The Investment With The Greatest ROI For Accountants

As accountants, we’re all familiar with investments and assets, looking for options that promise the highest returns. With people looking to us for advice, we typically do not take investing lightly.

Whether it’s investment like mutual funds, Treasury bonds, or real estate, besides a Certified Financial Planner, the public often turns to us, their accountant, for investment advice.  We typically offer them suggestions that make the most sense based on the tax law and their short and long-term goals.

Depending on your area of expertise, you probably have certain financial philosophies and ideas about asset management, suggesting certain investments that will appreciate over time.  Since I live 30 minutes outside of Manhattan, my firm tends to work with various real estate investors, helping them not only invest wisely, but also take advantage of as many tax law benefits as possible.

As accountants, we also invest in things like technology, software, and programs that make the job of being an accountant as easy as possible.  We attend conferences, take potential connections or clients out to dinner, and put money into 529 Plans for our children’s education.

We pay down our mortgages, buy cars, and try to go on at least one vacation a year.  We pay for health insurance, donate to our favorite charities, and try to be generous when giving gifts to loved ones.

The choices we make about how we invest our money, however, extends beyond tangible possessions and monetary gains. No matter what your investment philosophy is, there’s one particular asset that consistently proves to be the key to long lasting success for accountants: our brain. 

Here’s the thing: the best investment for accountants, and really for anyone who wants to succeed in their career, isn’t buying more things. It’s about investing in understanding and managing your brain better.

Stay tuned because today I’m going to explain why investing in your accountant brain is the best investment you can make, with the greatest ROI.  My suggestion – come with an open mind because by the end you might be surprised by what you learn.

The Investment With The Greatest ROI

As accountants, we’ve all learned the concept of appreciation and depreciation.  We learned in school that there are various reporting requirements based on the type of asset on the Balance Sheet and whether it’s appreciable or depreciable.

For example, there are assets like a shiny new car that, the minute you roll it out of the dealership, it’s not as valuable as it was a few minutes ago when you bought it. The asset has depreciated without us doing anything.  

Then there are assets that become more valuable the longer you hold onto them – your home is a classic example. Over the years, it has most likely appreciated and is hopefully worth more than you paid for it.  

But I want to introduce you to the idea that although your brain isn’t something you can purchase or physically touch, the fact is that it’s not only your most valuable asset, it becomes even more valuable as you invest in it.

Here’s the thing – if you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on something that will give you the greatest ROI, it’s a no-brainer (pun intended) choice to invest in your brain.  As I tell my coaching clients, you have the best piece of machinery on the planet – your brain – so you might as well understand how to manage it better.  

I believe one of the most important reasons for investing in your brain is that it makes it easier to make informed choices. I’ve discussed the two parts of your brain on previous episodes of the podcast, but when you learn how to use your higher, executive functioning part of your brain more often, you make better decisions, you have the ability to eliminate stress and overwhelm, you’re better able to manage your time, and you can easily achieve your goals, to name just a few.  

When you invest in your brain, you become ready to tackle new challenges and make it possible to have an easier, more sustainable accounting career. If you really think about it, this isn’t just an investment; it’s a strategic move to future-proof your career.  

As accountants, we’ve all been taught the concept of compounding interest.  Well, your brain operates on a similar principle. The more you invest in it, the more it appreciates over time. 

So, as you contemplate where to allocate your money for the greatest ROI this year, consider the most reliable and long lasting investment – your brain. This isn’t merely about being book-smart; it’s about becoming a Smarter Accountant by understanding how to manage your brain.  

Here’s what I tell my coaching clients all the time – you’re bringing your brain with you, no matter what you do in your accounting career.  If you don’t understand how to manage it, you’re wasting your most valuable asset.

Realizing the Returns

If you’ve ever thought about your accounting career and said to yourself, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” then investing in learning how to manage your brain will be a game changer.  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 stopped comparing yourself to others and believing you fall short, what opportunities would you go after?
  • If you could see feedback as information instead of criticism, how could you use that feedback to grow in your career?
  • If you focused on ways to continue adding value, how much money do you think would be possible to make, and how much more would someone be willing to pay for your value?
  • If you understood how to have good relationships with everyone and the importance of emotional adulthood, how much better would you be at managing people? 
  • If you knew how to stop having work affect your health, how would you show up differently than everyone else?
  • If self-doubt and imposter syndrome were no longer an issue, what goals would you go after?
  • If you knew how to set better boundaries, how much more effective would you be at your job?
  • If you felt happier, how would you stand out from the crowd?

