“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst” – William Penn
A common problem many practice owners face is time and more specifically, a lack of it.
An easy mistake to make when faced with the mountains of tasks that pile up in your practice is to just take a deep breath and dive headfirst straight into them.
But, this isn’t always the best approach. Here’s why…
“What Is Important Is Seldom Urgent, & What Is Urgent Is Seldom Important”
When you are making small progress, working your way through the pile of accounts that need finalising, it’s easy to think that you’re being productive, and the time spent was unavoidable.
But the truth is that although these tasks are urgent and important, as a business you aren’t growing, and you aren’t moving forwards.
So, the question that you need to ask yourself is whether you want to simply do more ‘urgent-important stuff’ in your day, or more of the ‘non-urgent important stuff’.
Goals are achieved when you start doing less of the urgent tasks and more of the non-urgent tasks i.e. working ON the business and not IN it.
Here are 3 simple ways you can get ahead, take back control and do the tasks that will drive your practice forwards:
1. Default Diary
A simple, yet effective way of taking control of your time and routine comes in the form of a Default Diary.
A default diary is a proven and successful way of finding a designated spot in your working routine to focus on the important tasks.
It’s what all successful entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk use.
Now a successful default diary is both flexible and rigid which admittedly, sounds contradictory, but let’s break it down….
There are some important tasks that will contribute to the growth of your practice. For example, one of these could be sitting down, designing a new marketing strategy and making a plan to implement it.
Another example could be allocating time to strengthen client relationships by taking your top 20 clients out to lunch and seeing how else you can help them.
These tasks should be prioritised and given clear immovable timeslots in your default diary – rigid.
Other tasks such as finalising clients’ accounts, although they’re often urgent some-what important, they aren’t going to drive you and your practice forwards. These can be a little more flexible.
A default diary gives you the opportunity to cement your important tasks in place and ensure these timeslots become routine each week/month/quarter.
This allows you to complete the time-consuming, less important tasks without sacrificing new opportunities.
Here’s an example of what a default diary could look like:
A very simple way to look at this, is the ‘Rocks, Pebble’s and Sand’ analogy.
It’s a simple concept in which you have different three objects to fill an empty jar.
- A pile of rocks – these are the most important things in your life (family time, business development, personal health)
- A pile of smaller pebbles – these are still important, but they aren’t vital for your business’ future survival (client deadlines etc)
- A pile of sand – these are the fillers, the things you routinely do in day to day life (answering emails, watching television at home)
If you first fill the jar with the large rocks, i.e. the most important stuff, you can then use the smaller pebbles, and then the sand, to fill in the empty space around them.
You can find the time for most things, it’s simply in the way you manage it.
2. Master The Deadline
As practice owners, we face deadlines and urgent client expectations regularly.
Whether it’s a last-minute push to meet the tax deadline or a short timeframe for auditing, deadlines can make a big difference on the amount of attention you give to other important tasks.
And if urgent deadlines distract you from working on your goals, your progress in reaching them will slow down.
So how can we prevent this?
There are now plenty of tools in the accountancy world you can use to manage deadlines more effectively, plan in advance and increase the time you can spend on developing your practice.
Software like this can organise your time by systematically planning your week ahead of time based upon the deadlines you face and can automate time-consuming processes such as sending client chaser emails.
You are probably thinking, ‘It’s not THAT simple’ as there are times when something lands on your desk with no warning and a tight deadline.
These things happen, but if you already have a plan in place to organise your work and the deadlines you face you will leave yourself in a better position to tackle the unexpected.
Lack of time for any practice owner, is in part a consequence of you being the ‘Go-to’ individual when something important comes up or doesn’t quite go to plan.
You also have a team to manage, clients to satisfy and a business to grow. This all takes time.
So how can you fit it all in?
One way to help maintain balance and manage it is by using the resources you have available. The biggest one is your team.
Your team is there for a purpose, and while your expertise and role are vital in the growth and success of your practice, it just isn’t possible to do everything yourself.
Figuring out a training and delegation plan for your team might seem time-consuming now, but it will free up much more of your time down the line.
Time Management Or Choice Management?
Most practice owners don’t have an issue with time management, they have an issue with choice management.
They don’t have a system for choosing exactly what they should be spending their time on, and what they definitely shouldn’t be spending their time on.
So, do you want more freedom? Do you want a practice that you can work ON and not IN.
If you follow the 3 steps outlined above, you are taking a big step towards creating that freedom to develop both your practice and personal goals.
Time will always remain the same, but by making the right choices, you can change the way you manage it.