Golden Business Ideas

Take Control of Your Time

What’s your typical workweek look like—50, 60, 70 hours—or more? If you’re putting in such hefty hours, it’s time to take stock of your work life and figure out what you’re doing wrong and what you can do about it.

If you are racking up 60-plus hours and you’re satisfied, stop reading this article right now and get back to work.

But if you feel you have no choice but to put in those hours and you wish there were something you could do about it, read on.

There are just two possible ways to cut back: Delegate some of your jobs or eliminate them. We’re going to address both.

The first obvious question is which tasks you should delegate and which you should eliminate.

You may be surprised that the answer is easier than you imagine, but it’s going to take you a while to get there—if you can spare the time.

Begin by making a detailed list of everything you do at work for a full month. That’s everything—from analyzing your company’s cash flow position to reading the sports page. Remember, this list is for you, so be honest and include everything.

Leave space to the right of the activities list for two more columns. In the first, next to each activity, answer the question: Can I delegate it? In the second, add your thoughts about the task: Is it necessary? Is there a better way to do it? What would happen if nobody did it?

You’re likely to discover there are a few routine tasks that can be delegated very easily. Not only would that free you for more important work—or better yet, thinking time—but it could enrich the work of a subordinate who inherits the job and promote his or her growth.

Recognize that you’re going to try to hang on to some of your tasks—not because you need to do them but because either you like doing them or you feel especially proficient at them and they give you pleasure even though you probably should delegate or even eliminate some.

So far, this part of the exercise alone could cut hours off your workweek.

Now let’s get to the heavy-duty stuff that not only will cut your workweek further but will enrich it and make you a far better manager.

Invite your subordinates to undertake the same task-listing exercise. Make it clear that you want them to focus on tasks that can be eliminated, simplified or performed more efficiently. Carefully explain that this exercise is not a prelude to layoffs or demotions; on the contrary, it’s an opportunity to make their work more efficient (that means fewer drudge hours, not harder work) and more interesting (because the tasks remaining would be more creative and challenging).

Using their task lists and what you already know about each person, assess their special skills, talents, likes and dislikes.

Since you now presumably have formulated a clearer picture of your critical activities, match them with your subordinates’ skills and preferences.

At the same time, review the tasks that each of your staff people seeks to hold onto. Like you, they may want to do things they enjoy, even when the job is no longer really necessary. Or they may want to hold onto a task that built their reputation even though it no longer represents the best use of their time or talent; in fact, it may be a crutch to avoid taking on a more challenging or risky task.

Using all this information and the newly gained insights about your and your staff’s activities, begin to selectively delegate and reassign tasks. Use this opportunity to share your thinking with the staff, discover their personal goals and engage in a team effort.

You may find that you not only spend fewer hours in the office, but that you enjoy those hours more and your work experience provides you greater satisfaction.

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.


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