You *know* time is money, right? If you haven’t heard that yet, as a business owner you’ve likely felt it on a very real level. The less time you spend on getting new business in the door, adding on to existing business, or finding top talent is time wasted on less important tasks that could be delegated, automated, or planned for upfront.
Why Effective Time Management Helps Grow Your Firm
As you begin to expand your team and start picking what type of work you will and will not do, you start to learn where you should spend your time and what gets you the most bang for your buck with your team (and their best work). All of those things require time, and you have just as many hours in a day as everyone else. Where you can differentiate yourself from other accounting firms is your process and your service — all directly tied to you and your team’s time in a week.
So, if you’re trying to find ways to improve your time management skills, we break down exactly what it is, determine if you need to improve it, and how to implement a better way of managing your time.
What Is Time Management?
Time management is a set of related tasks and fail-safes you build into your workday and your employees’ standard operating procedures to get work done efficiently and effectively. Effective time management consists of making repeatable, predictable tasks and workflows automated through process, procedures, and possibly a few special tools.
Time management tools can include your:
- Business and personal calendar
- A time-tracking tool or system
- A project management or workflow software
- Standard operating procedures for recurring client tasks and work
- Communication tools for email, project collaboration, video or phone conference calling, and instant messaging
Once you identify the tools and processes you and your team will use to get work done, you can start to implement effective time management practices into your business.
5 Signs You Have Poor Time Management Skills
Finding your way on this blog may mean you have more than an inkling your time management skills aren’t up to snuff. To be an effective firm owner, you need to balance your and your team’s time like any other resource. However in this case, time cannot be returned if wasted!
After talking with dozens of accounting firm owners, we know the importance of learning the signs of poor time management before it’s too late to fix the problem, and you’re losing money, clients, or valuable team members as a result.
Here’s a quick list of our top signs:
- The same handful of to-do items fall off your list consistently, such as marketing or working on your own financial strategy.
- You and your team are missing deadlines on client work.
- Your team is burned out from overwork or working on administrative headaches.
- You don’t feel in control of your own schedule or work.
- There are fire drills almost every day that cause priorities and resources to shift.
Now that we know the signs of poor time management, we outline the steps you need to take to fix this problem. As a result, the benefits of time management solve these common problems.
How to Implement Time Management into Your Daily Work in 6 Steps
Getting better at time management and implementing best practices into your daily work are two entirely different sentiments. If you’re really ready to get better at managing your growing client work and expanding team — while also taking some time off for yourself — take these time management steps and take back control of your day.
Step 1: Keep a to-do list. (Or five.)
Your to-do lists should vary based on when you want to achieve certain goals. Of course, bigger, more strategic goals will take more time. But by assigning a spot on the calendar, you have a point to focus your energy in the way that gives you a better handle on a project when it’s in a tool with a process flow versus a red row on an Excel spreadsheet.
Here are five to-do lists you can create to get started:
- Daily to-do list: Assign times of the day to complete them within your calendar of choice. Doing these lists at the tail-end of the workday can help prevent your mind from racing at night coming up with your list instead of sleeping or enjoying time offline.
Examples: Update search query in LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find 2 key decision makers at X type of business, or gather summaries of benefits from medical, dental, and vision insurance brokers for the employee handbook.
- Weekly to-do list: Put these larger goals on the Sunday of each week on your calendar (otherwise, it stays blank or gets filled with tasks that don’t align with your priorities) and check them off as they’re completed with smaller tasks throughout the week.
Examples: Write personalized messages in LinkedIn to 10 key decision makers at X type of business or make a list of all the systems a new employee must be added to or trained.
- Monthly goals: This can be a note on your calendar month in a planner, desk calendar, whiteboard, or post-it note.
Examples: Get 3 meetings with key decision makers at X type of business or create an employee handbook for new hires.
- Quarterly goals: Same as above. However, these can be baked into your calendar for marketing or sales to help meet revenue goals overall.
Examples: Get another client just like XYZ Company or hire a manager for your staff.
- Annual goals: These can be big, hairy goals that remind you why you decided to start your own firm all over again. The end of the calendar year or end of tax season (if there is one) is a great time to make these goals.
Examples: Start offering package services to streamline your service offerings and business processes or take a month off to travel with your family next summer.
Step 2: Schedule time to think, grow, and take a break.
Taking time for your self-care extends beyond your own health and well-being. As a firm owner, your team relies on you to be at your best. If you’re not prioritizing your own care with lunch breaks, walks or physical activity, and time to unwind, you’re putting yourself and the operations of your business at risk.
Pro Tip: Assign company-wide quiet hours to help you and your teammates do the same with limited company-induced distractions. Encourage your team to use the time to focus on goals, deep work like process improvement or account growth, or simply take a break from communications.
Step 3: Delegate tasks to your team.
The difference between an accountant with subcontractors and a CEO is delegation. Hire your team to help carry the weight of client work. The part you should control is the overall process of getting work done, as well as determining how you’d do the work multiple times over to scale your business offerings. As you add more team members (and responsibility), revise your processes to include new roles and responsibilities for the team. One area you can delegate or outsource is your firm’s finances.
Step 4: Plan your quarter, month, week, and day ahead.
By breaking your days, weeks, and months into smaller task lists, you make small steps toward multiple goals at once and over time. Additionally, by blocking time on your calendar each day for key tasks that ladder up to a weekly or monthly goal helps you organize your thoughts and each day much more easily. Plus, imagine how good it feels to see all the work completed on your calendar at the end of the month!
(Side note: Jetpack Workflow has a Done Report, so you can get that feeling any time you want.)
Step 5: Prioritize work - not everything is a priority.
Think about your accounting firm like an assembly line. If one piece of the process gets backed up, it has cascading impacts on the next steps. This means you need to get your arms around how you intake and delegate work and assign steps in the process that will make your firm work like a well oiled machine.
Step 6: Remember to build in time for missteps.
Mistakes happen. And in the service industry, you’re depending on an entirely infallible workforce and human-generated information to get important work done.
There will be unexpected priorities, someone calling off sick or taking leave, or a glitch in your process when onboarding new employees and clients. By building in a buffer on your timelines, such as setting deadlines in your project management tracker a day before the due date to the client, it can help set you and your team up for success while meeting your client’s expectations at the same time. It’s something we like to call workflow excellence.
Managing Your Time Made Easier with a Firm Management Software
There are never too many hours in a week, but there may be too many fire drills. As a firm owner, you need to guard the time of you and your team like the precious, non-returnable asset that it is.
Try Jetpack Workflow free for 14 days, and add hours of time back into your workday. With more time, you can grow your business, empower your employees, and enjoy some much-needed downtime to refresh yourself to help you do your best work every, single day.