When I teach my coaching clients how to manage their brain, they’re reinvesting in themselves.  When they become a Smarter Accountant, it’s not a one-time return; it’s a continuous growth in the value of their most important asset.   

Examples Of Accountants Who Made The Investment 

Now, I want to share how investing in your brain can help with various challenges and uncertainties.

One of my clients was a tax accountant.  She was becoming easily overwhelmed and not able to focus the way she wanted to.

By becoming a Smarter Accountant, learning how to manage her brain, she was able to keep her head above water.  When confronted with a major tax overhaul, she was not only prepared but also became a valuable resource within her firm. 

Since she learned how to manage stress and overwhelm, she became not only a trusted advisor to her clients, but an example to everyone else in the firm who was continuing to do things the old way – normalizing stress and overwhelm instead of understanding how to manage your brain to eliminate it.

Another client was a CFO and was facing the challenges of an economic downturn. He was struggling with managing everything on his plate and was feeling immense pressure.

By investing in his brain and becoming a Smarter Accountant, he was able to assess the financial health of the business and come up with a plan that wasn’t possible when he was feeling pressure. 

His investment in learning how to manage his brain allowed him to provide invaluable insights, guiding his company through tough economic times. Because he was able to demonstrate how to stay calm and focused no matter what, the Board shared how impressed they were.

Another client was an ambitious CPA who was dealing with setbacks in her career growth. She was working for a mid-sized firm and wanted to move up to senior manager, eventually looking towards partner status.

Instead of continuing to struggle, she decided to work with me to learn how to be the best leader she could be.  She addressed her issues with stress, people-pleasing, and how to effectively manage others.

When given the opportunity to lead a team through organizational changes, her investment in brain management and leadership skills allowed her to handle the situation seamlessly.  She is now on the partner track but with a managed brain to help guide her.

These are just a few of the stories of how clients have navigated challenges by investing in their brain.  The common theme is clear – when you learn how to manage your brain, you continue to increase the value of your most valuable asset.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Strategies For Making The Investment With The Greatest ROI

Now that I’ve explained how important investing in your brain is, I want to share specific strategies that you can use to have an easier, more sustainable accounting career.

Strategy 1: Manage Stress and Overwhelm Better

Let’s be honest, in the world of accounting, it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of thinking stress and overwhelm are just part of the job description. After all, when we’re surrounded by other accountants who are equally stressed and overwhelmed, it’s easy to think it’s just how things are. 

But have you stopped to consider what this assumption is costing you?

As I often remind my coaching clients, trying to tackle accounting work when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed is like attempting to drive a car with the parking brake on while trying to drive 100 mph—it doesn’t work.

When you invest in learning how to manage your brain, you’ll also learn how to reduce and even eliminate stress and overwhelm.

Strategy 2: Effective Time Management

In the fast-paced world of accounting, effective time management is a critical skill that, in my experience, is not taught correctly.  We’re typically given work to do, possibly a budgeted amount of time to do it in, but not taught how to actually manage our time.

That’s why it’s easy to fall into the trap of relying solely on a never-ending to-do list to manage our workload. With countless tasks and deadlines looming, it might seem like the most practical solution. 

With the combination of brain management and effective time management, you’ll be able to get more done in less time, end procrastination, effectively handle interruptions, and feel much more in control of your time.

Strategy 3: Prioritizing The Right Things

As accountants, we often have a lot to get done, and not enough time to get it done.  That’s where prioritizing is indispensable. 

The problem is that we find ourselves focusing on the wrong things, or have no idea what to do next to get our work done efficiently.

A Smarter Accountant learns how sneaky our brain is when it comes to things that seem urgent.  In fact, they learn that their brain is wired to think everything is urgent, but they also learn how to override that default setting and prioritize in the most effective way possible.  

Brain management makes it possible to prioritize the right things.

