By Stefania DeMarco, CPA
Being a CPA is demanding. Managing work, family, self-care, and other priorities can seem impossible, especially without elite time-management skills. While everyone has the same amount of time in their day, those with strong time management skills tend to have less stress and get more meaningful work accomplished.
Effective time management means that you need to focus on what is important to you and how you can realistically prioritize your day. The following strategies can help make better time management “P.O.S.S.I.B.L.E.”
P: Peak Productive Time Preparation
While there are 24 hours in a day, planning to use every single one of them is highly impractical. Instead, identify the time blocks when you have higher levels of energy and focus. Make that your “go” time, then prepare for how to use that time in the most effective way.
O: Organize Priorities
Identifying your priorities starts with determining what is important to you. Is it being home in time for dinner with your family? Fulfilling a specific task that will advance your career? Exercise?
Of course, priorities may change day to day, so quickly go through the exercise of ranking them in terms of importance. Consider using the 80/20 rule for task prioritization. Here is how Brian Tracy explains this rule: “20% of your tasks will account for 80% of the value of what you do.”
In true CPA fashion, try this formula:
- Rank tasks from 1 to 10 by how much work they will take (with 10 being the most work).
- Rank those same tasks by impact (with 10 having the highest impact).
- Divide work by impact. You now have a better idea of what will make you most productive during your peak time.
S: Schedule Tasks
Typically, we use our calendars for setting appointments with others. Change this mindset and start to make appointments with yourself. Block out your peak times to focus on your high-priority and high-impact tasks. When something is on the calendar, there is a much higher likelihood that it will get done.
S: Stop Distractions
Focused attention is key to being productive during peak times, so silence distractions such as social media, text message dings, or email alerts. Purposefully focus on completing high-priority and high-impact tasks at hand.
I: Intentionally Take Breaks
Intentionally plan for short 10-minute breaks. Take a short walk, grab a coffee, or eat a snack away from your computer. Sure, the world around you does not stop when you do, but breaks will help you stay refreshed and, in turn, more productive.
B: Be Positive
The power of positivity is real, so be mindful of your mood. To counter the high stress that overwhelming workloads bring, remind yourself that you can, and will, get through that moment. One way to do this is to break up larger tasks into smaller, more achievable ones. When you cross items off your list, you gain a feeling of accomplishment. This small act also enhances a positive mindset.
L: Learn How and When to Say No
Have you heard the adage, “If you want something done, give it to the busiest person.” It is true that when you have a reputation of getting things done, more people want to work with you, so more tasks are added to your to-do list.
Before accepting something new, whether it be work-oriented or personal, assess the following:
- What do you already have on your plate?
- What will your schedule look like if you add this additional task?
- What is the impact of you completing this task?
- What will you have to remove to make room for this task?
To be efficient, you must also be practical. If you are unsure as to what should come off your schedule to fit in something new, talk to your manager or a mentor. Trying to do it all is a formula for missed deadlines.
E: End with a Review
Getting through the day is not the end of the process. It is important to spend time at the end of the day to reflect and evaluate how well you executed your plan. Did you get done as much as you wanted? If the answer is no, that’s okay; ask yourself if what you did get done was impactful. If no again, you have a great learning opportunity. You also have another shot the next day to try again.
Time management skills may not always come naturally, but they can be learned with practice and intention. Managing your time effectively sets you up for success in your career and can reduce stress. Continue to practice this method and know great time management is P.O.S.S.I.B.L.E!
Stefania DeMarco, CPA, is national director, client strategy and business development, with CBIZ & Mayer Hoffmann McCann PC in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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