Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Time, the final frontier
It seems to be the biggest issue for all accountants. It's something we have all learned to fear - and cherish. No, not money or success - I'm talking about ... time!
Get any group of accountants together and time management and timesheets inevitably come up in conversation.
It's not just a rare commodity, it's what many accountants base their charges on, and it's what we all need plenty of to get our work done.
It seems that no matter how many books I read on time management, how many courses I go on, I'm still very poor at it. And even if you don't keep timesheets, you need to maximise the time you have to get your work done. Ironically, it's interesting websites such as AccountingWEB and it's regular email newsletters that tend to soak up a lot of time. So better email and Internet discipline is a definite first step towards better time management. I know some people are able to turn off email for blocks of time every day, not sure if I could. We use it so much for internal communication, passing jobs and files between team members, so turning off Outlook between say 10am and 4pm would wreck a lot of our workflow procedures. Does anyone have a better suggestion?
As for timesheets, I'd love to ditch them but at the moment they seem to be the best management tool to track what we're doing and how efficient we are. The bottom line is the value of fees we generate each week or month. But what if we don't make the target? Time records serve a purpose to tell us who's not pulling their weight, which jobs are being done inefficiently, and where we have done additional work that needs to be billed where we do fixed fees. It works for us, anyway. How do firms that don't use timesheets control this stuff? There's clearly no industry-standard approach since none of the so-called "practice management" software companies produce anything for practice management that isn't basically a time and fees package!