management personality can significantly enhance your effectiveness.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Making the most of your time management personality

Now that we’ve uncovered the unique characteristics, advantages, and challenges of the Early Bird, Multi-Tasker, Deliberator, and Helper, it’s time to tie it all together and explore how to becoming a Smarter Accountant 

To be a Smarter Accountant is to not just excel at crunching numbers but also to manage your time effectively, enabling you to accomplish more while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

When I work with my coaching clients in The Smarter Accountant Time Management program, here’s how I approach each personality: .

The Early Bird:

Your advantage lies in your productive mornings. To become a Smarter Accountant, you can:

Set clear daily priorities: I teach them how to prioritize their most critical tasks during their peak hours in the morning, ensuring they tackle the day’s essentials right off the bat.

Avoid energy drains: I guide them to maintain energy levels throughout the day with short breaks and staying hydrated, so they can sustain their productivity.

The Multi-Tasker:

Multi-Taskers, your adaptability is your strength. To become a Smarter Accountant, you can:

Master task-switching: I teach my Multi-Taskers to learn when and how to switch between tasks efficiently without losing focus.

Effective organization: I train them in the art of staying organized amid the chaos, whether through apps, task management tools, or project management strategies.

The Deliberator:

Deliberators, your precision is your forte. To become a Smarter Accountant, you can:

Set decision-making deadlines: When I work with Deliberators, I encourage them to set specific timelines for making decisions, preventing analysis paralysis while maintaining their meticulous approach.

Time blocking: I guide them to utilize my effective time blocking techniques to ensure they allocate time for decision-making and allow time for deep work when needed.

The Helper:

Helpers, your collaborative nature is your superpower. To become a Smarter Accountant, you can:

Balancing commitments: I teach Helpers to find the right balance between personal and professional life, enabling them to be more focused and effective in both areas.

Effective communication and delegation: I train them in the art of efficient communication and delegation to optimize their time while still providing valuable support.

Remember, becoming a Smarter Accountant is not about changing your core personality; it’s about recognizing your strengths, addressing your challenges, and finding strategies that work best for you. 

Tailoring your time management approach based on your personality is the key to achieving success both professionally and personally.

If you are interested in taking a short quiz to find out your specific time management personality, you can just head on over to https://thesmarteraccountant.com/personality-quiz/

It’s important to consider your time management personality and which techniques work best for you. When you discover which method works best for you, you will see a spike in your productivity, improvement in your efficiency, a sense of control over your time, the ability to get more done in less time, and an increase in the number of hours you’re able to get back

The truth is that understanding your time management personality will absolutely help you better manage your time.

Thank you for joining me.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights into your own time management personality. Remember that in the realm of accounting, being a Smarter Accountant means understanding who you are and making the most of it.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.

I’ll explain The Smarter Accountant 6-week Programs and how you can apply them 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.

Creating a Better Work Environment

Let’s talk all about how to shape a better work environment.  First, I want you to consider a few questions:

How do you currently feel about your work environment as an accountant, whether you’re a leader or an employee?

Have you noticed any specific challenges or issues in your workplace that affect your job satisfaction or productivity?

Do you believe that creating a better work environment is solely the responsibility of the organization, or do you recognize your own role in shaping it?

In the world of accounting, where precision, attention to detail, and complex calculations are the order of the day, creating a better work environment is not just a nice-to-have; it’s an essential factor that directly influences our quality of work and well-being. 

While the demands of this profession can be an issue, studies show that a positive work atmosphere can significantly impact not only our productivity but also our job satisfaction.

Unfortunately, accounting firms and finance departments have long grappled with challenges such as employee conflicts, increased complaints, and decreased job satisfaction. Managers often find themselves frustrated by declining productivity and unprofessional conduct. 

However, the key to understanding how to create a better work environment lies not only in recognizing these issues but, more importantly, in understanding who holds the power to create a better work environment.

Countless studies have revealed that regardless of generous benefits, flexible work arrangements, or state-of-the-art perks, an accountant’s job satisfaction and work experience are primarily influenced by their own thoughts and feelings. 

That’s why the first step in crafting a more conducive work environment is the realization that you have control over how you show up and experience your workplace.  Whether you are a boss or an employee, you do have control over creating a better work environment..

The critical lesson, whether you’re a boss or a colleague, is learning to manage your own mind and emotions and approaching your role from a clean, clear mindset. When you develop this skill, you present the best version of yourself, foster an environment that allows others to do the same, and remain open to personal growth.

The power to create a better work environment hinges on your ability to decide how you want to think, feel, and behave. It’s less about circumstances that aren’t within your control and more about how you choose to interpret those circumstances .

This episode is going to be all about the art of creating a better work environment, whether you’re a boss or an employee. I’m going to be sharing the key ingredients to crafting a work atmosphere that fosters success and well-being for all involved.

Creating a better work environment: When you are a Boss/Leader

Let’s start with the scenario where you’re the one in charge. If you’re listening to this, you’re likely not a horrible boss, but you might be looking for ways to create a better work environment.

You see, it’s not uncommon for leaders to find themselves in situations where employees aren’t getting along, there’s a lot of complaining, some job dissatisfaction, or maybe there’s some office gossip going on. Perhaps you’re frustrated with declining productivity or a lack of professionalism in the workplace.

Creating a better work environment as a leader begins with understanding that it’s not just about what you can do for your team; it’s about how you show up and experience the environment yourself. The truth is that your employees are responsible for how they choose to think and feel when they’re at work..

For example, let’s say you’ve got a team member who gets impatient when you don’t review their work quickly. You want them to be happy, so you rush to review their work before anyone else’s. 

But here’s the problem – you end up feeling resentful because you’ve given up your weekend to appease this employee, probably thinking afterwards that they should be more appreciative of your effort.

Here’s the thing – when you manage others, the most important thing you can do is manage your own mind and come from a “clean space.” It’s about learning how to handle your thoughts and emotions. 

When you master this, you become the best version of yourself, which, in turn, creates an environment that allows others to be their best selves too.

The truth is, you cannot control how your employees think and feel about their jobs. No amount of vacation days, fancy espresso machines, or flexible work arrangements can do that. 

The real power you have in creating a better work environment is in learning to manage your own mind. It’s about deciding how you want to think, feel, and behave in a way that aligns with the results you want in your professional life.

So here are some questions to think about:

Who are you being when you’re at work?

Are you happy with how you show up at work?

Are you seeking validation from your employees?

Do your feelings depend on others?

What does being the “best version” of you look like?

Creating a better work environment happens for you (remember, that’s all you can control) when you have open and honest communication and limit your own mind drama. Managing people is best done when you are making sure you’re first managing your mind before you try to manage others.

So, as a leader, remember that you can’t control what your employees think or feel about you or their job, but you can control what you think and feel about them. In other words, your interactions with your team are fueled by your thoughts and emotions. 

It’s not about being nice to manipulate their feelings; it’s about being nice because it feels good to you and, in turn, creates a better work environment for you.

Let me give you an example – I coached a senior manager at a mid-sized accounting firm. For years, she had struggled with an increasingly toxic work environment. 

Her team had been having issues with infighting and a lack of collaboration, and she often found herself mediating conflicts between team members. Productivity was suffering, and the general atmosphere in the office was far from ideal.

She was determined to turn things around so she decided to take a different approach. Instead of merely reacting to conflicts and complaints, she took a proactive stance. 

She initiated simple team-building activities, encouraged open communication, and provided a platform for employees to share their thoughts and concerns. Through one-on-one meetings with her team members, she discovered that several issues had been festering under the surface, including unresolved personal conflicts and unacknowledged achievements.

She was better able to address these issues with empathy and clear communication when she first learned how to manage her own mind. Because she was focused on what she could control, which was herself, she came up with the idea for a mentorship program, pairing seasoned accountants with junior colleagues to foster knowledge sharing and mutual support. 

Over time, the work environment began to shift. Conflicts reduced, collaboration increased, and the team started to appreciate her commitment to their well-being and success.

The key to it all was that by first managing her mind, she felt less stressed.  And when she felt less stressed, she showed up differently in her role as a leader.  

In other words, by creating a better work environment for herself, she became an example to her team and made it possible for them to create a better work environment for themselves, whether they chose to or not..

Key Takeaway: As a boss or leader, the key to creating a better work environment is understanding that the only thing you can control is your own thoughts, emotions, and behavior; you cannot control how your employees think and feel at or about work. 

Managing your mind and emotions and approaching your role with compassion and clarity is crucial. Remember that you have the power to create a positive work atmosphere by managing your own mindset and leading by example. 

Creating a better work environment: When you are an employee

Let’s shift our perspective and look at what happens when you’re not the one calling the shots but instead are a part of the team – you’re the employee. You probably spend a significant portion of your waking hours at work, so it’s worth figuring out how to make that environment the best it can be.

As we all know, in the world of accounting, the demands can be considerable, and the hours can be long. You probably find yourself working with colleagues more than you see your own family, especially during busier times of the year like tax season. 

Sometimes, the office might even feel like your second home. So, how can you, as an employee, make your work environment more inspiring, nurturing, and enjoyable? 

It turns out, you have more power than you might think.

The truth is that when you work for someone else, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that you have limited control over your work environment. You might think you’re at the mercy of the company, your boss, or your coworkers to set the tone of the office. 

The problem is that this belief can lead to frustration and stress, and you might even start exploring job opportunities elsewhere, thinking the “toxic” work environment is beyond your control.

But here’s the thing – the power to create a better work environment is not out of your hands. It’s in your head, in the way you manage your thoughts and feelings about your job, and in the way you choose to show up at work and even when you’re not there.

The first step to creating a better work environment is getting clear about who you want to be, regardless of anyone or anything else. 

In other words, imagine your “dream job” – you’re doing the work you want, you have the perfect boss, and you’re surrounded by fantastic colleagues. Now, think about how that dream job would make you feel, how you’d approach your work differently, and whether you’d be proud of the way you show up each day.

For example, picture yourself in that dream job where you’re recognized for your expertise, and your boss values your contributions. How would you feel? 

You’d probably feel confident, motivated, and engaged. In that ideal scenario, you’d approach your work with enthusiasm, always looking for ways to excel and grow. You’d take pride in your work, knowing that you’re making a meaningful impact.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for your dream job to experience those feelings, do better work, and feel proud of your daily contributions. The only difference between your current job and that dream job are your thoughts.

As I’ve shared before on this podcast, your job is just a neutral circumstance; it’s your thoughts about your job or your work environment that create your feelings.

The second step in creating a better work environment is being willing to let go of all the excuses you’ve been holding onto. Whether it’s your boss not recognizing your hard work or your coworkers not being the best of friends, your work environment’s experience isn’t determined by them; it’s determined by you.

You may have heard the saying, “You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control your reactions.” This holds true in the workplace. 

