The need for good time management never goes away. This 2005 AccountingWEB.co.uk contribution from training professional Viv Cole challenges some commonly held assumptions about time management.
Always have a tidy desk
While a tidy desk can help you work more effectively by eliminating distractions, you need to weigh up the time spent tidying against the cost of being untidy. Consider your desk 'healthily tidy' if you can find what you need quickly and can easily direct a colleague to find relevant information, for example when you're out of the office.
Going home at 5:30pm every day shows that you don't have enough work to do
If you are confident that you are on track to meet your objectives and deadlines, why feel guilty about going home at 5:30? Partners should assess you on what you actually achieve rather than how much effort you put in. Obviously there are sometimes good business reasons why you will need to work later. If you manage your time effectively you will be clear about the reasons to work later rather than working late being a matter of course.
Plan all of your tasks using 'To Do' lists
If you can complete a task immediately and fairly quickly, just do it! Putting things onto a 'To Do' list may take longer than they're worth. The fewer items on your 'To Do' list, the less time you’ll need to spend deciding which to do now. Allocate a time slot to respond to your emails/correspondence. This will give you a motivating sense of having got things done and keep your 'To Do' list more manageable.
There is no point becoming more efficient as clients pay by the hour
In the short term this is true as your clients have agreed a fee. However if your competitors are more efficient and can therefore quote lower fees, at some point you will have no clients left. Use the time that you save to enhance the quality of service you provide e.g. do research on forthcoming changes in tax legislation/accounting standards and advise your client how this may affect them. This research time will also generate opportunities to impress other clients.
Never let yourself get interrupted by your colleagues
While it is difficult to come back to a half-completed task when you're interrupted in the middle of it, colleagues are one of your most valuable resources. Often you will find out information or improve relationships which will allow you to achieve your objectives. Communicate and agree with colleagues the times that you don't want to be distracted (and vice versa), for example when you're working on a report or a proposal.
Appraisals are a huge waste of time
Not so. An appraisal is one of the best ways to use your time. In a good appraisal you will agree and set objectives which balance your career aspirations with the firm's business plan. If you have clear objectives, you have ready-made criteria for deciding which tasks to fit into your limited time available. Each month allow yourself 20 minutes or so to check your progress against last month's objectives and set new objectives for what you want to achieve in the next month. Compare these with your objectives for the year.