Boost your self assessment concentration

Richard Hattersley
Community correspondent
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Does your mind wander when faced with a stack of tax returns? You’re not alone. New research from automation provider BlackLine shows that concentration levels are likely to plummet when faced with repetitive tasks like filing tax returns.

Accountants feeling the pressure of the SA deadline don’t have the luxury to be distracted. Those who yield to long stretches of procrastination will likely hijack their tax return schedule.

BlackLine identified repetitive tasks as the cause of a high turnover and skills shortage in accountancy. Up to 64% of UK financial decision-makers leave their jobs because they are not happy with the manual, repetitive workload. BlackLine’s chief strategy officer Mario Spanicciati said: “This is especially key during self assessment season, where costly mistakes can often be made due to an overload of manual information input. If accounts are reconciled in an automated fashion the major peaks and troughs in their workloads can be eliminated. Through continuous accounting these peaks and valleys can be materially transformed.” 

CABA also recognises how a dip in concentration can be detrimental to your SA workload. To combat this, they have released a number of concentration alleviating guidelines: 

Email overload  

Sublime Science founder Marc Williamson wasted a chunk of his day replying to emails. The crunch point came when more than 500 emails clogged his work schedule. This ultimately compromised his ability to build his business.

Accountants can sympathise with Williamson when their SA plans are delayed by falling into the email rabbit hole. Williamson conquered his email overload by setting up an instant response, which says: “Due to an ever increasing workload and having to block out time to focus on the expansion of Sublime Science I’m now only checking my email every couple of days.” 

CABA agreed. They advised: “Get your voicemail to take messages and try to get into the habit of only checking them – and your emails – at one or two specific points throughout the day.” 

Make yourself comfortable

Before you start the day, ensure you feel comfortable: Adjust your chair for the day’s work, and fuel up on water throughout the day to stay alert.

Silence the distraction of your co-workers by listening to your own music. CABA recommends classical musical, but you should select the playlist most conducive to your focus. However, CABA added: “But remember to use headphones or you may end up making it difficult for your co-workers to concentrate”.

Regular breaks

“If you’re up against a tight deadline you may be tempted to work through without taking a lunch break or even stopping for a quick screen break” said CABA. “But the truth is taking breaks can help prevent you feeling tired and keep your mind fresh and alert.”

Break away from the office and go for a stroll, take in some fresh air and this should help clear your mind. You should be rejuvenated and ready to crack back into those tax returns when you return to your desk.

Digital detox

A Deloitte survey found a third of smartphone owners check their phone within five minutes of waking up. Are you spending too long staring at your social media feed? Being active on social media is becoming an essential facet of running a practice. But keep a check on your habits before they creep over into addiction, and curtail your work levels.

Close down any social media sites until after you have completed your daily goal, and save those cat GIFs until you take a break.

Make a list

CABA recommends taking some time to make a list at the start of each working day. This should eliminate switching from task to task. “Think about writing down all the tasks you need to work on, then order them in terms of priority,” recommended CABA.

Make sure you complete each task before you launch on to the next item on the list. Adding lists will structure your work schedule and will revive your focus.

Here’s some more advice to motivate you through busy season:

What do you think? Are you prone to procrastination? How do you boost your concentration during self assessment season? You can read all of CABA’s advice on their suppliers page. 


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