Many people wait until the beginning of a new year to declare that their habits are going to change. We’ve all set New Year’s resolutions that haven’t made it past January and are only successful at making us feel guilty for abandoning them so quickly.
Forget deciding to change your life on New Year’s Eve, the other 364 days of the year are perfectly good decision making days.
We’ve heard countless accountants utter that the number one thing they need is more time, so that’s what we are tackling here. We’re going to start with some small changes that you can initiate outside of the office and away from your desk or device that will help with time-management and let you make the most of your free time.
Most people check their email and social media immediately upon waking up. The initial part of your day is really important for setting the tone, and readying you for your hectic working day once you allow it to begin. You want to be able to be action-oriented for at least the first few hours of the day. Productivity expert Sid Savara says you should start your day by deciding on a clear list of priorities, rather than blindly checking email with an urgency that clouds what’s really important.
"If you’re blindly checking email first thing in the morning, the real problem isn’t that you’re wasting time checking email—the real problem is that you don’t see checking email as a low priority activity, because you haven’t decided what the high priority activities are.”
Instead, allow yourself a solid morning routine that makes you feel good. Eat some protein, make a smoothie, listen to a podcast or some music, meditate, have a cold shower, go to the gym—whatever works to get you in the right frame of mind for the work you need to do—just don’t put other people first if you can avoid it.
Successful people are constantly learning, and plenty of people say they would like to read more. Also, in the accounting profession, you’ll need to do a certain amount of professional reading, which can eat into your free time. If you use public transport to commute or spend time at the gym on a regular basis, you can make excellent use of this time by allocating it to getting through that reading list. (Make sure to read your technical journals safely—on the elliptical machine or exercise bike—maybe not while bench-pressing weights!)
Listening to audiobooks and podcasts is a great way to engage the brain first thing and you can do it while doing practically any other pre or post-work activity—getting ready before you leave the house, exercising, driving, etc. There’s even a trend to ‘speed-listen’ to audiobooks, at 1.5 or 2 x the regular speed—a time-saving hack for the most fearless!
A change of scenery can do wonders for clearing your mind. Some days you might want to use your lunch hour to catch up with family or friends who work nearby, but on other days—pick a place that tends to be frequented by fellow professionals. You could even join a city club. You might meet new clients this way, and just being out there in a social environment will keep your firm top of mind for referrals and new business.
You can outsource tasks in your practice if it makes sense—don’t be afraid to let someone else take care of something for you. If they can do it 80% as well as you, then you should delegate and use your extra time for those jobs you can’t pass on to someone else. However, the importance of being able to delegate is really a whole other article.
But here’s a thought—you can outsource your domestic tasks too. And as a time-poor accountant, we think you should definitely consider it as soon as you can afford it. Use a dry-cleaning service for your professional clothes, get a housecleaner in once a fortnight, get a fruit and veggie box delivered to your home and check out the various subscription services that are popping up for everything from men’s shaving supplies to ink cartridges for your best signing pen.
Feel free to take up these mini-resolutions any day of the year (not just on January 1) and if you are worried about failure, try adding them to your routine one at a time. Focus on the present, and once one is successfully ingrained as a habit, add the next, creating an impenetrable strata of hacks that will underpin your new and improved GSD strategy.