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.