Strategy 4: Improving Your Self-Confidence

As accountants, even though we’re smart people doing smart things, we are often surrounded by other smart people, which can sometimes lead to feelings of self-doubt or imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, the belief that we’ll be exposed as a fraud, despite evidence of our competence, is a very common issue for accountants.

The problem is that many of us ignore these feelings, hoping they will go away on their own, or worse, we try to push through them without addressing the root cause.

An investment in brain management is an investment in lasting self-confidence and being able to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, opening yourself up to more possibilities.

Strategy 5: Setting and Sticking to Boundaries

As accountants, we often find ourselves juggling many responsibilities and deadlines, making it important to establish clear boundaries to protect our time and well-being. However, many of us struggle with setting and sticking to boundaries, often leading to burnout and resentment.

The problem is that without boundaries, we risk overextending ourselves, sacrificing our personal time, and ultimately, affecting our health and happiness.

If you feel guilty or anxious when you try to set boundaries or say “no” to others, brain management is your secret weapon.

Here’s the thing: investing in brain management makes it possible for you to eliminate stress and overwhelm, stop working so many hours, learn how to better manage your time, set and follow through with boundaries, develop leadership skills, and have a sustainable accounting career.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty great ROI!

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I discussed the investment with the greatest ROI for accountants.  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.

You can share what you’re struggling with and I’ll explain what it means to become a Smarter Accountant.

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 Pros and Cons of Work-Life Integration Versus Work-Life Balance

Have you been trying to find some sort of harmony between your work life and your personal life?  Do you feel overwhelmed trying to balance it all?

I’m sure a lot of us can agree that having a successful accounting career is already challenging but when you add the fact that we’d like to have a life outside of work as well, it can become very daunting.    

Today, I want to explore two approaches – work-life balance and work-life integration – in a way you may not have considered before.  As accountants, we often find ourselves struggling with the question of how to juggle demanding deadlines and client expectations while still still having time for a personal life.  

If you’re in public accounting, maybe you can relate to this scenario:  It’s tax season, and you find yourself buried under a mountain of paperwork.  Meanwhile, your family is waiting for you to come home for dinner, attend a child’s soccer game, or leave for a romantic weekend getaway you’ve been planning for months. 

Throughout my 30+ year career in public accounting, I’ve struggled with figuring out how to be the best accountant I could be, but also the best wife and mother as well.  There have been many uncomfortable moments over the years, trying to figure out how to do it all.

I’m sure you’ve probably got your own stories of missed doctor’s appointments, plans that needed to be canceled, or people that were frustrated with the fact that you’re a busy accountant.  The struggle is real, and as accountants, we’ve all been there.

We’ve also all heard the term “work-life balance”, urging us to draw a clear line in the sand between our professional duties and our personal time. It’s like putting objects on a balancing scale, ensuring that neither work nor personal life takes precedence over the other. 

On the surface, the idea is simple – figure out a way to allocate our time and energy to both aspects of our lives in equal measure.

On the flip side, there’s the newer concept of work-life integration. This concept encourages us to blend both worlds so they can coexist harmoniously. It’s like a beautifully choreographed dance where work and life move together, each complementing the other. 

Even if you’re familiar with these two concepts, the distinction between work-life balance and work-life integration is important, and understanding the nuances can significantly impact your professional and personal satisfaction.  The truth is that as the accounting profession continues to struggle with retention, we need to evolve our strategies for managing the demands of our careers and the desire for a fulfilling personal life.

So, whether you’re a seasoned accounting professional whose career isn’t sustainable at the pace you’re going or you’re a newcomer trying to figure out how to make your career work for you, I want to help you unravel the difference between work-life integration and work-life balance and offer guidance on how you can create a sustainable accounting career.

Understanding Work-Life Balance

From the time we learned accounting in school, we are very familiar with the term “balance.”  We prepare Balance Sheets and we balance budgets.

But when it comes to work-life balance, that’s where things get tricky.  All of a sudden it becomes like delicately balancing the scales of justice, with all the same drama as a Court TV episode. 

Whether we want to admit it or not, having some semblance of balance is crucial for our mental and physical health, relationships, and overall well-being. 

While the idea of work-life balance can be unique for every accountant, I want to offer you a few strategies that might help:  

Prioritization: While we all have a lot of work to do, we also need a better way to prioritize everything that needs to be done.  When I teach prioritization, I teach my clients to identify high-impact tasks and focus on them first, helping them to get more done in less time and have time for the things and the people they love.