Your boss’s lack of recognition, your coworker’s indifference, or the overall office atmosphere doesn’t have to define your experience.

Now that you’re aware of what’s been shaping your work environment, the final step is deciding what you want your experience to be. This is where you take your power back:

If you want to feel like a valuable employee, imagine what that valuable employee would be thinking and doing. They might consistently produce high-quality work, actively participate in team discussions, and seek opportunities to contribute.

Or let’s say you want to feel respected by your boss, then imagine what a respected employee would be thinking and how they’d perform their job. They might proactively communicate, take initiative, and consistently meet or exceed expectations.

If you want to feel a connection with your coworkers, imagine what a connected employee would be thinking and how they’d interact with their colleagues. They might engage in open and supportive communication, seek common ground, and cultivate positive working relationships.

Let me give you an example of a client.  He was an accountant working in a corporate finance department. 

For a while, he had been feeling undervalued and overlooked at work. His contributions often went unnoticed, and he felt like just another number at the company.  His coworkers, although pleasant, didn’t seem particularly interested in building personal connections.

Rather than waiting for recognition to come his way, he decided to take matters into his own hands. With my help, he recognized that his mindset was key to changing his work environment. 

He started by actively participating in team meetings, offering fresh ideas, and volunteering to take on challenging projects. He took the initiative to communicate with his supervisor more frequently, not to complain but to share his progress, seek feedback, and discuss opportunities for growth.

In his interactions with coworkers, he shifted from a passive observer to an engaged team member. He began showing genuine interest in their work and personal lives. 

He initiated conversations, asking about their weekend plans and hobbies, and actively listened when they shared their thoughts and concerns. His proactive approach led to more open and supportive communication with his colleagues.

Over time, his efforts paid off. His supervisor noticed his improved performance and dedication, and he was given more responsibilities and recognition. 

By actively engaging with his colleagues, he created a warmer and more collaborative work environment where teamwork and mutual support thrived.

The truth is that creating a better work environment is within your control when you stop blaming your current situation on others. Remember, people don’t make you feel negative emotions; it’s your thoughts about people that do. 

Remember, circumstances don’t have to change for you to feel better; you feel better when you change your beliefs about your circumstances.

By choosing thoughts that serve you, like “This company is lucky to have me” or “I respect the role I play on this team,” those thoughts can create a better work environment for you, no matter where you are or who you work with. Imagine how that would transform your work environment!

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Creating the best work environment you can

So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your career as an accountant, you know that the demands of this profession can sometimes feel like a non-stop rollercoaster. But there’s a secret to success that goes beyond just crunching the numbers – it’s about creating the best work environment you can, and it’s backed by brain science.

The thing is that your brain is constantly taking in information and making decisions. One part of your brain, the lower, primitive brain, the part I refer to as the Toddler, is like your built-in alarm system. 

It’s always on the lookout for threats and can make you feel stressed or anxious when it senses danger, even if that “danger” is just a tight deadline or a challenging client.

But here’s the good news: you also have a higher brain, the prefrontal cortex, the part I refer to as the Supervising Parent, and it’s responsible for thinking, reasoning, and decision-making. This part of your brain can help you stay calm, focused, and positive, even when the primitive brain is sounding the alarm.

So here are some examples of using brain science for a better work environment:

Handling Tight Deadlines: Imagine you’re faced with a tight deadline, and your Toddler brain is in full alert mode, causing stress. Here’s where brain science comes in. Instead of panicking, you can engage your higher brain, the Supervising Parent, by breaking down the task into smaller, manageable steps. This not only helps you stay organized but also reduces stress and enhances your work environment.  The less stress you feel, the easier it is to feel better about your job.

Dealing with Difficult Colleagues: We all have those colleagues who can be challenging to work with. Brain science tells us that you can choose how you react. Instead of letting their behavior trigger stress, learn how to engage your higher brain to respond with patience and understanding. By doing so, you can help create a more harmonious work environment.

Seeking Feedback: Lastly, when you actively seek feedback, you’re using your higher brain to improve your skills. Even if the feedback is critical, approach it with a growth mindset. This means seeing it as an opportunity for development rather than a personal attack. It not only makes you a Smarter Accountant but also fosters a work environment where growth and improvement are valued.

Now that you have some examples of using brain science for a better work environment, let me give you some additional practical tips for creating a positive work environment:

Stay Organized: Use your higher, Supervising Parent part of your brain to plan and organize your work. Break tasks into manageable chunks, set priorities, create a to-do list, and then calendar everything on that to-do list. Side note: do not work off a to-do list because it’s incredibly overwhelming to your brain.  By staying organized, this not only reduces stress but also enhances your productivity and work experience.

Communication is Key: Engage in open and honest communication with your colleagues and supervisors. By discussing challenges and seeking solutions, you create a work environment where issues can be addressed constructively.  Begin to pay attention to your complaining and gossip, and make conscious efforts to curb them both.

Embrace Lifelong Learning: Keep your brain engaged by embracing lifelong learning. Listen to podcasts like this, attend workshops and webinars, or seek out coaches and mentors. Take programs like I offer with The Smarter Accountant Programs, teaching you how to manage your mind so that you can manage everything else.  My program will not only make you a Smarter Accountant, but it also fosters a work environment that values growth and development.

In a nutshell, becoming a Smarter Accountant means not only mastering the numbers but also understanding the brain science behind creating a better work environment. By engaging your higher brain more often, you can tackle challenges, handle stress, and foster a work environment where productivity and well-being go hand in hand. 

Now go use that smart bran of yours to make a better work environment for yourself.  

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me on this exploration of how to create a better work environment. I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools you can apply this week.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, 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.

How To Create More Time

Let’s talk all about how to create more hours in the day.  Teaching better time management to accountants is one of my superpowers.  It’s also why I’ve been able to have stress-free tax seasons.

Time management is a topic I’ll probably be discussing often on this podcast, but for now, I want to start by asking you to consider a few questions:

Have you ever found yourself wishing for more hours in a day? What would you like to do with that extra time?

What are your top time-related challenges as an accountant?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with your workload? How do you usually cope with it?

What’s your relationship with time like? Is it your friend, a foe, or something in between?

As accountants, I think we all have a love/hate relationship with time.  Most of us have said things like, “I don’t have enough time,” “There simply aren’t enough hours in the day,” or perhaps, “I wish I had more time for the family.” Sound familiar?

You’ve probably experienced the relentless ticking of the clock, especially during frenzied tax seasons, quarterly reports, or year-end audits. 

The funny thing about time is that, on the one hand, it can be your worst enemy, adding stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. But on the other hand, it can also be your best friend, offering you moments of rest and satisfaction. 

In today’s episode I want to help you turn time into your most loyal ally.

The truth is that your struggle with time isn’t unique to you; it’s a universal challenge within the accounting profession. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your accounting journey, the battle against the clock is real. 

I’m going to be diving into the complexities of your relationship with time and uncover the two main culprits behind time wastage: overwhelm and perfectionism. By understanding these issues, you can regain control and create more time for yourself.

My purpose with this episode is to provide you with practical insights and real-world strategies to revolutionize your approach to time management. Whether you’re working in a firm, managing your own practice, or starting your career, the principles I’ll discuss can be tailored to suit your unique circumstances.

I want to help you conquer time, boost your productivity, and attain a healthier balance between your professional and personal life.

Your Relationship with Time

The first thing I want to discuss is your unique relationship with time. Just like you have relationships with the people, places, and things in your life, you also have a relationship with time.

To simplify this, think of time like that mysterious friend you can’t quite figure out. Sometimes, it seems like it’s got your back, and other times, it’s just playing tricks on you. Your relationship with time can be quite complex.

Now, here’s where brain science comes into play. Your brain is like a sophisticated control center, managing everything you do, and it has a few quirky ways of handling time. It’s not just a clock on the wall; it’s deeply intertwined with your thoughts and feelings.

As I’ve shared before on this podcast, your lower, primitive brain is motivated by three things, referred to as the Motivational Triad.  It’s motivated to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and, most interestingly for our topic, it tries to use as little energy as possible.

Imagine this: Your work and personal life pile up with tasks and responsibilities. The more you load onto your mental plate, the more your brain can start to freak out. 

Next thing you know, you’ve got thoughts like, “There’s no way I can accomplish all this,” “I don’t have enough time,” and “This is too much!”

These thoughts create a feeling we all know well: overwhelm. It’s like your brain’s warning sign that it’s about to go into overdrive. But here’s where it gets tricky. 

Your brain, in its quest for conserving energy, sees overwhelm as a sweet escape. You see, it’s not a fan of spending a lot of energy, and it thinks that when you’re overwhelmed, you’ll take less action and do less things.

So, it sort of lures you into procrastination and distraction, like email, social media scrolling, or easier tasks, because it’s less effort than tackling your to-do list. In other words, your brain prefers less action and more distraction to save energy, even if it leaves you feeling overwhelmed.

Basically, the trick your brain is playing here is that it equates overwhelm with doing less, which, in its energy-saving logic, seems like a win. But in reality, you’re not getting more done; you’re getting less done, and you’re wasting time in the process.

But that’s not the only time thief. There’s also perfectionism, which is a common challenge for accountants. It’s this belief that you can always do better, but unfortunately it often leads to overthinking.

Here’s where brain science comes into play again. When you spend a lot of time thinking about how to do things perfectly, your brain expends a ton of energy, leaving you feeling exhausted and less productive.

Picture this scenario: You have to prepare a financial report for a client. Instead of diving straight into the data analysis and number crunching, you find yourself obsessing over the formatting, font choices, and layout of the report. You meticulously go over every detail, fearing that even the tiniest imperfection might cost you a client.

In the process, your brain is working overtime, expending precious energy on these non-essential aspects. Unfortunately, your brain can’t distinguish between overthinking and productive action. 

So, by the time you’ve finally completed the report, you’re mentally drained, and the hours have slipped away. You’ve spent so much time perfecting the appearance of the report that you’ve lost valuable time for the actual financial analysis.

This kind of perfectionist thinking can be a major time waster for accountants. It’s important to recognize when it’s happening and learn how to strike a balance between attention to detail and efficient time management, which we’ll delve into in the sections that follow.

So it’s important to understand that your brain often chooses shortcuts that, in the end, waste more of your time rather than save it. Overwhelm and perfectionism are the two major culprits here.

How to Create More Time – The GPA System

Now I want to share a simple system that I teach my time management clients – the GPA system.  It’s a simple yet incredibly helpful framework designed to help you make the most of your time.

Getting Things Out of Your Brain

While your brain is fantastic at processing information, it’s not the ideal place to store your to-dos. Imagine it as a computer overloaded with too many applications – it slows down and gets confused.

As an accountant managing client meetings, financial reports, and personal commitments, trying to remember everything can lead to chaos. To alleviate this burden, the first step in the GPA system involves offloading tasks from your mind onto paper. 

