66 Time Management Tips to Help You Survive Busy Season

Tip 20: Start your workday earlier. This isn't revolutionary but was a shift I made a few years ago that made a huge difference. I now start my workday at 7:00 a.m. or earlier and use the time from then to 9:00 a.m. to get to all of those never-ending e-mails. I let the noncritical ones stack up through the day. It's hard to "just say no," I'll do it later, but it's incredibly effective.
- James Metzler, vice president of small firm interests, AICPA
 
Tip 21: Touch paper only once. Only touch paper once if possible. While handling your inbound physical mail, take action on it at that time, or place an item on your calendar to handle something that will take a larger block of time. Place a small dot on any piece of paper that you touch, and when you see three dots, act on that item to avoid procrastination.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
 
Tip 22: Take advantage of commute time. Each day I receive nearly 150 e-mails. As with most everyone, a huge percentage of these are useless, a good percentage need to be read, a handful require a careful read, and a few need immediate attention. During the course of the day, I scan my e-mail to find ones that need immediate attention. The remaining e-mails are left for later. During my commute home on the train, I bang through all remaining e-mails. The great thing is that since I don't have wireless on my laptop, no one can respond to me immediately. It makes the process significantly more efficient. Once I get home, I sign on to the server and send the e-mails off.
- David Pugh, vice president and publisher, John Wiley and Sons
 
Tip 23: Block out time for building your future. The best leaders dedicate time every day for those things that are important to building their future. For example, if business development (BD) is critical for your future, then you may decide that you could dedicate 50 percent of your non-billable time to this activity. If you wait until BD becomes urgent, it may be too late. Once you've decided to dedicate this time, then block out BD time on your calendar at least weekly (daily is even better). Once you've blocked this time, don't let anything interfere with your calendar. If you find that BD is difficult for you, then you should block this time during the first hour every day. Get it behind you. Brian Tracy says, "Eat the ugliest frog first." When you dedicate time and then devote the first hour every day, your future will be bright and you'll master your business life.
- Troy Waugh, The Rainmaker Academy and Consulting Group
 
Tip 24: Keep work and personal time separate. Keep work time and personal time separate. You need the ability to unwind, and carrying work home doesn't make you a more effective employee or person. If you're a home-based worker, keep your business space separate from your personal space so you can enjoy your family.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
 
Tip 25: Strive to maintain a zero inbox. When going through e-mail, strive to maintain a zero inbox. File e-mail messages after you read them. Don't leave them in your inbox, where you're likely to reread the same e-mail multiple times.
- Brett Owens, CEO, Chrometa
 
Tip 26: Otis Redding had it right. My time management tip is from the Otis Redding school of management. Otis wrote and sang the song "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay." My favorite part is, "I can't do what ten people tell me to do, so I guess I'll just remain the same." 
 
Whenever I'm feeling out of control, I've borrowed a process we use in our i2a: Insights to Action process, called Top Five Steps (or priorities). I sit down and start jotting major projects and ideas on sticky notes and categorize and prioritize them into top five buckets. I then further prioritize on a worksheet, with columns labeled critical, essential, and incidental. Then I can see what's most important and quickly regain my focus.
 
We also find this works great with project teams, departments, and other groups as well as individuals.
- Tom Hood, CEO, Maryland Association of CPAs and The Business Learning Institute
 
Tip 27: Take advantage of Outlook's Tasks feature. I don't use my Outlook inbox as a to-do list; that's what the Outlook Tasks functionality is for. I do a quick scan of my e-mail inbox first thing in the morning and quickly delete all the nonessential messages. I then drag-and-drop the messages for which I must do something (other than those that need a quick response) into the Tasks list.
- Rich Walker, director, global accountant strategy and programs, Intuit
 
Tip 28: Allocate time for professional reading. Allocate a specific time to catch up on your professional reading. If you travel or commute on public transit, use your travel time to read publications. Scan or send links to others in your organization with tools like Dropbox or Pogoplug.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
 