Set Boundaries: The next skill you need is to be able to set and stick to boundaries.  Clearly defining working hours, communicating them to colleagues and clients, and sticking to them is one of the cornerstones to the ability to have work-life balance. Establishing boundaries also creates a structured work schedule. 

Take Breaks: Lastly, you must incorporate regular breaks during work hours for productivity and preventing burnout. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but the optimal amount of time for your brain to focus is 90 minutes.  This will not only improve your productivity but will also help you prevent burnout as well.

Bottom line – you can be a dedicated accountant and still prioritize work-life balance.  In fact, I would argue that the people in your life professionally and personally need you to focus on your well-being so that you can sustain the career you’ve worked so hard for. 

Exploring Work-Life Integration

While you’re probably much more familiar with the concept of work-life balance, the concept of work-life integration can be a potential game-changer. Unlike the traditional balancing act inherent in work-life balance, work-life integration is more fluid.  

Think of work-life balance like a seesaw, with work and personal life on opposite ends needing equal weight. Now, imagine work-life integration as a Venn diagram, where work and personal life overlap, finding common ground and synergy.

The interesting thing is that you may already be incorporating work-life integration and not know it.  Here are some examples of Work-Life Integration:

Flexible Work Hours: This is when you adjust your work hours to fit personal commitments, like starting early for school drop-offs.

Remote Work: If there’s one positive effect that came from the pandemic, it’s showing the accounting industry that remote work can actually work.  With remote work options, it allows you to be present for family obligations while meeting work deadlines from home.

Just in case you still need some convincing, here are some of the benefits of work-life integration:

Reduced Stress: By being able to break free from rigid schedules, this can allow for lower stress levels and feeling more in control of your time.

Increased Flexibility: This is an important benefit because work-life integration allows you to adapt to professional and personal demands for a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle.

Enhanced Well-Being: Lastly, if we want to be accountants for the long-term, we need to be able to have our work and our life contribute to our overall well-being, not create lasting issues physically, mentally, and relationally.

I don’t want to overlook the fact that challenges do exist, such as the risk of overworking or struggling with boundaries.  So, whether you prefer work-life balance or integration, the key is finding what suits you, your accounting career, and your personal life best.

Pros and Cons: Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration

As I mentioned before, both work-life balance and work-life integration offer their own unique set of advantages and challenges. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each approach.

Work-Life Balance

Pros:

Clear Boundaries – If you can set effective boundaries, setting clear work hours allows you to create structure, helping separate work and personal time.

Prevents Burnout –  The accounting profession is in big trouble if they don’t address the issue with burnout.  Maintaining a separation between your work and your personal life can reduce the risk of burnout, offering a mental break.

Cons:

Rigidity –  Sometimes a strict 9 – 5 just isn’t going to cut it.  Strict schedules may not accommodate unexpected personal needs or work demands.

Limited Flexibility – As we all know, life can be unpredictable, so one of the cons with work-life balance may be the struggle to adapt to unpredictable work scenarios or personal activities during traditional hours.

Work-Life Integration

Pros:

Flexibility – If flexibility is important to you, work-life integration might be your best bet.  It offers high flexibility, allowing the blending of work and personal activities.

Enhanced Well-Being – In my experience, the better I feel, the more productive I am.  That’s why I think it’s important to point out that integrating well-being or self-care into the workday creates a more sustainable accounting career.

Cons:

Risk of Overworking – Unfortunately, without clear boundaries, there’s a risk of overworking and difficulty disengaging from work responsibilities.  If you’re not careful, it can seem like you’re never punching out from work.

Potential for Distraction: Another issue is if you’re not skilled at being able to focus, then integrating personal activities during work hours may introduce distractions, affecting productivity.

While some of us thrive in the structure of balance, others find freedom in integration. Either way, you want to be open to looking at both approaches.

The truth is that what works in one season of life may change over time. The goal is to find an approach that suits you professionally and personally, rather than conforming to a rigid model.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Strategies For Achieving Either Work-Life Balance Or Work-Life Integration

Since I’ve incorporated various aspects of work-life balance and work-life integration into my career over the years, and have helped my coaching clients do the same, I want to offer you some practical and easy-to-implement strategies.

