Time management for CPAs

By Liz Farr, CPA

Time is a precious commodity for everyone. Here’s how four CPAs manage to make the most of every minute.

Block out time for specific tasks. Logan Graf, CPA, tax director at Scott & Aderholt in Cedar Park, Texas, found that frequently switching among the tasks of preparing returns, reviewing returns, and meeting with clients was counterproductive. He addresses that by blocking out certain days and certain times for specific tasks. For example, during busy season, he tries to schedule new client meetings only during certain windows, say from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Include time for home and family. Amanda Aguillard, CPA, founded her virtual accounting firm, Aguillard Accounting, in 2012, when she was a single mother of two. Aguillard, who is also the co-founder of Elefant Training in New Orleans, built her monthly bookkeeping firm to allow her to be available to her children. Now, every Sunday she plans out the week in her online calendar, including commitments for her children's schools and sports, tasks for clients, weeknight dinner plans, and time for exercise, as well as appointments to connect with her all-remote team.

Flex with the season. Louise Cochrane, CPA, has a solo tax practice in Alameda, Calif., that requires her to work 60 to 70 hours a week for part of the year. But, come April 16 most years (depending on tax law changes, for instance), she drops her hours to five or 10 a week to spend time with her family. That schedule also allows her to take two months of vacation, scattered throughout the year.

Remember to eat. Cochrane found that scheduling two-hour lunches during busy season helped her improve productivity by giving her an hour to eat and an hour to work without interruptions.

Develop processes. An ongoing project for Graf is to develop processes for as many tasks in the firm as possible, along the lines described in Michael Gerber's book, The E-Myth Revisited. These detailed processes mean that the firm runs like "a machine rather than just unorganized chaos." He used OneNote, a digital notebook, to create an operations manual with detailed instructions for administrative tasks such as notifying clients that returns are ready.

Leverage technology to automate tasks. Josh Azran, CPA/ABV/CFF, CGMA, founder of Azran Financial in Los Angeles, uses the scheduling app OnceHub combined with Salesforce for managing workflow and projects. With OnceHub, every member of his firm can set their availability and capacity by defining the frequency and duration for various types of meetings.

Use technology to communicate. To keep in close contact with her remote team, Aguillard uses the messaging app Slack for quick messages and Zoom when a face-to-face conversation or on-screen collaboration is needed. She also uses Acuity for her clients and prospects to self-schedule appointments.

Editor's note: A version of this article originally appeared in CPA Insider on Nov. 25, 2019.

— By Liz Farr, CPA, a freelance writer based in New Mexico. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, a JofA associate director, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.

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