Tip 29: Take a break. Recent research shows that breaks every ninety minutes improve effectiveness. If you've gotten out of the habit of walking away from your work, try inserting a few breaks in your day. You may find yourself more productive by taking a few minutes off from working.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
 
Tip 30: Make accurate timekeeping a top priority. You must have an accurate account of how you spend your time. Without it, you may lose significant pieces of legitimate billable time. If you performed the work but were unable to bill for the time because you lost track of it, you just lost some potential profit.
- Brett Owens, CEO, Chrometa
 
Tip 31: Set agendas for meetings. Agendas let everyone know ahead of time what's to be discussed and the intended outcome of the meeting. Include a start and stop time at the top of the agenda and stick to it.
- AccountingWEB staff
 
Tip 32: Reward yourself  Part 1. Reward yourself with small, enjoyable time breaks throughout the day (e.g., fifteen minutes of posting on Facebook, nontechnical reading, or gardening) after you've accomplished odious tasks (e.g., insurance claims, RMAs, bank reconciliations, etc.).
- Elizabeth Way, owner, Abaca.net Programming and Software Support
 
Tip 33: Reward yourself  Part 2. Hire someone at one-fifth or less of your hourly billing rate to do odious tasks so that you can fritter away even larger amounts of time posting on Facebook, reading spy novels, or planting herbs.
- Elizabeth Way, owner, Abaca.net Programming and Software Support
 
Tip 34: Prioritize to-do list for tomorrow at the end of each day. I make sure my to-do list is up to date and prioritized before I leave the office in the evening so I have a clear picture of what I need to accomplish the next day.
- Judith O'Dell, chair, FASB Private Company Financial Reporting Committee
 
Tip 35: Key habits for accountants. According to a CPA Trendlines study by the Bay Street Group, 34 percent of CPAs report "often" feeling distracted, while another 34 percent are "sometimes" distracted. This is followed by 22 percent who are "frequently" distracted.
 
CPAs rely on a few key habits for maximizing productivity and minimizing distraction, including:
  • Strictly scheduling e-mail and Internet activity.
  • Preparing daily to-do lists.
  • Shifting work hours to early mornings or evenings to minimize interruptions.
  • Setting aside discrete blocks of time for phone calls and meetings.
Of course, that's easier said than done.
- Rick Telberg, president, CEO, Bay Street Group
 
Tip 36: Reorganize and rethink your use of paperless technologies. Consider your use of paperless technologies and filing systems. Reorganize and rethink them if you haven't done so in a while. Update your records-retention policy. Choose a time of year that works best for you to reorganize, perhaps during the last week of your fiscal year. Clean up all e-mail and open projects and dispose of any items not used in the past year.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
 
Tip 37: Turn off smartphone notifications. In this day of the smartphone, I've started turning off the notifications to various apps. The constant dinging of e-mail, texts, tweets, Facebook messages, to-dos, etc., is distracting and breaks my concentration. The badges on the apps are begging me all day to open the app and look to see what I received, like a kid at Christmas. If I turn them off, I don't look at them until a more appropriate time. I can always turn them on if I'm expecting something important or I'm not doing something where I need to concentrate.
- Shayna Chapman-Burris, managing member, Chapman & Burris CPAs
 
Tip 38: Categorize tasks in order of priority. I categorize my task/to-do list in A, B, C priority order. Then I have to discipline myself to focus on the tasks in that order. It's amazing to me how C priorities often never require my attention.
- Rich Walker, director, global accountant strategy and programs, Intuit
 
Tip 39: Use a priority list throughout the day. There's never enough time in the day to address all that needs to be done. A helpful tool I use is creating and then reviewing/editing a daily priority list. The priority list can be adjusted based on timing, importance, and other variables. I start each day, and many times refer to it several times a day to make sure I reorganize my desk and mind accordingly. Without the list I tend to be too heavily influenced by the squeaky wheel or what's on the top of the pile as opposed to the most critical.
- Joel Sinkin, president, Transition Advisors, LLC

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