Let’s start with some simple strategies for achieving work-life balance as a Smarter Accountant.

1. Effective Time Management

  • Prioritize Tasks: Use “The Decision Matrix” to focus on high-impact tasks first.  Even though your brain will want to do what it considers urgent, you have to intentionally decide what are the high-impact tasks.
  • Batch Similar Activities: Group similar tasks to streamline workflow.  When you work on the same type of task, even if it’s for different clients, you reduce the cost of task switching.
  • Time-Blocking Techniques: I teach a time-blocking process that combines brain management and time management, but make sure you’re planning your time and not trying to manage your time from a to-do list.

2. Set Better Boundaries

  • Define Working Hours: Hands down, setting and sticking to boundaries is one of the biggest issues my coaching clients have.  You need to learn how to effectively communicate your hours to colleagues and clients and honor your own boundaries.
  • Limit After-Hours Communication: For work-life balance to be sustainable, you need to designate specific times for checking emails.  This has been a game-changer for myself and my coaching clients.
  • Set Realistic Deadlines: No matter how valuable you want to be to your company or your clients, you need to learn to set realistic, achievable timelines and deadlines to manage stress.  Even though we have a lot of deadlines as accountants, self-imposed deadlines are incredibly helpful.

Now, let’s dive into strategies for embracing work-life integration:

1. Effectively Use Technology:

  • Mobile Accessibility: For work-life integration to work, be open to using mobile apps and cloud tools to make it possible to work from anywhere, but don’t become some dependent on having access that you never stop being plugged into work.
  • Collaborative Platforms: Another important thing to consider when making work-life integration work for you and everyone you work for or with is embracing real-time communication tools for efficient collaboration like Microsoft Teams or Slack.
  • Automation: Lastly, by automating repetitive tasks, you make it possible to get more done in less time which then frees up time for personal activities.

2. Be Mindful Of Task Switching:

  • Transition Rituals: Something that often gets overlooked in our busy days is developing habits marking transitions between work and personal activities.  Make sure you have a way to let your brain know that you’re stopping your focus on professional things or vice versa, you’re stopping your focus on personal things.
  • Sequential Planning: Arrange tasks in a sequence that complements your energy levels throughout the day.  Since I’m a morning person, I’m always looking to plan the most mentally taxing work earlier in the day, allowing for more mindless activities to happen towards the end of the day.
  • Purposeful Planning: And speaking of planning, you have to learn how to plan your day intentionally.  As I tell my coaching clients all the time, “If the math doesn’t work with your time management, you have to be even more intentional when you plan your calendar.”

Remember, with work-life integration it’s about finding a flow that supports both professional and personal aspects of your life without exhausting yourself. It’s always going to come down to choosing what works best for you in the long run.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration.  Whichever one you choose, be open to trying different strategies until you find the best way to have a sustainable accounting career.

As I shared in my book, “The Smarter Accountant,” the world needs Smarter Accountants; not burned out, stressed out, frustrated accountants that dread going to work, who are overwhelmed by everything happening both professionally and personally, and who are considering walking away from the profession.  

Hopefully, you can see how either work-life balance or work-life integration can help you.  Whether you choose one of these or not, just know that an easier accounting career is possible.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I discussed the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools.

Here’s what I want you to know – embarking on a fulfilling accounting career shouldn’t be an uphill battle.

Imagine a professional life where stress and overwhelm take a backseat, where long hours and tight deadlines no longer define your days. If you’re ready to regain control, the 5-minute Smarter Accountant Quiz is your first step towards a more balanced and sustainable accounting career.  

This quiz isn’t about debits or credits – it’s about you.

You’ll be able to uncover the obstacles holding you back and unlock the key to a more rewarding professional life. Fortunately, your career doesn’t have to be overshadowed by burnout and frustration.

Simply go to the www.thesmarteraccountant.com to take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. 

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.

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 Accountants Can Successfully Use Parkinson’s Law

If better time management is something you’re interested in, this episode is going to be super helpful.

Let me start by asking – do you ever find yourself staring at a seemingly endless to-do list, wondering how on earth you’ll get it all done? Or maybe you’ve experienced the frustration of wanting to finish a task sooner rather than later but end up waiting until the last minute? 

