Studies show that your focus and concentration are at their highest level before noon, so take advantage of this peak performance time by being more productive. Here is how I manage my time:
6:30 a.m. Wake up refreshed: I know everyone has different sleep requirements, but for me, it’s a solid eight to nine hours or I’m just not on top of my game. Set yourself up for success by getting enough sleep. If it’s April 14 and you’re short of meeting your clients’ expectations and needs, have some really good coffee and get the ball rolling.
There aren’t many people in our industry that are workout fanatics. I personally prefer being a computer geek, shopping queen or movie buff. Nevertheless, I know how important it is to my physical and emotional well being to get moving in the morning. For every hour that goes by in a day, there’s a lesser chance that I’m active. You can intertwine something not so great into a positive addiction – so I wake up and run, swim or bike. How do I motivate myself? Finding ways to multitask and having fun at the same time. A really good movie or audiobook are the only things allowed during this time.
7 a.m. Know your schedule: First things first, use a calendar service that can send or easily provide a snapshot of your day to prepare for success. Better yet, review your calendar while on the treadmill, and confirm your appointments for the following day. Apptoto is an automated appointment reminder and messaging service I just stumbled on that I love. When I create a Google calendar appointment, I add a keyword and Apptoto picks it up to remind the client via email and text at the times you specify. It’s foolproof and doesn’t require afterthought.
7:30 a.m. Incorporate positive change: I had chronic back pain for some time and assumed it was inherited. One day, an epiphany hit … I habitually worked on the couch, craning my neck to see my tiny notebook monitor. Could this be causing my problem (duh)? I redid my desk to optimize the ergonomics (and likability) of sitting there, and my back improved drastically. Our typical day is filled with habits – and not necessarily good ones. Something I’ve realized about myself is that if it’s not on my calendar, it won’t get done (hence, schedule above). This included basic necessities, such as staying hydrated and eating steadily throughout the day. I started replacing negative habits, such as skipping meals, with positive ones by planning for them. If I know I tend to get wrapped up once I step into the office and won’t want to leave, then I should never step foot in the office without meals, snacks and veggie filled water (yep, Koa). What else? It’s really hard to workout consistently during busy season, so I pre-plan a personal trainer to come to the office two times each week for myself and my peers to knock out sweat and stress. What daily habits are bringing you down? Sitting too long? Have your techie watch remind you to stand and stretch every hour. Figure out what habits are necessary to change for the better, then look forward to the results.
8 a.m. Conquer your biggest: I call this the “procrastinator project.” This isn’t necessarily the most important or challenging task at hand, but one that you will continue to put off until it drives you mad. For example, if you get the unfortunate task of having to call the IRS, do it the first thing in the morning when the call volume is supposed to be better. While you hold for three hours, go ahead and hammer out another project! You’ll feel like you can do anything if you conquer these first while you are fresh.
9 a.m. Learn something new: If you read this article before noon, congratulations – you are a successful tax pro! On a serious note, I chose this profession for the same reason most run from it … constantly evolving mental challenges.
Since you are still on hold with the IRS, take some CPE or catch up on tax news. Better yet, dig into your creative side by listening to someone who inspires you. Tim Ferriss is a great example for me. I read The 4-Hour Workweek in college, then proceeded to tell my now-husband that I’d be retired by the time I graduated. OK, so I didn’t retire early, but I continue to gain inspiration from Ferriss. We are only as creative as what we can imagine, and sometimes I need a little of someone else’s imagination to fuel mine.
9:30 a.m. Don’t lose yourself: This sentiment came from the startup phase of my firm as a workaholic. As my firm became successful, my personal health wavered. I had focused so long on one goal that I lost track of any others. If this is an especially weak area for you, join an accountability group of like-minded professionals.
What do you believe in? Why did you choose this career? I encourage all professionals to make a checklist of their core values because it’s all too easy to forget them. Any time an ethical issue arises, review YOUR minimum standards. If it doesn’t make the cut, don’t do it! Post these on the wall or your iPhone screensaver. Continue your day knowing that you have something to stand for.
10 a.m. Don’t let your Inbox manage you: I’ll be completely honest here … I have no idea what the right formula is with regard to when and how to check email. I wish I could tell you that X and Y are the perfect blend of Zen, but every morning is different and priorities change. All I know is that emails/social media is a huge distraction, and there’s nothing worse than the frustration I feel mid-afternoon when I didn’t accomplish anything I meant to do that morning. That’s why I let SaneBox do the dirty work for me.
If you are worried about missing an important client note, delegate your inbox to an assistant or rotating staff member. Better yet, set up a priority phone line just for those VIP clients (thanks Chuck Bauer for this nugget). Let the rest of the world wait a few hours for you to do what you need to do.
10:30 a.m. Make a (positive) impact on others: I think most accountants are type A, representing controlling, serious personalities – a double-edged sword. We will get through that deadline no matter what, yet we could sacrifice personal relationships along the way.
No matter how introverted someone claims to be, we were all made to be social and be part of a community. While we sometimes feel like carrying a client’s tax burdens on your shoulders is enough of a sacrifice, it probably isn’t. Inspire others by doing what you love doing, and being grateful.
Did I grow up thinking I’d be a CPA? Heck no! But, I was blessed that I found my passion in this line of work. If you are fortunate enough to have staff to support your passion, then appreciate them. My staff works remotely across the vast state of Texas. How do I make an impact? By doing the little things, like sending flowers on their birthday, sending a gift card after they worked their butt off on a last-minute project or trying to be a good leader. Inspire them to become better versions of themselves through servant leadership.
Express gratitude every day, as early as possible. Make it a habit. If you know in October that you’ll be buried in work next month when important birthdays roll around, record short, personalized videos that can automatically be sent out on that date. If you are stuck on a problem, take a five-minute break to walk around the office and see what you can do to brighten someone else’s day.
11 a.m. Lunchtime: Grab a bite with your spouse, an old friend or a colleague. Be social when you have the chance, and smile because the rest of your day is going to be great!