Although digital tools have their place, I recommend starting with traditional writing. Why? Because physically jotting things down triggers a part of your brain that aids in processing and remembering, unlike digital tools that often lead to distractions.

For example, if you have various tasks cluttering your mind, such as “Client meeting at 10 AM,” “Submit quarterly financials,” “Remember to get a birthday card,” and “Contact the client about open items,” centralizing them on paper frees your brain from the burden of remembering every detail.

By externalizing your tasks, you create a mental space where your brain can perform at its best, focusing on the actual work rather than worrying about what needs to be done.

Putting it on the Calendar

The GPA system’s true strength lies in scheduling, not just listing tasks. Instead of vague to-do lists, you’ll craft a well-structured plan for your day.

Here’s what you need to know about to-do lists – they are incredibly overwhelming to your brain.  And do you know what doesn’t help you get more done in less time? An overwhelmed brain.

You must learn to calendar everything and make as many decisions ahead of time as possible. Here’s why – when you are deciding and planning, you are using your higher brain.

For instance, instead of noting “Work on Client X’s financials” on your to-do list, take it a step further. Insert it into your calendar as “Work on Client X’s financials from 2 PM to 4 PM on Thursday.”

This level of detail brings clarity to your day. Your brain gets a clear roadmap, knowing when and where each task is happening, eliminating confusion and overwhelm.

While scheduling, I advise my clients to begin with planning their free time first. Just like dessert, knowing there are rewards at specific times can maintain motivation throughout the day.

Why Bite-Size Pieces Matter

As accountants, we excel at breaking down complex financial tasks into manageable steps. The GPA system mirrors this approach. By dividing your day into smaller, actionable pieces, you make it easier to tackle.

Take, for example, handling a tax return with numerous K-1 forms and brokerage statements. Breaking it down into smaller, manageable tasks, such as collecting documents, reviewing them, checking deductions, inputting data, and reviewing the return, makes the overwhelming task more achievable.

By following this method, you turn a daunting project into a series of smaller, doable tasks, ensuring that you make steady progress while maintaining focus and energy throughout the day. In simpler terms, you’re taking a big task and breaking it down into smaller, doable parts, making it less intimidating and conducive to effective time management. The best part? You get more done in less time.

Assessing Your Follow-Through

The final piece of our GPA system involves assessing your ability to follow through. Reflect on what went well and what didn’t by asking questions like:

Where was my time well spent?

What made me follow through?

Where did I waste time?

Why did I fail to follow through?

Where did I get stuck in confusion or overwhelm?

What led to distractions?

What can I do differently next time?

By assessing your follow-through, you gain insights into your own actions and self-awareness, empowering you to fine-tune your time management skills.

The GPA system is one part of The Smarter Accountant Time Management Program and enables you to create more time by working efficiently, moving tasks from your brain to your calendar, breaking them into manageable pieces, and self-assessing to maximize your productivity.  There’s much more to better time management, but this will definitely help you to create more time.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Tackling Time Wasters To Create More Time

Now that I’ve explained the process for creating more time with the GPA system, let’s tackle the elephant in the room – time wasters. These sneaky culprits can steal precious hours from your day, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and unproductive. 

Let’s go over some of the biggest time wasters and I’ll show you how regaining control over them can help you create more time.

1. Email Overload:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever spent hours digging through your email inbox, responding to messages, and feeling like you’ve achieved very little. Email can be a notorious time waster, especially when it’s disorganized and filled with unnecessary messages.

Solution: Set specific times to check and respond to emails. Use filters to categorize messages, and unsubscribe from newsletters that clutter your inbox. By taming your email, you free up substantial chunks of time for productive work.

2. Procrastination:

Procrastination is one of the biggest time wasters for accountants. It often stems from feeling overwhelmed or unsure of where to start. Instead of tackling important tasks, you find yourself lost in minor distractions.

Solution: First, become aware of the feelings that typically drive you to procrastinate and then learn how to manage your mind.  When you learn the skill of managing your mind, you’ll be able to eliminate stress and overwhelm.  Second, break tasks into smaller, manageable parts, as we’ve discussed with the GPA system. Set clear deadlines and reward yourself for completing them. By conquering procrastination, you regain control of your time and productivity.

3. Unplanned Meetings:

Endless meetings can be a significant time waster, especially when they lack a clear agenda or drag on without purpose. When your calendar is crammed with unnecessary meetings, your actual work suffers.

Solution: Before agreeing to a meeting, ask for a clear agenda and objective. Suggest shorter meetings or utilize video conferencing to save time. By reclaiming your schedule from aimless meetings, you create more time for meaningful tasks.

4. Multitasking:

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking actually slows you down instead of making you more efficient. When you juggle several tasks at once, your brain frequently switches between them, causing time and mental energy to be wasted.

Solution: Focus on one task at a time. Prioritize your to-do list, allocate dedicated time for each item on your calendar, and only do what’s in one block of time at a time. This method enhances your concentration and productivity.

5. Perfectionism:

Striving for perfection can lead to excessive time spent on tasks. While attention to detail is essential for accountants, perfectionism often means spending more time than necessary on a task.

Solution: Set clear standards for your work and recognize when something is “good enough.” This approach can help you complete tasks more efficiently, freeing up time for other responsibilities.

6. Social Media and Digital Distractions:

The digital age has brought many benefits, but it also offers endless distractions. Scrolling through social media, checking news websites, or watching YouTube videos can easily devour your time.

Solution: Use website blockers or productivity apps to limit your access to distracting sites during work hours. The truth is that our lower, Toddler brain is not onboard with accounting work and will look for distractions any way that it can.  By curbing digital distractions, you gain extra time for meaningful work.

7. Not Having Effective Boundaries:

The truth is that setting clear boundaries regarding your availability is crucial, especially when dealing with well-intentioned colleagues who might not be aware of the impact of their interruptions..

Solution: If possible, establish specific “focus time” during your workday when you’ll avoid interruptions. Communicate this to your team and let them know that you’ll be available for discussions or questions during certain hours. This creates a balance between collaboration and focused work.  If the interruptions often come from clients, turn on your away message to say when you will be answering emails throughout the day. 

Hopefully you now see that these common time wasters can significantly impact your productivity and work-life balance. By recognizing them and taking steps to control them, you’ll create more time for what truly matters. 

As an accountant, efficient time management is your superpower, and taming these time wasters will help you harness that power to the fullest.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me on this exploration of creating more hours in the day. I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools to better manage your time.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, 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.

Mastering The Art Of Making Better Decisions

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a choice, and it felt like you were lost in a maze of uncertainty? You’re not alone; we all face decisions every day, from simple ones like what to eat for lunch to more significant ones like career or financial choices. 

Some decisions are easy, like obeying traffic lights, while others can be so overwhelming that they leave us feeling stuck.

Why is it that we can confidently follow traffic rules but struggle with something as simple as picking a meal? The reason is that decision-making can be complicated, and we often find ourselves caught in a web of doubt and hesitation. Unfortunately, the fear of making the wrong decision can lead to confusion, and sometimes, we end up not making any decision at all.

Have you ever been so afraid of making a wrong choice that you ended up not making any decision? Many of us have experienced this, spending too much time worrying about what to do and ending up feeling confused and fearful.

Now, think about how this fear of decision-making might be affecting various aspects of your life. For example, it might lead to clutter in your home because you’re afraid to throw things away, thinking you might need them later. It could also impact your career choices, leaving you unsure about whether to pursue a promotion because you’re not certain about your professional goals.

In my experience coaching clients, I’ve noticed that challenges in decision-making often happen in two stages: “before” and “after.”

The “before” stage is when you’re stuck in indecision and hesitation, not knowing which path to choose. The “after” stage comes after you’ve made a decision, and that’s when doubt and regret can kick in.

But here’s a secret I want to share with you: feeling confused doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lost or unsure. More often than not, it’s your brain’s way of resisting change and trying to maintain the status quo. Your brain prefers things to stay as they are, even when change could be better for you.

In this episode, I’m going to explore the roots of this confusion and fear. I’ll show you how these feelings can become habits if you don’t address them, leading to inaction. You’ll discover why your brain often defaults to saying, “I don’t know.” 

The exciting part is that once you understand where this confusion comes from, you can learn to use the decision-making part of your brain to your advantage.

I’m going to uncover the source of your confusion and help you make choices that empower you in all aspects of your life. If you’re curious about techniques to overcome indecision and hesitation, I’ve got you covered. By diving into the mechanics of decision-making, you’ll gain more confidence and lead a more fulfilling life.

The Origin of Confusion

Let’s start by diving into where confusion comes from and why it feels like a fog when we make choices. In this episode, I want you to imagine that I’m handing you a flashlight to clear that fog.

Have you ever noticed how many times a day you might say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”? It happens more often than you might realize.

These phrases are like verbal shrugs, a way of saying you’re unsure when you’re faced with a decision. But here’s the thing: confusion is an interesting feeling. If you’re not careful, it can become a habit, a common reaction when you have to decide something.

Here’s what’s intriguing: I call confusion an “indulgent emotion.” It’s like a warm, comfortable blanket you wrap around yourself. It might feel cozy, but it also keeps you stuck, making you hesitate and feel like making decisions is as difficult as climbing a mountain in a snowstorm.

Let’s illustrate with an example: Imagine you’re the accountant for a small business owner, and your job is to help them invest their money wisely for retirement. Sounds simple, right? But as you delve into it, things start to get a bit complicated.

You start researching different investment options like stocks, bonds, and real estate. The more you read, the more choices you find, each with its own pros and cons. It’s like looking at a menu with a hundred delicious-sounding dishes, but you can’t decide what to order.

You’re diligent; you gather tons of information, crunch numbers, and even ask for advice from other financial experts. But here’s the problem: you end up stuck in what we call “analysis paralysis.”

It’s not that you lack information; you have plenty of it. But the pressure to pick the perfect investment strategy becomes overwhelming.

So, what happens next? You hesitate. You can’t make a decision. Your client’s financial future remains uncertain, and you’re trapped in a whirlpool of confusion.

What’s important to take away from this is that even in the professional world of accounting, we can face the same decision-making challenges we encounter in everyday life. In this example, the fear of making the wrong financial choice can lead to confusion, causing hesitation and inaction.

The tricky part is that the decision-making part of your brain is different from the part of your brain that usually runs your life, often called the primitive brain. If you haven’t learned how to use the decision-making part effectively, it’s no wonder you struggle with decisions, both big and small.

Here’s the thing: your primitive brain likes things the way they are and resists change. Over time, you might unintentionally develop a habit of avoiding decisions, to the point where your brain hesitates to even decide where to have lunch.

And here’s the most important thing to understand about your brain and confusion: your primitive brain prefers it when you’re confused. Why? Because it means you won’t take action.

Remember what I talked about in a previous episode: your brain is motivated by three things, known as The Motivational Triad – seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, and conserving energy. When you’re confused about making a decision, it conserves energy by not making a decision. Sneaky, right?