If you can relate, you’re not alone.  In the fast-paced world of accounting, the struggle with time management and procrastination is shared by most of us, whether we’re in public or private accounting.  

I want you to know that it’s not your fault.  It has nothing to do with your capabilities and everything to do with your accountant brain.   

Many of us deal with issues with productivity, but today, I’m going to be diving into the solution: Parkinson’s Law.

But before I get into what Parkinson’s Law is and why it’s important for accountants to understand, I first want to address why accountants procrastinate? In my experience, there are three main culprits tend to be at play:

Our Work is Complicated and Takes Effort: Accounting isn’t a walk in the park. It involves complicated financial puzzles and demands mental effort that can make even the most dedicated accountant procrastinate, especially when deadlines are looming.

Stress and Overwhelm: The pressure we feel as accountants often leaves us stressed and overwhelmed. And do you know what doesn’t make it possible to get accounting work done efficiently?  Stress and overwhelm!  If you’ve ever felt like you’re drowning in a sea of tasks, you’re not alone. But here’s the truth – it doesn’t have to be this way.

Unawareness of Parkinson’s Law: Many accountants are unaware of this game-changing principle that affects how we manage our time. I want to help to demystify Parkinson’s Law and show you how it can be your secret weapon against procrastination.

So, what is Parkinson’s Law? In simple terms, it states that the time you give yourself to complete a task is how long it will take. Whether you set a month or a week, that’s how long it will take to complete.   

Seems straightforward, right? Yet, the impact of Parkinson’s Law on our productivity and success is nothing short of profound.

In today’s episode I’m going to unravel the many layers of Parkinson’s Law, understanding how it influences our work habits and, more importantly, how we can use it to our advantage. Imagine having the ability to take control of your time, accomplish more in less time, and create space for the things and people you love – all by embracing the principles of Parkinson’s Law.

If your time management could use some help, get ready to change the way you approach your to-do list. Parkinson’s Law is about to become your new best friend in the quest for efficient time management. 

Understanding What Motivates You

Last week I did an entire episode discussing the importance of understanding the Motivational Triad so if you haven’t listened to episode #37, I suggest you do after you finish listening to this one.  

Basically, the Motivational Triad is your brain’s natural instinct to always be seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, and conserving energy.  It explains a lot of why we do what we do and why we don’t do things we should do.

The reason this matters for accountants is because our work typically pushes against the Motivational Triad – it’s often not pleasurable, can be painful, and expends a lot of mental energy.  Unfortunately, a lot of the work we do as accountants does not align with the pleasure-seeking, efficient part of our brain. 

In fact, our work often demands mental effort and doesn’t offer the instant gratification our brain craves.

So, when faced with challenging accounting tasks, our brain’s default response is to procrastinate. It’s not because we’re lazy or lack dedication; it’s simply the Motivational Triad doing its thing. 

The trick is understanding this process so that we can navigate it more effectively.

One of the keys to conquering procrastination is acknowledging the Motivational Triad’s influence.  Instead of succumbing to stress, consider it a signal from your brain, telling you it’s time to manage your mental energy.

Think of it like this: when you know a storm is coming, you prepare by securing windows and stocking up on essentials. Similarly, when you feel the storm of stress approaching, it’s a cue to manage your brain. 

This might involve breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable steps or giving yourself brief breaks to recharge.

The secret lies in realizing that procrastination isn’t a personal flaw but a natural response. By understanding the Motivational Triad and applying strategies to overcome procrastination, you’re not just tackling accounting tasks – you’re mastering the art of navigating your own brain for peak performance. 

Brain Management for Time Management

Have you ever wondered why some days you’re on fire, and others you feel like you’re running on empty? That’s the magic (and sometimes mystery) of your brain. 

Understanding and managing your brain is the secret that no one else is teaching accountants about better time management.

Your brain is like the engine of a car, steering your actions and decisions. If you don’t know how to manage it, it’s like driving without a roadmap – you might get somewhere, but it won’t be the most efficient journey.

In order to be as focused and efficient as possible you need to think of your brain like a muscle; the more you train it, the stronger it becomes. When you understand how it operates, you can fine-tune it for peak performance.

