66 Time Management Tips to Help You Survive Busy Season

Tip 40: Review your schedule in advance. Look at the schedule for your next day before leaving for the day. On Fridays, look at all of your scheduled appointments for the next week. This will give you time to subconsciously prepare and make sure that you don't overlook important items.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
Tip 41: Strive for a clean inbox. I don't go home until my inbox doesn't scroll past one screen of messages. I answer them, file them, or add them to the appropriate task list.
- Teresa Mackintosh, executive vice president, GM, CCH Tax & Accounting North America
Tip 42: Return calls just before lunchtime or at the end of the day. Return calls just before lunch or toward the end of the day. People who you call back at those times tend to want to head out to lunch or go home for the day and will keep their conversations short.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
Tip 43: Work on one thing at a time. The phone rings . . .  a "reply all" e-mail comes through. Interruptions are real time killers! The solution? Look at everything you have on your list and pick the most important thing. It's amazing how fast you can get something done if that's all you do. Work on it, uninterrupted, until it's completed.
- Brett Owens, CEO, Chrometa
Tip 44: Delegate. Whenever possible, delegate. Handing off some administrative-type tasks means you'll have more time and energy to focus on what you do best  preparing tax returns.
- AccountingWEB staff
Tip 45: Stick to your meeting agendas. Always have an agenda and a set time frame for meetings. Consider an electronics ban  "check your cell phones and computers at the door"  except for the person taking minutes at the meeting. Start on time, and only run long with permission of all involved in the meeting.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
Tip 46: Manage your international agenda. Since my role is globally focused, I reserve Monday evenings for Asia-Pacific meetings (since it's their Tuesday mornings) and then block my Tuesday mornings from meetings, in case I've been up very late the night before.
- Rich Walker, director, global accountant strategy and programs, Intuit
Tip 47: Don't overschedule. Time management is more than just keeping track of how you spend your time. It means finding ways to get more out of the time you have. Whenever possible, don't overschedule your day. This will make it easier for you to stick to your routine.
- AccountingWEB staff
Tip 48: Coordinate time-consuming e-mail with your calendar. E-mail can dominate your time if handled improperly. Consider allocating a specific time that works for you to handle e-mail  early morning, just after lunch, late in the afternoon, or in the evening  and handle each e-mail that will take less than five minutes to respond. If more time is needed, drag the e-mail to your calendar and schedule a specific time to handle the item. Keep your inbox empty and messages filed daily.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
Tip 49: Allow yourself uninterrupted time. Make it a priority to have some time every day when you can work uninterrupted. Turn off your phone, put a "do not disturb" sign on your door, and don't look at e-mail. Without interruptions, you can focus on getting things done and increase your productivity the rest of the day.
- AccountingWEB staff
Tip 50: Schedule quiet time each week. Schedule time to do "quiet work" each week. And let go of the small stuff!
- Jody Padar, CEO, principal, New Vision CPA Group
Tip 51: Schedule projects to coincide with your peak (and not-so-peak) performance times. Schedule blocks of time for your most important activities. If you have a large project due, block off time on your calendar for the project. Choose to work on important projects when you know you do your best work. This could be early in the morning or late in the day. Don't do easy tasks when you're at your prime. Save the easy items for when you're tired or when your concentration is low.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president, Network Management Group, Inc. and
K2 Enterprises
Tip 52: Invest in a mobile phone. Smartphones have come a long way. Today, iPhones and Androids are great devices that not only improve your productivity, but free you from your desk and office. The ability to read and respond to e-mail anytime, anywhere, can greatly help you stay on top of your inbox.
- Brett Owens, CEO, Chrometa
Tip 53: Try to stay organized. As tax season progresses, try to keep your desk and office organized and uncluttered. Time spent searching for documents that are buried under piles of paper and file folders is wasted and stressful.
- AccountingWEB staff
Tip 54: Use rules and filters for e-mail. If you're always filing particular e-mails from your inbox to a folder, ask yourself if the process can be automated by using a rule or filter. It will help your quest for a zero inbox, and you can batch process the items in each folder later.
- Brett Owens, CEO, Chrometa
Tip 55: Take time for yourself. Even if you can only fit in a few minutes, take time for yourself. Taking a short walk, especially outdoors, is perfect. Time away from your desk will recharge your batteries so you can remain focused.