Tackling Decisions in Advance (Before Stage)

Now that we’ve figured out the root of confusion, let’s dive into some practical tools to empower you in making decisions with ease, even before they seem overwhelming. Think of it as a tool box of strategies to become a better decision maker..

I want to help you to consider decision-making as a superpower that can simplify your life in a world filled with endless choices. With it, you can breeze through the decision-making process without getting lost in the maze of options, saving time and sparing yourself from unnecessary stress.

Here’s the key: You have to decide what you’re going to think before you decide what you’re going to do. It might sound deceptively simple, but it’s the key to making decisions with confidence. 

For example, let’s say you’re eyeing a new car. The truth is that it’s not just about deciding which car to buy; it’s also about determining how you’ll think about that choice before you make it. This is where the magic happens, and it’s a step that many people tend to overlook.

Learning how to manage your brain and intentionally choosing how you’re going to think about your decision before you make your decision gives you the ability to easily make better decisions.  It’s like setting the stage for success before taking action.

Without deciding how you want to think about your decision before you take action, you’re leaving the door wide open for the negative tendencies of your primitive brain, and, as a result, confusion can creep in.

So, the trick here is to do the thought work before taking action. To help you with this process, let’s explore a few practical techniques:

1. Visualize Success for Both Choices: When torn between options, imagine both choices leading to success. This eliminates doubt and helps you make a decision. For example, think about adopting new accounting software.

In one scenario, you adopt the new software, and it significantly boosts your productivity and client satisfaction. In the other, you stick with your current setup, and it continues to serve you well. By seeing success in both options, you’ll alleviate doubt and be more inclined to make a decision because fear of making the wrong decision is taken off the table.

2. Redefine Failure as Learning: Speaking of fear of failure, if that’s what’s holding you back, remember that labeling something as a failure is just a thought, and thoughts are optional. Instead of viewing decisions as win-lose scenarios, reframe them as opportunities to learn and grow. This shift can help you embrace each decision as a valuable experience.

For this technique, imagine you’re considering expanding your services to include financial consulting, but you’re worried about potential setbacks. Instead of fearing failure, reframe it as a chance to learn and grow. If you take on financial consulting and it doesn’t go as planned, view it as an opportunity to gain experience and refine your approach for future success.

3. Consult Your Future Self: For this technique, take a moment to envision yourself a decade from now. What advice would your future self give you about the decision at hand and why? The primitive brain tends to lean toward instant gratification, making it challenging to think long-term. By tapping into your future self’s perspective, you can override short-term discomfort and gain insights into the bigger picture.

For example, let’s say you’re at a crossroads in your accounting career, contemplating whether to specialize in tax law or pursue a path in forensic accounting. Your current self is leaning towards tax law for immediate financial gain. However, when you consult your future self, you see a successful forensic accountant who is passionate about their work and has no regrets. Your future self’s perspective can guide you towards the decision that aligns with your long-term goals.

4. Check Your Current Emotions: No matter the decision, it’s crucial that you like your reason for making it. If you find yourself making choices driven by fear, impatience, or negative emotions, it’s a clear signal to pause. Dive into the thoughts behind those emotions, do some thought work to feel better, and then make your decision from a place of clarity.

Let’s say you’re deciding whether to take on a complex audit project. You’re feeling impatient and anxious about meeting the deadlines. Instead of making a hasty decision out of fear, pause to acknowledge that you’re feeling impatient.  By addressing this feeling and seeking a calm, logical approach, you can make a decision you’ll be satisfied with in the long run.

5. Give Yourself Permission Not to Decide: Sometimes, you might find yourself facing a decision without all the information you need. The pressure to make a choice becomes so overwhelming that it distracts you from other important areas of your life. In such situations, it’s perfectly acceptable to consciously choose not to decide for a set period, like 30 days. This pause gives your brain the space it needs to focus on what genuinely matters at the moment.

For example, let’s say you’re overwhelmed by the choice between two accounting software options. The constant back-and-forth is affecting your work and causing stress. To alleviate the pressure, you decide not to make a choice right away. You give yourself 30 days to focus on your current tasks and responsibilities without the distraction of making a decision. This breather allows you to come back to the decision with a clearer mind and make a more confident choice.

No matter which technique you choose to apply, the fundamental principle remains the same: decide how you want to think before you decide what to do. This is your secret weapon to banish confusion, regain control, and make choices that serve your best interests.

Avoiding Regret (After Stage)

Now let’s dive into the fascinating realm of post-decision stages. You’ve learned how to tackle decisions with confidence before you make them, but what happens once you’ve committed to a choice? Often, the fear of regret rears its head, and that’s what we’re going to tackle now.

The issue in the after stage is that regret can be a nagging companion, whispering in your ear, “What if you’ve chosen wrong? What if you look back and wish you’d taken a different path?” These doubts can cast a shadow over even the most well-thought-out decisions.

The first thing to remember is that there’s no such thing as a wrong decision. It’s all about how you perceive and frame your choices. 

The truth is that your thoughts define your experience, and the beauty is that your thoughts are 100% optional.  In other words, you always get to decide what to think about a decision.  .

To illustrate this concept, let me share a personal example that might resonate. A number of years ago I was dealing with the prospect of getting a divorce. My self-confidence was at rock bottom, and I turned to everyone I knew for advice, seeking external validation for what was the “right” decision.

In my fear of making the “wrong” choice, I had difficulty making any choice at all.  But eventually it dawned on me that I was the one who needed to believe that I was making the “right” decision. 

Why? Because my thoughts about my decision would shape my experience.

Once I chose to get divorced and then chose to believe that I had made the “right” decision in the “after stage”, my perspective shifted. I started seeing evidence that supported my choice. 

I began noticing how my children thrived in a home free from the stress of their parents’ arguments. I found the strength to navigate the challenges of single parenthood and embraced a newfound sense of peace. 

I also realized that my marriage had run its course, and I felt grateful for the years we’d spent together.

Now, let’s flip the scenario. Had I chosen to believe that I’d made the “wrong” decision in the after stage, my thoughts would have painted an entirely different picture. 

I’d have constantly questioned my children’s moods and attributed them to my choice. I’d have felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of single parenting and felt envious of those in healthy marriages. 

I would have scrutinized my original reasons for wanting a divorce.

The core message here is that the way you perceive your decision both before and after it’s made can drastically alter your experience. If you continue to second-guess yourself, you’re essentially reopening the door to confusion.

Here’s another example – imagine you’re an accountant who has recently decided to transition from working at a traditional accounting firm to starting your own practice. Initially, you felt a surge of excitement and motivation to be your boss, set your hours, and offer specialized services.

However, as you navigate the complexities of running a business, self-doubt starts creeping in. You begin questioning your decision, wondering if it was the right move. Thoughts like, “Was it a mistake to leave the security of a stable job?” and “What if I can’t find enough clients to sustain my practice?” start to dominate your mind.

This is a common experience for many accountants who venture into entrepreneurship. The fear of regret can be paralyzing, causing sleepless nights and anxiety.

To overcome this, you can apply the decision-making techniques mentioned earlier:

Reframe Regret as Learning: Instead of seeing your transition as a potential failure, reframe it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Every challenge and setback can be a valuable experience that contributes to your professional development.

Consult Your Future Self: Imagine yourself a few years down the line. What would your future, successful practice look like? How would you feel about the decision you made? Consulting your future self can provide guidance and assurance that you’re on the right path.

Address Negative Thoughts: Whenever self-doubt arises, take the time to identify and challenge the negative thoughts that lead to regret. For example, if you’re worried about not finding enough clients, consider focusing on your marketing strategies and networking efforts. By taking action, you can address the source of your concerns.

By applying these techniques, you can shift your perspective from doubt and regret to a proactive, growth-oriented mindset. Over time, your accounting practice may thrive, and you’ll view your decision to become an entrepreneur as a positive and transformative step in your career.

The key to overcoming this “after” stage is learning how to manage your mind and support the decision you’ve made. By deciding that your choice is the right one, you’ll prompt your mind to gather evidence that backs that belief. 

Any opposing thoughts that crop up can be gently questioned and addressed.  By following these principles, you’ll not only make decisions confidently but also sidestep post-decision regret. 

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Mastering The Art of Making Better Decisions

In conclusion, becoming a Smarter Accountant isn’t some complex puzzle – it’s about  understanding yourself and gaining control over your choices.

Hopefully, in today’s episode you’ve learned that decision-making happens in two stages: before and after.  The truth is that in the before stage, what you decide to think about a decision is as important as the decision itself.

Just know that there’s no such thing as a “wrong” choice – it’s all about how you choose to think about your decisions after they’re made. In order to reduce the chance of regret, make sure you’re choosing to think about your decision in a way that supports you rather than chastises you. 

A Smarter Accountant understands that in mastering the art of making better decisions, your thoughts are your secret weapon. By learning the skill of managing your mind, you make it possible to make decisions easily and have your own back once the decision is made.

For example, I was working with an accounting employee who wanted to become an entrepreneur.  She was tired of answering to a micro-managing boss, working for clients she didn’t resonate with, and being beholden to her boss’ idea of working hours but she was also nervous about making such a big decision.

We worked together and decided that consulting her future self was the most helpful.  She imagined herself 5 years from now having her own successful firm, working with clients she hand-picked, having an amazing supportive team, and running her firm with the value of work-life balance.

Fast forward to about a year after she started her own practice and she was bumping up against challenges that were making her start to regret her decision.  We talked about why she had originally made the decision, how she needed to support her past self for making the decision, and how to continue tapping into her future self who had the success.

She’s now running the firm of her dreams, making more money than she ever dreamed, and uses the before and after decision-making techniques all the time in her firm.  As a Smarter Accountant, she’s honed the art of making better decisions, even when they’re uncomfortable.

When dealing with decision regret, my husband and I came up with the concept of“The Snowglobe Effect.” I’m sure you’ve seen a snow globe before – a flat bottom with a plastic bubble on top containing an image inside, filled with water and glitter.  

When you shake it, it looks like it’s snowing because all the glitter swirling around in the water.

When the snow globe is sitting on a flat surface, sitting still, there’s no swirling glitter

The same thing happens in our brains.  We can be going about our day with the snow globe of our minds sitting still, but then someone says something or does something and our snow globe is all cloudy with swirling glitter, creating mind drama.  

When we came up with this idea it’s because my husband had started a new job and was having some regrets about his decision.  We began saying, “You shook your snow globe didn’t you?” when there’s some mind drama

After weeks of mind drama, he finally decided to look for all the ways that taking the new job was the right decision.  His brain began giving him all the proof that it was the right decision 

And then one day he bumped into a former coworker.  They talked about the former job, about some drama going on there and that was all it took – his snow globe was shook and swirling with negative thoughts 

He called me to tell me what happened and that he realized he shook his snow globe, but then something amazing happened. He said, “I picked it up and shook it which means I can put it down and let it settle down”  He got it!