Brain management is like having a personal coach for your brain. It allows you to sidestep distractions, stay on track, and achieve your tasks with precision. This is what I mean when I say I teach smart accountants how to be smarter.  

Since your thoughts create your feelings and your feelings fuel your actions, you want to use the right fuel for optimal actions. Your brain, like any engine, performs best when given the right inputs. 

In other words, if you’re letting your negatively biased brain offer thoughts that create stress, overwhelm, or frustration, those feelings are going to drive ineffective action.  

In a nutshell, brain management is the art of understanding, training, and fueling your brain for optimal time management. 

Why Is Parkinson’s Law Important?

Now that I’ve discussed the Motivational Triad and how important brain management is to time management, I want to explain Parkinson’s Law in a deeper way.  

In general, Parkinson’s Law states that the time you give yourself to finish a task is how long it takes.  Maybe you experienced Parkinson’s Law when you were in school – if the teacher told you that you have a month to write a paper, how long did the paper typically take to write?  A month.

On the other hand, if the teacher said you have a week to write the same paper, how long did it take to write?  A week.  Same paper, but based on the timeframe given, that’s how long it took to get the desired result.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. When you set your own deadlines, something fantastic  happens – you take control. It’s like having a magic wand that helps you finish tasks faster.

Self-imposed deadlines are that wand. They turn Parkinson’s Law to your advantage, keeping you focused and effectively tackling your to-do list or your workload.

Why? Because without deadlines, tasks tend to hide in the shadows, and we end up procrastinating. But with a self-imposed deadline – a goal to aim for – you become much more productive and efficient.  

Remember what I said about the Motivational Triad and how your primitive brain is motivated to conserve energy?  Well, by using Parkinson’s Law to your benefit, you will be amazed at how naturally motivated you become to get more done in less time.

This is why I get more done in the office and work the least amount of hours.  Because I know how to effectively use Parkinson’s Law.

It’s all about understanding that you’re the boss of your time. When you know the game, you can play it better.

Imagine finishing a project in a week instead of dragging it out for a month. That’s the magic of Parkinson’s Law in action. 

Imagine being done with tax season a week early.  That’s what’s possible when you effectively use Parkinson’s Law.  .

This isn’t just about checking off your to-do list; it’s about having control over your time so that you can create more time.  

The Benefits of Parkinson’s Law

There are many benefits of Parkinson’s Law, one of which is making decisions quickly, without analysis paralysis.  If you’ve ever spent way too much time thinking about how to start a task, Parkinson’s Law will be incredibly helpful.

With self-imposed deadlines, you don’t get stuck in the overthinking trap. You make decisions quickly and simply, cutting through the mental fog. 

Another benefit of Parkinson’s Law is the ability to prioritize effectively.  When you have a self-imposed deadline, suddenly, tasks line up, and you can see which ones are high impact and which ones can wait. 

It’s like having a spotlight on your to-do list, helping you focus on what truly matters.

No more getting lost in the sea of tasks because you’re in charge.  This isn’t about being busy for the sake of being busy; it’s about being busy with the right stuff.

The last benefit of Parkinson’s Law is the reduction of decision fatigue.  If you’ve ever felt mentally drained from making too many decisions, Parkinson’s Law is like a shield against decision fatigue, especially for accountants. 

When you set self-imposed deadlines, you’re not just managing time; you’re saving mental energy.  How?  Because there will be fewer decisions about when to do things because you’ve already decided. 

It’s like having a personal assistant for your brain, saying, “You focus on the numbers; I’ll handle the timing.” Less fatigue, more focus – that’s the Parkinson’s Law magic at play.

Applying Parkinson’s Law

Have you ever played a game against time? That’s exactly what Parkinson’s Law loves. It’s not about making time your enemy; it’s about making it your ally. 

How? Start by setting specific deadlines for your tasks and projects.

Think of it like a game timer. When you have a self-imposed deadline, it’s like setting the clock ticking. Suddenly, you’re not just doing a task; you’re super focused and productive because you have a set amount of time to get the task done.

It’s like turning every task into a mini-challenge, and who doesn’t love a good challenge?

Before you apply Parkinson’s Law, you need to break projects down into small bites so that your brain is onboard.    

