CPA firms often end up
writing off time they should be charging to their
clients. How can you get more done in less time
and avoid spinning your wheels? Follow these
Filter out low-value information.
Thirty-nine percent of executives
squander between a half and one full day per week
on e-mails, voice mails and meetings with little
value. Lighten the burden on your time by
unsubscribing from mailing lists and publications
you don’t read. Reduce unnecessary “FYI” e-mails
by telling coworkers what information you don’t
Do the worst first. It’s
only human to put off the most unpleasant tasks
and do easier or more enjoyable ones first. But
postponing chores destroys efficiency, because
people subconsciously slow down their work pace to
avoid the unpleasant jobs. So do the worst task
first thing in the morning. You’ll be amazed at
how quickly you’ll get the rest of your work done.
Deal with it now. When
something enters your system—an e-mail, a phone
call, a memo or a project—take one of four
actions: Do it, if it can be completed in
less than two minutes; delegate it to
someone better suited to handle it; designate
time for it in your calendar, if it’s a more
complicated task; or dump it, if it’s
irrelevant or insignificant.
Batch similar tasks for greater
efficiency. Multitasking, though
often considered essential to effectiveness,
actually reduces efficiency by 20% to 40%.
Instead, try batching your e-mails, voice mails,
outgoing phone calls and even interactions with
Improve meeting effectiveness.
Ensure the greatest return on your
meetings investment by providing the agenda and
reading material 48 hours before the meeting.
Start and end on schedule. Create a follow-up plan
with specific action items, the name of the person
who owns each item, the due date and an agreement
about what constitutes its completion. Publish
minutes and action plans within 24 hours, since
most people wait for the minutes to arrive before
they begin to act.
Disseminate best practices.
Hold regular meetings between
managers and partners to share best practices. For
example, teach staff to purge all to-do and
open-items lists from work papers and teach
managers how to delegate engagement tasks.
Constantly disseminate this information to promote
audit efficiencies and reduce avoidable errors.
Schedule your own work in your calendar.
Calendars are not just for
appointments; they’re critical for scheduling your
own work. Get into the habit of blocking out a
specific date and time with the client name, the
nature of the service you’re handling (for
example, audit or review) and the subcategory
you’ll be working on, such as planning, balance
sheet or income statement.
Schedule “unavailable” time.
If walk-in interruptions bog you
down, carve out blocks of time during which your
office door is closed and you can work
uninterrupted. Post your calendar on the door so
coworkers know how long you’ll be busy and when
you’ll be available to talk.
Practice the “salami technique.”
Large audits or other projects can
be daunting. Slice them into smaller, manageable
pieces and budget time for each task.
Plan, plan, plan. Ensure
you’re doing the right things at the right time by
allocating five minutes for planning each morning.
Give yourself 10 minutes on Sunday night or Monday
morning to step back, consider the entire week and
focus on critical client issues.
Daniel Markovitz, president of Time Back
Management, a corporate efficiency consulting firm
firstname.lastname@example.org ), and Nicholas
Giangrande, CPA, manager, Financial Services
Group, RSM McGladrey, www.rsmi.com .