If you want negative thoughts swirling around in your head about a decision, then keep shaking it.  Or you can leave it on a flat surface, let it settle and enjoy the clean, clear view

You always have a choice.  To shake or not to shake…that is the question.  It all comes down to how you want to feel

Annoyed, frustrated and regretful; or peaceful, drama-free and grateful

Remember that the art of making better decisions is an ongoing journey, and as you consistently practice and refine these skills, you’ll evolve into a Smarter Accountant. The skills you’ve acquired will not only enhance your capabilities but also strengthen your position as a trusted financial advisor.

If you find yourself facing challenges in your accounting career or simply want to explore ‘The Smarter Accountant 6-week Program’ further, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can schedule a free session at www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar to delve deeper into how this program can help you overcome obstacles and become a Smarter Accountant.  

Thank you for joining me as we explored mastering the art of making better decisions.  It’s important to remember that self-improvement is an ongoing process, and I encourage you to keep returning each week as I guide you from being a stressed accountant to becoming a truly 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.

The Most Important Question Every Accountant Needs To Ask, Every Day

What if I told you that a seemingly simple question could be the key to unlocking your full potential as an accountant? Are you curious?

Good! Because today, I’m going to unravel the mystery behind this important question that most of us accountants tend to brush aside. 

It’s a question that can change your career, how you work with colleagues and clients, and ultimately, how good you are at your job. But first, consider this:

  • When was the last time you noticed that your emotions affected your work, whether it was a big decision or a routine task?
  • Have you ever wondered why some days you’re super productive, while other days it’s a struggle to concentrate on the numbers?
  • Do you think that understanding and managing your emotions could make you a better accountant?

Get ready, because today, I’m taking a deep dive into an area that can make or break your career in accounting, reduce stress and overwhelm, help you get more done in less time, and make it possible to have a sustainable career.. 

So, stay tuned as I explore the science behind this question, share stories, and provide strategies that will change the way you approach your role as an accountant.

The most important question 

Let’s start things off by addressing the most important question every accountant needs to ask, every day, and it’s this: “How am I feeling?” Yes, you heard that right.

Whether you realize it or not, emotions matter in the world of accounting. Why?  Because our emotions play a crucial factor in our daily work.  In fact, emotions are a bigger deal in the world of accounting than you probably are aware of.

First, think about what makes a good accountant truly exceptional. Is it all about your accounting knowledge, or is there something more going on?

Well, here’s the surprise: in the world of accounting, where we often think of everything as numbers and spreadsheets, emotions play a vital role. Yes, you heard me right—emotions. They’re truly like the secret ingredient that makes a good dish extraordinary.

For example, imagine two accountants, both equally skilled in accounting. One is in tune with their emotions, while the other doesn’t pay much attention to how they’re feeling.

Now, let’s say a stressful situation arises. The emotionally aware accountant pauses and asks themselves, “How am I feeling?” This simple self-check helps them pause before they take action.

It gives them a moment of choice to choose to feel calm and make better decisions or stay stressed and spin in confusion.  Because they checked in with how they were feeling before taking any action, they’re better able to handle their work and their interactions with clients and colleagues with ease.

The second accountant, however, doesn’t pause to consider their emotions. Because they’re stressed, they might react impulsively, complain, procrastinate, or make choices driven by unchecked feelings, which leads to ineffective action and results.

What this means is that our emotions aren’t just fleeting sensations. They’re like the gears we’re putting the car in, influencing how we work, manage our time, and make decisions. 

It’s also not about pushing emotions away; it’s about understanding them and using that understanding to our advantage.

The truth is that studies have found that accountants with higher Emotional Intelligence tend to outperform their peers in client satisfaction, problem-solving, time management, productivity, and job satisfaction.  

In fact, the AICPA offers a course on Emotional Intelligence, which they describe as “teaching competencies and strategies to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, greatly increasing your chances of personal and professional success.”

Here’s the thing – how you react, and everything you do or don’t do is only ever because of an emotion.

In other words, the work you get done when you’re stressed and overwhelmed will be vastly different than when you’re focused and determined.  How you handle things like tax season or client demands is directly related to how you feel.  

I promise you that if you’re not asking yourself every day how you feel, you’re not as effective as you could be.  

Before I move on, I want you to think about the last time you were stressed or overwhelmed.  Whether it was 10 minutes ago or last week, I guarantee you weren’t as effective as you could have been if you had been managing your emotions.  

The brain’s impact on emotions

I’ve talked about how our brains work in previous episodes, but if you’re new to what I teach, here’s a super quick synopsis.  We have a lower, primitive brain that I refer to as the “Toddler” and a higher brain that I refer to as the “Supervising Parent.”

Our lower, primitive brain has been with us since humans lived in caves.  Our higher brain developed over time and this part of the brain is only present in humans.

Understanding these two parts of your brain is essential if you want to become a Smarter Accountant.

Now consider this – have you ever wondered why you feel the way you do in different situations? What’s happening in your brain when emotions come into play?

Well, it all starts with the lower, Toddler part of our brain.  This part of our brain is like an emotional alarm system. 

When something happens—say, a surprise deadline or a challenging client meeting—it sends signals to your brain, saying, “Hey, pay attention! This matters!”

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: your lower brain not only sounds the alarm but also stirs up those familiar emotions we all experience, like happiness, anger, fear, or stress. These emotions feel great or not so great, impacting how you perceive and react to situations.

So, why is this relevant to accounting? Imagine you’re tasked with solving a complex financial puzzle. Your Toddler brain senses the challenge, and suddenly, you’re feeling the pressure. 

This heightened emotion can either help you stay laser-focused and sharp or, if not managed well, overwhelm you.

Thankfully, you also have the higher, prefrontal cortex part of your brain.  I refer to this part as the Supervising Parent and it is like the brain’s logical center. 

It helps you think rationally, make decisions, and plan. It’s what you rely on to keep things organized and on track.

But here’s the thing – when strong emotions, especially the negative ones, take center stage, your prefrontal cortex can sometimes take a back seat. This can lead to impulsive decisions, difficulty concentrating, or even forgetfulness—all of which aren’t ideal in the world of accounting. 

For example, imagine you’re working on a crucial financial report, and suddenly, you receive an unexpected email from a frustrated client, complaining about an error in a previous report. Your lower brain registers the urgency and triggers feelings of stress and frustration. 

In this emotional state, your higher brain may struggle to focus on the task at hand, making it more challenging to review and correct the report accurately.

Or imagine you’re in the midst of tax season, juggling multiple clients’ tax returns with upcoming deadlines. The pressure is heavy, and your lower brain is on high alert due to the mounting workload and client expectations so it sends signals of stress and urgency throughout your brain.

During this time, your higher brain, the logical thinker, should ideally be in the driver’s seat, ensuring every tax return is reviewed and accurate. However, the emotional storm triggered by the lower brain can sometimes overpower your logical thinking.

When this happens you might find yourself rushing through calculations, missing out on potential deductions, or making data entry errors. It’s not because you lack the skills; it’s because your brain is contending with the emotional turbulence of tax season.

So, what’s the key takeaway here? Understanding how your brain processes emotions can be a game-changer for accountants in two significant ways: First, by recognizing when your emotions are taking the wheel, you can step back and regain control. Second, knowing how your brain operates emotionally can empower you to work more effectively with it.

Before I move on, think about this: can you recall a situation at work where your emotions had a clear influence on a decision or action you took? How do you think your brain was functioning during that moment?

Take a minute to consider your answers to those questions.    

The power of self-awareness

Now let’s talk about the incredible power of self-awareness and how it can transform your career as an accountant. But let’s start with a simple question: What does it mean to be self-aware, and why does it matter, especially for accountants like us?

Being self-aware is like having a mirror inside your mind, reflecting your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s about understanding yourself—your strengths, weaknesses, and the impact of your emotions on your decisions.

So, why is self-awareness essential in the world of accounting? Think of it as a superpower that enables you to navigate challenges, but also makes it possible to have an easier career as an accountant.

For example, imagine you’re working on a complex financial analysis, and you notice a wave of frustration welling up. That’s where self-awareness kicks in. 

The first, most important question to ask is, “How am I feeling?” and name the feeling.  For example, let’s say the feeling is frustrated.  The next step is to pause and ask yourself, “Why am I feeling frustrated?” This simple act of reflection can unlock valuable insights.

But here’s the key – the only reason you felt frustrated was because of a thought your lower brain is having, not because of anything or anyone.  In other words, it’s not the complexity of the financial analysis or the workload that’s making you feel frustrated because your feelings are never created by circumstances.

The only reason you feel frustrated is because of your thoughts about the financial analysis or the workload.    

Unfortunately, if you don’t make the connection between the fact that your thoughts create your feelings, you’ll either stay stuck in frustration or try to take action to fix the feeling.  The problem is that you can never change a feeling by taking action.

In fact, it’s your feelings that drive your actions, not the other way around.  Whatever actions you try to take from the feeling of frustration will be ineffective actions.

It’s also important to look at the power of self-awareness in dealing with others. As an accountant, you’re not just dealing with numbers; you’re also interacting with clients and colleagues. 

Understanding your emotions and how they affect your communication can be a game-changer.

For example, imagine you’re meeting with a client to discuss their financial strategy, and they’re expressing concerns about their investments. Your self-awareness helps you recognize that their worries are triggering your own anxiety, as you want to provide the best guidance.

In this moment, your self-awareness allows you to take a step back. You can acknowledge you’re feeling anxiety and remind yourself that it’s only being caused by a thought, not by the client.  

By choosing to intentionally think something like, “I can help this client” or “I can put their mind at ease,” those thoughts would create a feeling like compassion instead of anxiety.  By doing so, you can communicate more effectively, addressing their concerns and providing valuable guidance.

Another example where self-awareness is crucial is during tax season.  I’ve had over 30 tax seasons in my career and I can tell you this – the truth is that when deadlines loom and the pressure mounts, self-awareness can help you stay on top of your game. 

When you make it a habit of checking in and asking how you’re feeling, then if you start to feel overwhelmed, you can do something about it before it derails you.  Pause, recognize that the feeling of overwhelm is coming from thoughts in your brain, decide how you want to feel instead, and then choose a believable thought that creates that feeling.

This is one of the reasons I now have stress-free tax seasons – I know how to handle stress and overwhelm as soon as I’m aware of their presence..

It’s also important to understand that the power of self-awareness extends beyond the confines of your workspace. It also enhances your relationships. 

As you understand your emotional triggers and reactions better, you can build trust and foster a positive working environment.

Take a second and think of a situation at work where being self-aware did help or would have helped you make a better decision or navigate a challenging interaction more effectively? Based on what you’ve learned so far in this episode, what could you do differently next time?

