Get More Done by Doing Less

By Rick Telberg 

There's no denying that technology enhances workflow and improves efficiencies. But for some professionals, too much of a good thing is becoming a burdensome distraction.
Most of us are just trying to do too much and not getting enough done.
For instance, a CPA Trendlines survey showed recently that nearly two out of four CPAs (44 percent) check their e-mail at least hourly, and more than one out of three (39 percent) say they check e-mail "in real time, as it arrives."
Joanne Rock of Chicago says a major distraction is just "trying to figure out what the e-mail is requesting. Sadly, personal e-mail is commingled with office e-mail." But then, that's real life for all too many people.
Like Rock, many professionals find themselves succumbing to a host of digital distractions in the office, whether it is e-mail, Internet surfing, or IMing.
Furthermore, nearly half (48 percent) of respondents say that Internet surfing is another "digital distraction," followed by listening to music (17 percent). Other respondents cited gaming, fiddling with the computer's settings, and watching videos as distractions.
Accountants report feeling distracted "sometimes" (34 percent) or "often" (also 34 percent).
"Digital is by far the worst time-waster," said Charles Pritchett of Orem, Utah, who said he checks e-mail about every hour and considers himself "terminally" distracted.
Feelings of distraction rarely come as a surprise as today's technology-driven workplace means that professionals are often forced to multitask, bouncing from the Internet to e-mail to the telephone to unexpected client visits.
"I think that the worst problem I have is being distracted from one task by another. That is, I'll be working on one thing, thinking of another, and switching in the middle," says Carolyn Christesen of Valhalla, New York, who acknowledges that she checks e-mail about every hour.
However, not everyone views technology, like e-mail, as a necessary evil.
"I don't consider checking e-mail a distraction. It's a necessity to stay on top of a fast-changing environment," said Chip Ellis of Honolulu, Hawaii, who checks e-mail in real time as it hits his inbox.
"I travel a lot, so much of my 'computer work' is done on the road. I never seem to be in one spot more than 30 to 45 minutes," said Debbie Lambert of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Aside from "digital distractions," many accountants are quick to cite phone calls and coworkers as the worst distractions or interruptions.
"Telephone – it is far more time consuming than e-mail. Actually, very rarely is e-mail distracting. If I get a quick response, I can complete my task at hand," says Kathy L. Copp of Warner Robins, Georgia.
"Client 'crisis' phone calls, coworker interruptions, socializing with coworkers," says Craig Sheets of Lake Mary, Florida, when asked about his biggest distractions.
Some accountants list unexpected visits, IT "emergencies," colleagues talking on speakerphone, and mail sorting as additional distractions.
"My worst distractions are people working in close proximity and sorting mail. There is entirely too much paper out there that has to be dealt with," says Susan Hebert of Washington, DC.
There's no doubt that today's professionals are busier than ever, but, hopefully, not many feel the same as Alphonse J. Sperske of Sacramento, California, who, when asked about major distractions, lists "eating and sleeping."
Related articles:
Reprinted with permission from CPA Trendlines.

You may like these other stories...

A version of this article originally appeared at Practice Development Counsel. Many professions and industries struggle with inter-generational challenges. The advertising industry is just one of those industries...
By Phyllis Weiss Haserot, President, Practice Development Counsel This post originally appeared at Practice Development Counsel. Reflection is something I do a lot of – I have for many years quite...
By Jeff Davidson Whether you work for a large organization, a small accounting firm, or are self-employed, within the course of the workweek you'll undoubtedly encounter a variety of irritations, frustrations, and...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Apr 22
Is everyone at your organization meeting your client service expectations? Let client service expert, Kristen Rampe, CPA help you establish a reputation of top-tier service in every facet of your firm during this one hour webinar.
Apr 24
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA introduces you to a powerful but underutilized macro feature in Excel.
Apr 25
This material focuses on the principles of accounting for non-profit organizations' revenues. It will include discussions of revenue recognition for cash and non-cash contributions as well as other revenues commonly received by non-profit organizations.
Apr 30
During the second session of a four-part series on Individual Leadership, the focus will be on time management- a critical success factor for effective leadership. Each person has 24 hours of time to spend each day; the key is making wise investments and knowing what investments yield the greatest return.