66 Time Management Tips to Help You Survive Busy Season

Last busy season, we checked in with many of our colleagues, including leaders in the accounting profession, and asked them to share with us their favorite time-saving tips. As you get into gear this busy season, we hope you'll find their ideas, as well as those of our staff, helpful. 

 
Tip 1: Use the phone. You can save time by sending fewer e-mails and by not using instant messenger programs. These things tend to take much longer than a simple phone call.
- AccountingWEB staff
 
Tip 2: Use a time management system. Find a time management tool that works best for you and one you'll actually use, such as a time management software program, your iPad calendar, an e-mail calendar, etc. Use the tool's reminder feature to stay on top of scheduled appointments and meetings.
- AccountingWEB staff
 
Tip 3: Create a task list. Start each workday by determining what you need to get done that day. Prioritize each task and create a list. It's important to do this every morning so you get in the habit of prioritizing. You'll also get a sense of accomplishment as you check things off your list.
- AccountingWEB staff
Tip 4: Establish a routine and schedule. "Routine" and "schedule" are crucial words when it comes to time management. As much as is possible during the whirlwind tax season, establish a routine and schedule. It's helpful to get your entire family involved and together decide what each person can do to help out.
- AccountingWEB staff
 
Tip 5: Put everything in one location. If you think your e-mail inbox is the one location, think again. Keeping action items in your inbox is the kiss of death because you'll spend all day living in your inbox, reacting to things as they come in. You'll never get anything done. If action is required, note that on your to-do list.
- Brett Owens, CEO Chrometa
 
Tip 6: Keep a time-spent journal for a week. The first week of your time management journey, write down what you do each day. At the end of the week, use your list and look for obvious time wasters. When you see how you actually spent your time, you can identify areas in need of improvement.
- AccountingWEB staff
 
Tip 7: Use Outlook Rules. Use Outlook Rules to automate tasks and categorize your e-mail. For example, if you get lots of e-mail concerning a particular topic or person, create an Outlook rule to automatically move messages concerning that topic to a specific folder. You can create rules based on who an e-mail is from, what the subject line is, or what the content of the message contains.
- Doug Sleeter, president, The Sleeter Group, Inc.
 
Tip 8: Execute meeting notes in the moment. I always try to take really good notes and act on things that come up in meetings right away. I send any necessary follow-up messages immediately after the meeting. Taking good notes helps me make sure I understand the conversation and holds others accountable to it. Any actions I can take to keep things moving forward without me having to follow up again later saves me time and energy throughout my day.
- Jasen Stine, senior learning consultant, Intuit
 
Tip 9: Get heavy reading out of the way first thing in the morning. My job requires a lot of technical reading, and as I'm easily distracted during the course of the day, I've developed a practice of doing that reading first thing in the morning before I go to my office.
- Judith O'Dell, chair, FASB Private Company Financial Reporting Committee
 
Tip 10: Set up working sessions for larger projects. I try to block out a few two-to-three-hour "working" sessions each week where I focus on larger projects uninterrupted. By turning off Outlook and my phone, I'm able to concentrate and do a more thorough job.
- Roman Kepczyk, director of consulting services, Xcentric
 
Tip 11: Incorporate all aspects of appointments into one calendar. I incorporate all aspects of appointments, both professional and personal, into one calendar, including contact information. This saves me time from hunting for disparate pieces of information when an appointment or meeting is about to begin.
- Teresa Mackintosh, executive vice president, GM, CCH Tax & Accounting North America
 
Tip 12: Decide what not to do. Make a conscious decision about what not to do. Then be okay with the fact it isn't going to happen at that time.
- Bob Lewis, senior director of business development, SMB at Concur
 
Tip 13: Make a fresh start each day. Start every day identifying what's most important to accomplish and commit to that. Don't open an e-mail or make a call until you do.
- Mike Sabbatis, former president, CCH Tax & Accounting North America
 
Tip 14: Always make/have two to-do lists. Create a list for the really important things you need to get done  A items. The other is for the B- and C-level items. Never comingle the lists, and after a week (or two), drop anything not done from the B/C list  if it's not done by then, it's probably not worth doing and just adds clutter (and unnecessary pressure) to your day.
- Rondol Eagle, independent consultant and president, The Information Technology Alliance
 
Tip 15: Use sticky notes. Every morning I look at my to-do list and take the five most important and doable items I can get done that day and put them on a regular-sized sticky note. I then stick the note to my monitor. The sticky note is great because it's only big enough for five items, so I don't feel overwhelmed and ready to give up when I look at it. Anything I get done other than those five is just icing on the cake!
- Shayna Chapman-Burris, managing member, Chapman & Burris CPAs
 
Tip 16: Save the worst for first. Set aside time first thing in the morning to either complete tasks that MUST be completed that day or to tackle the most difficult, time-consuming tasks. I find this relieves a lot of stress from the rest of the day.
- Eddie Adkins, partner, Grant Thornton LLP
 
Tip 17: Use unconventional places for catching up on phone calls. Since I'm on the road all the time, I have to be very efficient. I carry around a sheet with all the people and their phone numbers that I have to call each week. I usually have about twenty to thirty names. I make calls while waiting for flights, in cabs, anywhere. I also have a pipeline that shows first step, next step, etc., and due date. I use this religiously and it drives my sales engine.
- Gale Crosley, president, Crosley+Company
 
Tip 18: Help coworkers manage their time. To help others manage their time, I try to put an "action/input requested" line early in the body of my e-mail messages when I'm asking others for help. That way, they can quickly see any action that I'm requesting. It's clear and concise, and they don't have to read the whole e-mail, unless they need further context.
- Rich Walker, director, global accountant strategy and programs, Intuit
 
Tip 19: Skip e-mail in favor of adding to meeting agenda. Think carefully about whether something is worthy of an e-mail or adding to a list of things to deal with at the next weekly/monthly meeting. It's amazing how quickly a list of small things can get resolved at a meeting that might take innumerable to-and-from e-mails.
- Ben Heald, CEO, Sift Media

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