Emotional Intelligence in accounting

Whether you’ve heard of the term Emotional Intelligence or not, I’m telling you that you should get more familiar with it, especially as an accountant.

Think of Emotional Intelligence as your compass in the world of emotions. It’s about understanding, managing, and using your feelings effectively, both within yourself and in your interactions with others.

So, why does Emotional Intelligence matter in the accounting world? Because it can make you a better accountant and colleague.

Consider this: Emotional Intelligence is composed of several key components. One of them is “self-awareness,” which I just discussed. It’s about recognizing your emotions and their impact on your work.

Another vital component is “self-regulation.” This means managing your emotions, especially when the pressure is on. It’s about staying cool under fire and not letting stress or frustration dictate your actions.

“Social awareness” is the next element. It’s about understanding the emotions of those around you—your clients, colleagues, and even your boss. This skill helps you navigate challenging conversations and build stronger relationships.

Last but not least, there’s “relationship management.” This is all about using your Emotional Intelligence to influence, inspire, and collaborate effectively. It’s about turning those accounting numbers into connections and solutions.

But how does all this translate into the accounting world? Let’s simplify it with an example:

Imagine you’re working with a team on a complex financial audit. The project is running behind schedule, and tensions are rising. You notice that one of your colleagues seems particularly stressed.

Your Emotional Intelligence kicks in. You recognize their anxiety because you’re exhibiting social awareness, and you approach them with empathy. You offer support, whether it’s helping with their workload or just being a listening ear. 

By doing so, you not only ease their stress but also contribute to a more collaborative and efficient work environment.

Now, let’s delve a bit deeper into how Emotional Intelligence can make your work as an accountant even more manageable.

Consider a scenario where you’re dealing with a demanding client who’s frustrated with a financial report error. Your Emotional Intelligence toolkit, honed through self-awareness and self-regulation, allows you to remain calm and composed. 

Instead of reacting defensively, you actively listen to their concerns, again displaying social awareness, and respond with empathy.  You acknowledge the error, take responsibility, and reassure the client that steps will be taken to rectify it. 

In this example, your relationship management skills come into play as you work collaboratively with the client to address the issue. The outcome? The client not only appreciates your professionalism but also continues to trust your expertise.

So now it’s your turn – can you think of a situation where your Emotional Intelligence played a significant role in a work-related scenario, making a positive difference? How did it affect the outcome?

Or can you think of a situation where your Emotional Intelligence was low and things didn’t go as well as you would have liked?

No matter where you lie on the spectrum of Emotional Intelligence, just know that it’s an incredibly beneficial skill for all accountants, no matter how long you’ve been an accountant.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Practical tips

Becoming a Smarter Accountant isn’t just about crunching numbers or studying tax code—it’s about mastering the art of managing emotions, making better decisions, and nurturing productive relationships.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Cultivate Self-awareness: Take time to reflect on your emotions regularly. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” as often as you possibly can.  Recognizing your emotional state is the first step towards using it to your advantage. No matter what is happening at work, your feelings are always going to drive your actions so make sure you cultivate self-awareness to ensure you’re using the best feelings to take action from.  

To become a Smarter Accountant, start by setting aside a few moments each day to check in with yourself. Ask questions like, “What emotions am I experiencing right now, and why?” 

2. Practice Self-regulation: When the pressure mounts, and the deadline looms, don’t let your emotions run the show. Self-regulation is about being intentional with your feelings.  Take deep breaths, pause, and think before you react. This can prevent impulsive decisions and maintain your focus on that work at hand.

When faced with high-stress situations, use techniques like mindfulness or a meditation app like Calm to regain your composure. Remember, it’s okay to take short breaks during the workday to reset and refocus. Avoid knee-jerk reactions and strive for a calm, measured response.

3. Develop Social Awareness: Pay attention to the emotions of those around you without making them mean anything about you. Understand that your clients, colleagues, and even your boss might be experiencing their own emotional rollercoaster based on thoughts in their brain. By recognizing their feelings, you can navigate conversations and relationships more effectively.

Enhance your social awareness by actively listening to others. During client meetings, pay attention not just to the words spoken but also to the tone and body language. Empathize with their concerns and ask open-ended questions to gain deeper insights into their emotional state.

4. Master Relationship Management: Building strong relationships is at the core of being a Smarter Accountant. Use your Emotional Intelligence to inspire, influence, and collaborate with others. Turn challenges into opportunities for growth, and transform the work you do as an accountant into an opportunity to be an example of what’s possible.  .

Hopefully, these practical tips, coupled with a solid understanding of emotions and Emotional Intelligence, can elevate your career as an accountant.

So before I end this episode, think about this: How do you envision applying these tips in your accounting career? Can you see yourself becoming a Smarter Accountant by integrating Emotional Intelligence into your daily work?

Hopefully you now see that the most important question every accountant needs to ask, every day is, “How do I feel?”  Until you’re willing to acknowledge how you feel, and choose more helpful and useful emotions, you will not be as effective as you could be.

Remember, becoming a Smarter Accountant isn’t just about mastering numbers; it’s also about mastering yourself.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I shared the most important question every accountant needs to ask, every day.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, 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.

The Surprising Way Complaining Affects Your Intelligence

Let’s talk about a subject that most accountants have experience in – complaining.  But before we dive in, let me ask you some questions to think about:

Have you ever noticed how often you catch yourself complaining throughout the day? Maybe it’s about the traffic during your morning commute, the mountain of paperwork on your desk, or perhaps even the occasional issue with the weather. 

We all complain about various things, but have you ever stopped to think about the impact of all that complaining on your life or your career?

Or maybe you were intrigued to participate in one of those challenges to help you stop from complaining, like John Gordon’s 7-Day Challenge. How long did you last before something or someone triggered a complaint? 

It’s surprising how difficult it can be to break this sneaky habit.  But unfortunately, the hard truth is that complaining is actually making us dumber and I’ll be explaining how in a minute. 

While we all complain, you might be interested to know that the average person complains anywhere between 15 and 30 times a day.

Here’s another question: Are you aware that your brain is wired to find faults, to identify potential threats, and to, in a way, complain? It’s a natural survival mechanism, but what happens when this tendency seeps into your daily conversations, especially at work?

Now, think about this: how often do you find yourself surrounded by constant complainers, be it coworkers, friends, or family members? Do you ever feel drained by their negativity? 

Have you ever noticed how you end up discussing their bad attitudes with others, as if you can’t help but complain about the complainers?

And here’s the ultimate question: Did you know that complaining is affecting your intelligence, and in turn, your accounting career? It’s not just a matter of your mood; it’s about the very asset that fuels your professional success—your brain.

In today’s episode, I’m going to explain the science behind complaining, why it’s more problematic than you might think, and most importantly, how you can stop or at least become more purposeful in your complaints.

If you’re ready to delve into this intriguing topic, stay tuned because by the end of this episode, you’ll have valuable insights and practical strategies to make your complaints work for you rather than against you.

Why we complain

So let’s start with why we complain. It’s a behavior so ingrained in our daily lives that we often do it without even realizing. So, why do we complain so much?

As I mentioned earlier, challenges like John Gordon’s 7-Day Challenge can shed some light. The goal of the challenge is to go a whole week without complaining. Sounds simple, right? Well, not quite. 

Most people who take this challenge can’t make it past the 10-minute mark without finding something or someone to complain about.  But why is it so tough to stop complaining? 

The answer lies in the sneaky nature of this habit. Most of the time, we believe we’re just stating the facts, much like a news reporter delivering the daily headlines. 

We think we’re merely observing our world and expressing what’s true for us. For example, we say things like, “There’s a ton of work to do” or “The weather is pretty crappy.”

However, here’s the catch – our brains are wired to be natural complainers. They constantly scan our environment, seeking out what’s wrong or potentially threatening to keep us safe. 

Complaining is a survival mechanism deeply rooted in our biology. In fact, research has shown that during typical conversations, especially at work, most people complain approximately once a minute. 

The truth is that our negative-biased brains tend to interpret more things as wrong than right, and they want to share these observations as a sort of “public service.”

Now, here’s why it becomes even more prevalent in work environments and why it’s so tricky to break this complaining habit – it can become a form of bonding. Complaining and gossip often go hand in hand, sometimes forming the basis of relationships, especially in challenging work situations.

As I’ve shared on the podcast before, because our primitive brains are motivated to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and be efficient, the practice of complaining can easily become hardwired into our habits. It becomes our unconscious default. 

In other words, until we rewire our brains, they will continue to do what they do best – complain.

Let’s go over some examples by starting with a scenario that most of us deal with – daily commuting.  Let’s say you find yourself inching along in traffic, late for work yet again. Again, it’s a situation many of us can relate to. 

As your frustration mounts, you might express your aggravation by saying something like, “This traffic is unbearable every day! It’s a complete nightmare.”  It seems harmless, right? You’re just venting your frustration about the situation. 

But here’s the catch – this seemingly innocent complaint reflects a natural inclination of our brains to focus on what’s going wrong, in this case, the traffic. Our brains are wired to spot potential threats and inconveniences, even in the mundane, as a survival mechanism..

Or here’s another example for those of us in public accounting – tax season. Let’s say you’re knee-deep in spreadsheets, drowning in tax forms, and your coffee consumption has hit an all-time high. It’s a situation that many of us can relate to. 

As the stress mounts, you might express your frustration by saying something like, “This workload during tax season is unbearable every year! It’s a complete nightmare.”

It might feel like you’re just venting your frustration about the situation, but there’s more to it. This complaint reflects the natural tendency of our brains, as humans, to focus on what’s going wrong – in this case, the overwhelming workload. 

Again, our brains are wired to spot potential problems and inconveniences, even in the intricacies of accounting. When this default part of our brain goes unchecked, it can become a bigger problem than you realize.  

So, just know that when complaining becomes your unconscious default, it can hurt your intelligence and, as I’ll explore in a minute, become a problem for you and your accounting career.

Why it’s a problem

As accountants, we need to be sharp and analytical in order to do the challenging work we do.  Our accountant brain must operate at its highest level, especially when tackling complex financial challenges and navigating the intricacies of the financial world.

But here’s where the trouble starts – research has shown that complaining can literally shrink a critical area of your brain, the hippocampus. This small but mighty region is responsible for problem-solving, memory retention, and intelligent thought processes. 

It’s essentially the vault where all those accounting facts, tips, and analytical strategies are securely stored.  Unfortunately, complaining is killing your brain cells.

While it might sound like a humorous exaggeration, it’s true. Research conducted by Professor Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University has shown that chronic complaining can indeed have detrimental effects on the hippocampus. 

It’s the constant stream of stress hormones, like cortisol, flooding your bloodstream that does the damage.  If you’re not familiar with cortisol, it’s referred to as the stress hormone. 

When you complain persistently, you’re essentially flooding your bloodstream with cortisol. This hormone, in excess, puts you at risk for increased blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other health concerns.