For example, preparing a complicated personal tax return is incredibly overwhelming to your brain.  Instead of aiming for the finished tax return, break it down into more manageable pieces.

This might involve first reviewing the prior year’s return, then creating a checklist of data, then checking that all the data is in house, next asking the client if there is any additional information, next inputting the tax return data, then doing a general review of the return.  

For each task, you would create a mini-challenge by assigning a self-imposed deadline.  Not only is each piece more manageable since it’s broken down, but you’re giving your brain a boundary of time to keep you focused on the task at hand.  

In order to assist you in these mini-challenges, there are some tools that you’ll want to incorporate.  Tools like timers keep you on track and focused. 

Say you decide that you need to spend an hour on a task; set your timer, and dive in. When you know the clock’s ticking, suddenly, distractions fade away.

It’s not just about timers; it’s about finding the tools that work for you. Whether it’s a calendar reminder, a to-do list app, or a good old-fashioned alarm clock, these tools become your productivity sidekicks. 

Whatever works best for you, be open to trying different things.  For me, it’s setting a timer or alarms on my phone.  

When you get on board with using Parkinson’s Law, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to get more done in less time.  Something that might have taken 2 hours before, now “miraculously” takes 1 hour of focused time.

I promise, it’s pretty amazing what you can get done using Parkinson’s Law.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Parkinson’s Law In Action

Now I want to share some real-world scenarios where my accountant coaching clients, like yourself, were able to put Parkinson’s Law into action.  

One client was dealing with a packed schedule and seemed to find herself stuck in never-ending meetings. However, after becoming a Smarter Accountant and learning how to effectively use Parkinson’s Law, she started setting specific time limits for each agenda item. 

Now, her meetings, whether with colleagues or clients, are focused, efficient, and end on time, allowing her to reclaim valuable hours for more critical tasks.

Another client was very project-oriented.  He used to feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of his assignments. 

After becoming a Smarter Accountant and embracing Parkinson’s Law, he began breaking down projects into smaller tasks, each with its own self-imposed deadline. Suddenly, what seemed like an insurmountable mountain transformed into a series of achievable steps, leading to timely and successful project completions.

Another client was a meticulous CPA and often found herself overthinking and second-guessing decisions.  Before we worked together she found herself getting caught up in analysis paralysis and often experienced decision fatigue at the end of each day.

After becoming a Smarter Accountant and setting self-imposed deadlines for key decisions, she realized Parkinson’s Law was her shortcut to efficient choices. The result? Swift decision-making without the mental fatigue, allowing her to move projects forward seamlessly.

Another coaching client was drowning in a sea of emails daily.  He started to work with me when he decided it was time for a change. 

Once he became a Smarter Accountant, he applied Parkinson’s Law by allocating specific time slots for checking and responding to emails. The result? He became a master of his inbox, responding promptly to important emails and avoiding the time lost in constant interruptions.

And lastly, one client was a typical multitasking accountant juggling numerous responsibilities.  She never felt like she could catch up with her workload.

After becoming a Smarter Accountant, she used Parkinson’s Law to her advantage. She set self-imposed deadlines for each task, forcing herself to prioritize effectively. This not only reduced decision fatigue but also ensured that she tackled the most crucial tasks first, leaving the less pressing ones for later.

These real-world examples illustrate that Parkinson’s Law isn’t just a concept; it’s a practical tool that empowers accountants to work smarter, make efficient decisions, and achieve their goals.   By incorporating Parkinson’s Law into your own accounting toolkit, you’re not just becoming a smarter accountant; you’re becoming a more productive and effective accountant.  

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I discussed how to successfully use Parkinson’s Law.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tips.

Here’s what I want you to know – embarking on a fulfilling accounting career shouldn’t be an uphill battle.

Imagine a professional life where stress and overwhelm take a backseat, where long hours and tight deadlines no longer define your days. If you’re ready to regain control, the 5-minute Smarter Accountant Quiz is your first step towards a more balanced and sustainable accounting career.  

This quiz isn’t about debits or credits – it’s about you.

You’ll be able to uncover the obstacles holding you back and unlock the key to a more rewarding professional life. Fortunately, your career doesn’t have to be overshadowed by burnout and frustration.

Simply go to the www.thesmarteraccountant.com to take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. 

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.

So make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to 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.