- AccountingWEB staff
Tip 56: Provide meeting agendas in advance and don't compromise on time frame. I find that meetings are far more productive and efficient when an agenda is provided at least a day in advance and when the time frame for the meeting isn't compromised. When meeting participants have an opportunity to begin thinking about the agenda items ahead of the meeting and can prepare their thoughts and key questions in advance, meeting time is maximized. And by sticking to the indicated time frame (say an hour meeting), an emphasis is placed on being decisive and efficient.
- Scott Fleszar, vice president strategic marketing, Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting 
Tip 57: Try the "pay time" sales concept. Pay time is the time during the day when clients and prospects are available to do business; for most, that's 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. No pay time is when you wouldn't be able to reach them. Use no pay time for responding to e-mails, writing, research, or for any other marketing activity that doesn't directly lead to a paycheck.
- Kelley C. Long, CPA, personal financial coach
Tip 58: Bring visibility to your projects. When it comes to managing my time, I find that bringing visibility to all my projects and tasks is crucial. Our brains like to focus on one task at a time, and while working on any one item, it's easy to lose sight of everything else. Thus, even with a clear sense of priorities, it's easy to get sidetracked when our mental blinders are on. By bringing visibility to the demands on our time, we have a constant visual reminder of everything we must do. This allows me to accomplish each task with the confidence of knowing I'm working on what's most important to my business.
Key steps toward bringing visibility to your tasks:
  • Compile your tasks and projects into a single repository. (As basic as it sounds, I like to use Excel to do this. It's easy to create, format, and update.)
  • Use formatting or color coding to give your consolidated list visual impact.
  • Mark tasks as complete. (Again, Excel is nice because I can use the auto filter to hide completed tasks.)
  • Keep it simple. Avoid the tendency to place too much time and effort on your task repository; simple is better.
  • Save or store your task repository somewhere that's always right under your nose.
With your repository built, it's time to put it into action. When you arrive at your desk in the morning and at regular intervals throughout the day, check and update your task repository. Most importantly, whenever you get the feeling of being overwhelmed, take a deep breath, think of palm trees, and check your task repository, as this is the precise situation you built it for.
- Ed Wielage, president, cofounder, PlanGuru
Tip 59: Set a timer. When you put off a difficult task due to complexity or tedium, you're wasting time and stressing out by procrastinating. And a cluttered mind impedes thinking. Instead, set a timer for thirty minutes and until the bell goes off, tackle the nagging task. Once you get started, you'll probably find yourself on a roll and work beyond the time to get it done.
- Kelley C. Long, CPA, personal financial coach
Tip 60: Don't let others control your calendar. Use discretion in accepting Outlook meeting requests. Systematically refuse meetings that don't align with important priorities, such as customer-experience improvement.
- Pascal Houillon, president and CEO, Sage North America
Tip 61: Don't let PowerPoint presentations eat your time and run the company. Dialog, not PowerPoint presentations, leads to decision and action.
- Pascal Houillon, president and CEO, Sage North America
Tip 62: It's okay to multitask. We're not talking about texting and driving, but if you find yourself staring down a pile of technical journals or other reading material, start taking them to the gym with you. Get your reading out of the way on the recumbent bike or elliptical machine.
- Kelley C. Long, CPA, personal financial coach
Tip 63: Reflect on your efficiency and stop being busy. Every Friday evening, spend some time to reflect on your efficiency during the week. Use that information to prepare for your next week.
- Pascal Houillon, president and CEO, Sage North America
Tip 64: A great book on using Outlook. One of the books that changed my life when it comes to time management is Take Back Your Life Using Microsoft Outlook. It's a wonderful resource on using Outlook Calendar, Tasks, and Inbox very effectively. I don't feel like I'm SINKING in e-mail anymore. WONDERFUL resource.
- Sandra Wiley, shareholder and COO, Boomer Consulting, Inc.
Tip 65: Schedule time for meetings as well as time to complete tasks. As much as possible, I try to schedule my appointments to start 1.5 hours apart. I don't get as many meetings on my calendar, but I always have between thirty and sixty minutes between each appointment.
Per standard time management (life management) principles, I set my goals for each day the night before. I then categorize the list by the amount of time I estimate it will take me to complete each goal. In-between meetings, I work on those goals. 
I try to close out a task completely by my next appointment. Many studies have shown that starting and stopping a task decreases productivity significantly. 
If I have large tasks that will take more than sixty minutes to complete, I set appointments for those on my calendar.
- Joe Woodard, owner, The Woodard Consulting Group
Tip 66: Outsource. Outsource any daily task that you can.
- Jason M. Blumer, CPA, CITP, founder of THRIVEal +CPA Network

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