When you add juggling a demanding career with family responsibilities, the stress from both sides can be immense. You may find yourself complaining to your colleagues about it regularly.

Your complaint might sound like, “I don’t know how much more stress I can handle – between tax deadlines and family commitments, it’s too much!”

Unfortunately, this stress, compounded by chronic complaining, creates a toxic cocktail in your body, wreaking havoc on your health. And, let’s be honest, we could all use a little less stress in our lives.

Now, you might wonder, “Why does complaining feel so good if it’s causing all these problems?” The answer lies in how you feel before you complain.

Here’s the thing – just before you let out that complaint, there’s typically a strong negative feeling – frustration, judgment, or stress. Complaining seems like a welcomed relief from those negative emotions, especially when others join in.

For example, let’s say it’s another tough day at work, and your coworker joins you in a complaining session about the management’s decisions. You vent your frustrations together, feeling the relief of shared grievances.

In this moment, it feels like you’re releasing some of the pressure built up inside you. It’s as though you’re a dam about to burst, and complaining allows you to let off some steam. 

The issue, however, is that your brain is like a sponge, absorbing everything you spill – including all that complaining.

The truth is that your brain absorbs the complaints and begins to wire itself to include them in your thought patterns. As you rinse and repeat this process, your brain strengthens these connections, making it easier and easier to complain. 

Over time, complaining can become as natural as breathing but as damaging as smoking.

The interesting thing is that the damage isn’t limited to how you perceive the world; it extends to how others perceive you. It might be draining for you to be around constant complainers, but it’s equally draining for others to be around your complaining.

For example, let’s say you’re at a family gathering, and your cousin always brings up something to complain about. You might share an exasperated look with your sibling about your cousin’s attitude, creating a subtle alliance of complaint. 

It’s a bonding experience, but it’s not exactly conducive to positive relationships.

While it might not seem like a big deal, the truth is that it’s not helpful to you, your intelligence, or your accounting career to let complaining go unaddressed.

How to stop or become more purposeful

So far I’ve uncovered why we complain and why it can be problematic. Now, it’s time to explore the practical steps to stop complaining or, at the very least, complain with purpose.

Since complaining is a habit deeply rooted in our brains, it’s not easy to break. The truth is that our brain processes approximately 60,000 thoughts a day, therefore, it’s impractical to try to stop negative thoughts from occurring altogether. 

However, you do have control over what you choose to focus on.

Let me explain a simple yet effective process that I like to call the “Pass the Hors D’oeuvres” technique. Imagine yourself at a fancy cocktail party, with waiters and waitresses passing around silver platters filled with delicious hors d’oeuvres.

Now, here’s how this process works:

Imagine that each silver platter holds a thought your brain is offering you, just like an hors d’oeuvre.  Understand that there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the thoughts on those platters.

The key to this process is that you get to decide, purposefully, whether you want the thought on the platter or not.  Before you pick up a thought, ask yourself a few questions:

“Is this thought helpful or useful?”

“Does this thought serve me?”

“Will it ‘taste’ good?”

You only need to spend a second or two to decide. If a thought is useful, pick it up and savor it. If it’s not, simply let the waiter pass by without judgment.

The power of this process lies in its elegant simplicity. Instead of resisting the negative, complaining thoughts that naturally pop up in your brain, you’re making conscious choices about which thoughts are worth your attention. 

You’re essentially curating your mental menu.

What’s truly remarkable is that this process will reveal how optional your thoughts truly are. The thoughts about the circumstances in your life, much like the hors d’oeuvres on the silver platters, can be chosen or passed on – it’s always within your power.

So, whether you’re faced with a challenging accounting situation or dealing with someone else’s complaints, remember that you have the option to decide what you want to think about it all.

Instead of letting the default part of your brain keep thinking and complaining the way it’s always done, you also have the option to decide whether you want to complain with purpose. Complaining with purpose means having a specific goal in mind when you feel the urge to vent. 

It’s about communicating without blame and aiming to find viable solutions.

For example, let’s say you have an issue with something you purchased, and you call customer service to complain. Instead of merely venting your frustration, you pause and evaluate whether your complaint will lead to a constructive conversation.

You might ask yourself, “Do I know what I want as a resolution? How might they be able to resolve the situation?” Complaining with purpose means that your complaint isn’t just a release; it’s a step toward finding a solution.

When you choose what’s worth complaining about with a clear goal of being part of the solution, you give your brain and intelligence a chance to switch into problem-solving mode instead of being depleted by complaining mode.

The best part is that complaining with a purpose not only benefits you but also makes it easier for others to join in the solution. It helps calm emotions and fosters better communication.

So remember, complaining is a habit, and like any habit, it can be transformed. By applying these techniques, you can break free from the complaining cycle, boost your intelligence, lower your stress, and enhance your communication skills.

The Smarter Accountant Way: How to not let complaining affect your intelligence

As accountants, our intelligence is our most valuable asset. It’s what enables us to tackle complex financial challenges, solve intricate problems, and provide essential financial guidance to our clients and organizations.

So now let’s go over some real-world examples of how you can break free from the complaining cycle and protect your intelligence.

If you’re in public accounting like me, you know that tax season is the time we tend to love to complain due to our workload. There was even an Accounting Today headline a few years ago that said something like, “Brace yourself for another horrible tax season.”  

Thankfully, the Smarter Accountant way can help with the issue of complaining affecting your intelligence.  So the question you probably now have is, “What’s the Smarter Accountant way?”

Well, instead of complaining about the never-ending stream of tax returns, consider this approach: view each tax return as a unique challenge, an opportunity to showcase your expertise and problem-solving skills.  The reason I no longer have stressful tax seasons and have stopped complaining is because I learned how to manage my mind.

I learned how to recognize the natural tendency to complain and instead, pivot using my higher brain.  By adopting a new mindset, you will not only transform your experience of tax season, but you will also preserve your intelligence. 

Remember, your hippocampus is the part of your brain that is responsible for problem-solving, memory retention, and intelligent thought processes. You want to help maintain a healthy and agile brain that’s ready to tackle even the most intricate financial puzzles.

Another common source of complaint among accountants is workplace dynamics, especially when dealing with challenging colleagues or demanding bosses.  Believe me, I’ve had colleagues that didn’t pull their weight and dealt with the difficult, micromanaging bosses.

I know first hand that it isn’t easy, but instead of dwelling on office frustrations and complaining about coworkers, try “The Smarter Accountant Way.” Shift your focus from complaining to problem-solving.

For instance, if you’re facing a conflict with a coworker, either approach the situation as an opportunity to enhance your communication skills or learn to pivot your focus to the less challenging coworkers. 

Instead of venting your frustration, either initiate a constructive conversation or accept that the coworker is not your favorite and that life is 50/50; you may only like 50% of the people you’re surrounded by, saving your intelligence for what truly matters..

Another example is personal development. We are often pressed for time due to our busy schedules, but instead of complaining about the lack of time for self-improvement, embrace “The Smarter Accountant Way.”

Suppose you’ve been longing to improve your time management skills by learning a new, brain-based time management system like I teach in The Smarter Accountant Time Management Program.  Instead of complaining that there’s never enough time, recognize that it is possible to make time for things that are important to you.

Since The Smarter Accountant Time Management Program is only six weeks, you can simply choose to dedicate this short amount of time to learning and application.  In doing so, you not only acquire new knowledge but also keep your hippocampus active and engaged.

Hopefully, you can now see that by applying “The Smarter Accountant Way” in these scenarios and countless others, you can transform complaining into a powerful tool for personal and professional growth.

Remember, while complaining might feel natural, it’s also affecting your intelligence so it’s probably worth noticing and addressing as often as you can.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me on this exploration of complaining and its impact on our intelligence and our lives. I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools to navigate this part of your human experience.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, 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.

The Top 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a CPA

If you’ve ever wondered what it really takes to succeed in this challenging profession, you’re in the right place.

With over three decades of experience as a CPA, and having worked for some of the Big 4, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the evolution of this profession, and it’s been interesting, to say the least.

To start, I want you to consider the following questions:

Have you ever wondered what it takes to have a sustainable accounting career?

Are there things you’re currently struggling with as a CPA?

Have you thought that there’s got to be an easier way but not sure what that is?

Reflecting on my career in public accounting, there are three pivotal aspects that, if I had known about them earlier, they could have made my journey as a CPA easier.

Whether you’re a student studying accounting and dreaming of becoming a CPA, a new graduate entering the finance field, or an experienced professional dealing with the challenges of accounting, I hope my experience will give you some useful advice.

I’m going to be sharing the three most important things I wish I knew when I started my journey to become a CPA. These lessons have had a huge impact on my career, and I think they’ll give you valuable insight.

In other words, today I’m going to share what I know now, that I wish I knew years ago.

While my path as a CPA has been a rewarding one, it has also come with its fair share of challenges. I hope that by sharing these insights, you can embark on your own path to being a successful CPA.

Remember, the accounting profession offers immense opportunities for growth and impact, and with the right knowledge and perspective, you can navigate it successfully and thrive in the world of accounting.

1 – Stress is optional

The first crucial lesson I wish I had known before becoming a CPA: Stress is optional. The accounting profession is notorious for its high-pressure environment, but over the years, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be a constant source of stress.

What I learned about 10 years ago has literally changed how I approach every aspect of being a CPA. What did I learn? Where stress actually comes from.

Here’s what I know now that I wish I had learned much earlier on – stress is not caused by things like the amount of work we have, deadlines, difficult clients, or the IRS. It’s caused by our unmanaged brains.

The hard truth is that your smart accountant brain is being underutilized if you feel stressed. In other words, you feel stressed and overwhelmed because you are underutilizing the part of your brain that can eliminate stress and overwhelm.

As I shared in episode #2 – The Place Where Brain Science Meets Accounting – if you were using the higher, prefrontal cortex part of your brain more intentionally and more often you would not feel stressed.

It’s literally like having the “off” switch to stress when you learn how to use your higher brain more often.

The reason you feel stressed and overwhelmed, especially during times of deadlines, is because you’re letting the lower, default part of your brain, run the show. Believe me, I get it because I was doing the same thing for over 20 years.

Unfortunately, when you don’t learn how to manage your accountant brain, you end up day after day, year after year, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, often ending in burnout. Thankfully though, you’re listening to this podcast which means you’re probably willing to learn how to do things differently..

I promise you that by understanding the truth behind my stress and overwhelm, especially as an accountant in public accounting my entire career, I have changed everything in my life for the better. I cannot emphasize this enough—stress and overwhelm are OPTIONAL for accountants!

Here’s what it boils down to – to become a Smarter Accountant, you have to understand this fact: circumstances do not cause feelings. In other words, a Smarter Accountant knows that feelings are only ever caused by the optional thoughts their brain has about circumstances.

