Mark Lee’s time-saving pre-xmas tips

The weeks leading up to Christmas can be some of the busiest and most stressful times in the year. Plenty of accountants struggle with their workload; not to mention all of those clients who still need their tax returns completed and filed before the 31st of January.

Mark Lee has complied a series of pre-xmas tips to help you stay on top of your work, freeing up time and helping you in the run up to Christmas.

1. Plan your day and work your plan

Identify the 3 or 4 things you MUST do tomorrow, before you leave the office/computer tonight.  

And identify two other things: how long you will devote to each of those 3 key tasks AND when you will start each of them. 

Treat these time commitments just as seriously as you would if you were going to 3 meetings with clients.  You wouldn’t let anything interrupt you, would you? 

2. Turn off Notifications 

These days we are all at risk of more distractions than ever before. Emails? Text messages? WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin messages/updates?

So many of our apps and systems default to to providing us with immediate notifications when they arrive.  

You can turn these off. Indeed, I also choose ‘no’ when offered the choice of receiving immediate notifications. I’ll choose when I want to see these thank you.

Even if you think you aren’t being distracted by such notifications you are probably kidding yourself. Your subconscious brain spots them and you then have to try to avoid thinking about them.  Even doing that can distract you and slow you down thus impacting your ability to concentrate on the task at hand. 

3. Create a Don’t Do (DD) list

Your DD list should contain all those things you want to avoid sidetracking you. 

Many accountants spend too much unscheduled time on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, online forums, news websites or apps on their phones. 

I find it helps to set yourself a time limit and an objective when visiting those sites. For example, I never visit those sites when I’m at my desk – only vie my phone when I’m out and about or taking a break away from my desk.  Would you be more efficient if you developed a similar habit?

4. Pick up the phone 

This may sound like a counter intuitive way to save time. Surely it takes longer to phone clients than it does to send another email chasing clients for the data you need to complete their tax return or accounts?

The question to consider though is how successful are those repeated emails? Sure some clients respond – so these are the ones you don’t need to call. 

But every accountant knows which of their clients only ever provides their data after getting a last minute phone call in mid January.

The sooner you call with that same degree of urgency and ask for the specific missing data you need, the sooner you will get what you need. And the less of a last minute rush you will have in January. 

5. Stop relying on Google

Google isn’t always your friend. Searching for forms and guides on Google often brings up old versions as these have been accessed more often than more recent (new) version.  Older stuff has had more hits (over time) so appears higher in search results.

You can then end up wasting time completing such old forms or taking action by reference to out of date guidance and then having to do it all again once you realise what you’ve done.

Better to bookmark and/or keep track of key official websites and reliable sources. This will save you time in the long run.

6. Be honest about your priorities

It’s tempting to say we don’t have time to get everything done. We claim to be prioritising the right things. But are we?

A key lesson for me was when I was first told that ‘Your calendar evidences your priorities’.

My priorities are my meetings and my speaking engagements, also, crucially, the time I need to prepare for these, to travel to them as well as my thrice weekly trips to the gym and, of course, family time.  All of these are booked in my calendar. Very occasionally I need to reschedule preparation time or a trip to the gym. This happens when something, or someone else, requires me at the same time.  In which case I reschedule things, I do not remove ‘prep’ work or ‘gym’ from my diary.

Does your diary reflect your priorities and do you respect yourself sufficiently to treat such commitments to yourself in the same way you would if they were commitments to your clients or loved ones?

If you’ve not spent time on things you claim to be prioritise, you should reconsider whether they truly are priorities.If so, why were they not in your diary and prioritised? 

7. Clear out your inbox

It’s all too easy to waste time repeatedly looking through emails you have put off opening or actioning. Which one should I deal with next? It’s too easy to mistake your inbox for a to do list – which means you are letting other people decide what you should be doing. 

Here’s a quick 3 step approach to overcoming this issue and starting a new time saving habit:

  1. Move all of the emails still in your inbox to a new folder. Call it ‘1 OLD inbox’  That will keep it at the top of your list of folders. 
  2. Resolve to only check your inbox 2 or 3 times a day. And when you do, choose which of the following 5 actions to take as regards each new email: Delete it, Do it now (reply, print or file as required), Delegate it (forward it to someone else to action now or later), Read it later (move it to a folder or tag it for actioning later) or File it for reference or future use.
  3. Schedule time in your diary for the emails you want to read later. 

You could also avoid that last minute rush in January by investing a little time in talking with us at Global Infosys.  

Ask us to complete a tax return or a set of accounts for you before Christmas. See how we work and then, if you need our help in January you’ll be well set to pass more cases to us – so you can spend more time with your family, with friends, relaxing or sleeping.  The more time you free up the more choices you have how to spend it.

For further advice from Mark Lee on this subject, download his whitepaper.

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