For example, the truth is that the tax season doesn’t cause stress; it’s just dates on the calendar: it’s a block of time. A circumstance, like dates on a calendar, cannot create the feeling of stress or overwhelm.

The only thing that CAN cause those feelings are our thoughts about the fact that it’s tax season. In other words, the only thing that is causing you to feel stressed and overwhelmed is your unmanaged brain’s thoughts about circumstances like the dates on the calendar, the number of tax returns that need to be filed, the client requests, etc.

I promise you that your unmanaged accountant brain is the issue, not dates on the calendar, the amount of work you have to get done, or the expectations of your clients.

The beauty in becoming a Smarter Accountant is that you don’t need any circumstance to be different in order to feel better or have a better result. The solution to feeling stressed and overwhelmed, especially during deadlines, is to intentionally choose how you want to feel.

I can tell you that trying to do accounting work from a feeling of stress or overwhelm is like trying to drive 100 mph with the parking brake on. It slows down your ability to get more done in less time and burns you out in the process.

For example, one of my coaching clients was a partner in a small firm and was on the verge of burnout. He was constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and had tried many different things over the years to try to feel more in control.

Once he worked with me and learned how optional stress was, he was able to handle the workload, get more done in less time, and be a more effective leader in the firm. His wife even said he was much happier at home.

I want you to imagine if you could approach a high-pressure client meeting with complete confidence, knowing that stress wouldn’t cloud your judgment. How might that positively impact your client relationships and the outcomes of those meetings?

Or picture this: you’re working on a complex financial audit, and the deadlines are tight. Now, imagine if you knew exactly how to eliminate stress and feel calm and in control. How might that change your experience and results?

Think about the last time you felt stressed during tax season. Now, envision knowing how to stay focused instead of stressed. How might that have improved your overall well-being and performance?

The reason I now have stress-free tax seasons is because I’ve come to understand that stress is optional when you understand how to manage your accountant brain. The bottom line is that stress is optional because it’s within your control when you understand how to manage your mind.

2 – Effective time management is essential

The second vital lesson I wish I had known before becoming a CPA: the importance of effective time management. Being a CPA means juggling lots of tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities.

The truth is that learning to handle your time well isn’t just helpful; it’s crucial for success in this demanding career. If you want an easier, more sustainable career, you must learn effective time management.

The issue is that no one is teaching accountants the most effective way to manage our time. There are plenty of apps, software, and workflow systems, but they’re like putting temporary bandaids on.

Effective time management is like a superpower that can help you stay on top of it all and not drown in working too many hours, or feel the effects of never-ending stress and overwhelm. But here’s the thing – there’s a huge difference between time management and effective time management.

Most accountants are managing their time ineffectively. How would you know if that’s you?

If you often find yourself rushing to meet deadlines, feeling overwhelmed by your workload, and working more than you want to, you’re not managing your time effectively. If you struggle to prioritize tasks and often find yourself working on less important items while critical tasks get delayed, you may need to refine your time management skills.

If you spend most of your day reacting to urgent matters instead of proactively tackling your planned tasks, it may be a sign that your time management needs improvement. If you frequently feel burned out, exhausted, or mentally drained from your work, it’s due to poor time management, which can lead to overexertion.

The good news is that recognizing these signs is the first step toward improvement. By implementing effective time management strategies, you can regain control over your schedule, reduce stress, and enhance your productivity as an accountant.

For example, imagine you’re in the middle of tax season. You have a big project ahead, and several clients are waiting for your help. Deadlines are coming at you from all sides.

Without an effective time management plan, you might feel like you’re drowning in work, struggling to figure out what to do first, and worried you might miss a crucial deadline. Many CPAs, whether they’re just starting out or have been at this for a long time, face this kind of challenge.

So what can help you uplevel your time management to be more effective? You have to first understand how to manage your mind before you can better manage your time.

For example, one of my coaching clients was trying to run her small firm with a team of 4. She was constantly complaining that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.

But once she learned how to first manage her mind and then learned a more effective method for managing her time, she was not only able to handle her current workload, but she was able to start growing her business. She had been putting that off for a few years because she felt she just didn’t have the time or the bandwidth to take on more.

She shared that learning how to manage her mind was a game changer. Not only was her time management much more effective, but she got more done in less time and was able to do everything she needed to do without feeling overwhelmed.

Bottom line – if you’re going to have any shot at having a sustainable career as a CPA, you have to learn how to have effective time management. What no one else is teaching you about time management is that it’s less about managing your time, and more about managing your mind.

3 – Work-life balance is attainable

Now, let’s discuss the third crucial aspect of the CPA journey that often gets overlooked but is essential for long-term success and well-being – maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This is something I wish I had understood better when I was starting out, as it plays a significant role in your career as a CPA.

Over the years, through much trial and error, I have been able to consistently achieve work-life balance, but it wasn’t easy. Here are some things I wish I knew before becoming a CPA:

The Demands of a CPA Career: One of the first lessons I learned on this journey is that a CPA career is demanding, to say the least. During certain periods, such as tax season, the workload can be intense. Long hours, tight deadlines, and a high level of responsibility are par for the course. Knowing this upfront is crucial to avoid being caught off guard by the intensity of the profession.

Balancing Work and Personal Life: Balancing work and personal life is like a dance, and setting boundaries plays a pivotal role. Clear boundaries are essential to prevent work from spilling over into your personal life and vice versa. Establishing these boundaries is a continuous process, but it’s well worth the effort in maintaining your overall well-being. To set better boundaries, you first have to build your self-confidence. Once I worked on that, it became much easier to say No and set healthy boundaries.

Recognizing Signs of Burnout: Burnout is a genuine concern in the accounting profession. Unfortunately, it can manifest as constant fatigue, increased stress, decreased enthusiasm for your work, and even physical health issues. Recognizing these signs early is crucial. If you notice them, don’t hesitate to address them. Whether through self-care practices or seeking professional support, taking action is vital to prevent burnout from derailing your career. Your health and well being are more important than a paycheck.

Effective Time Management: As I shared before, effective time management is essential, especially when juggling a demanding career and personal life. It involves developing strong organizational and time management skills to optimize work hours and ensure quality time for personal pursuits. Because of my experience as a CPA, one of the things I’m the most passionate about is teaching accountants how to better manage their time. No one is teaching accountants what I teach about effective time management.

Setting Realistic Expectations: Striking a balance requires setting realistic expectations. Understand that there will be busy seasons and times when work takes precedence. However, there are also quieter periods when you can recharge and focus on personal interests. Recognizing this ebb and flow can help you manage your expectations and reduce stress. To have a sustainable career, you have to level out the highs and lows so that you’re not feeling like you’re on a constant roller coaster ride.

Prioritizing Self-Care: Don’t underestimate the power of self-care. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary. Prioritizing your physical and mental health is fundamental. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep are the cornerstones of self-care. Beyond these, finding hobbies and activities that bring you joy outside of work is equally important. If your greatest sense of joy and accomplishment is work, you might want to challenge yourself on that.

Seeking Support: Remember that you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Lean on your support system, whether it’s family, friends, a coach like me, or colleagues who understand the demands of the profession. We can provide not only a listening ear but also valuable advice and encouragement when you’re faced with challenges.

The truth is that work-life balance is not a luxury but a necessity for a sustainable CPA career. It involves understanding profession demands, setting boundaries, avoiding burnout, managing time, having realistic expectations, self-care, and seeking support to find harmony between work and personal life.

For example, one of my coaching clients came to me because he said he was too much of a people-pleaser. He had moved his way up the large firm he worked at, but it was now catching up to him how much his inability to say no or set boundaries had created a complete lack of work-life balance.

Once we worked together, he was able to understand what was causing his people-pleasing tendencies. He was then able to learn how to have difficult conversations, how to say no more often, and how to set better boundaries with colleagues and with clients.

The bottom line is that an equilibrium between your professional and personal life not only contributes to your well-being but also enhances your performance and longevity in the field of accounting.

Bonus – Brain management is the secret to an easier, more sustainable career

From my 30+ years as a CPA in public accounting and over a decade being a Professional Certified Coach, I decided to distill what has made the biggest difference for me into my book “The Smarter Accountant.”

Here’s what I know for sure – what I teach isn’t found in any classroom, CPE seminar, or accounting webinar. In fact, every client that I’ve worked with has said, “Why aren’t we taught this earlier?”

That’s why I wrote the book “The Smarter Accountant” and I teach accountants how to be Smarter Accountants – because we’re not taught the most helpful thing we could learn as accountants – how to stop underutilizing our accountant brain.

The truth is that you’re already smart or you wouldn’t be an accountant or considering becoming an accountant. No one is denying your intelligence, but what I want to explain is that you’re not being as smart as you could be.

And that all comes down to the fact that there’s nothing you can’t manage when you learn how to manage your brain.

That is what no one is teaching us as accountants. The most valuable thing we could learn – how to manage our brain.

The truth is that you have the best piece of machinery on the planet and no one has ever given you the instruction manual for it…until now! You are going to want to know your particular instruction manual.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Knowledge is power,” but that’s actually not correct. As accountants, we have plenty of knowledge but often feel pretty powerless.

The truth is that knowledge isn’t power; applied knowledge is power. In other words, ACTION is power. Becoming more knowledgeable is one thing but doing something with that knowledge is much more powerful.

That’s why my 6-week Smarter Accountant Program is one of a kind. It’s where I teach smart accountants how to be smarter. As I said before, what I teach isn’t found in any classroom, CPE seminar, or accounting webinar.

So what does it mean to become a Smarter Accountant? Well once I became a Smarter Accountant, everything changed for me both professionally and personally:

  • I rarely experience stress, even during tax season
  • I work only the hours I want to work
  • My life is incredibly balanced
  • I get more done than anyone else in less time
  • I am highly productive and efficient
  • I am much better about not comparing myself to others
  • I choose to interpret things as feedback rather than criticism
  • I’m making more money than I’ve ever made
  • My relationships have improved dramatically
  • My health is better than its been in years
  • I have more self-confidence than I’ve ever had
  • I set healthy boundaries and have no problem keeping them
  • I am happier than I’ve ever been

The best part is that you can do the same. Not only can you create a sustainable and fulfilling career but you’ll also be able to gain a competitive advantage.

Just consider the following:

  • If you knew how to eliminate stress and overwhelm so that you could easily handle deadlines, how would you stand out from the crowd of burned-out accountants?
  • If you had self-confidence and stopped using the number of hours you work as a sign of your value, what else would make you more valuable?
  • If you had incredible time management, how much more could you get done in less time than everyone else?
  • If you could be more productive, how would you excel?
  • If you knew how to set better boundaries, how much more effective would you be at your job?
  • If you felt happier and more fulfilled, how would you stand out from the crowd of unhappy CPAs?

By investing a small amount of your time, you can have that sustainable accounting career that you deserve.

If you are struggling with any aspect of becoming or being an accountant, 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.