How to Increase Your Accounting Productivity

Clients are expecting more from accountants than ever before. In addition to ensuring compliance, we must now become financial advisors and managers as well. It thus becomes more crucial that we spend our limited time productively so that we can accomplish more at work while still having the time to relax and feel in control.

While you will not become Bill Gates overnight, a few simple techniques can help improve your productivity and leave you less stressed. Here are just a few, simple ideas to consider.

Don’t check your Email in the office

You have probably heard this tip before, and there are plenty of guides which will tell you not to check your emails in the morning or evening. But the amount of time you spend dealing with email is much more important than when you check it.

Set a block of time at some point in the day to check your email and don’t go past that block. Once you make checking your email at that point in the day a routine, you will not spend half your day worrying about whether you received this or that email. If you still want to check your email outside of the block period, do it when you are mobile and have nothing better to do. Focus on office tasks in the office.

Work smarter, not longer

Busy season is coming up soon, and accountants can look forward to 60-hour, six days a week schedules. But research like that detailed by CNBC is showing that working long hours actually harms net productivity, and that someone working 70 hours per week is no more productive than one working 55.

Unfortunately, sometimes your boss or client may demand you have to stay at your desk for overtime and you may have little choice but to keep your things in portable storage pods as you work furiously at your desk. But do not slouch over your desk for hour after hour. Take regular breaks and walk around to give your mind a breather. And measure your productivity at the end of the day not by how long you have sat in a chair, but by what you have actually accomplished.

Technology is King

Technology since the dawn of civilization exists to improve human productivity, and accountants have an array of options which can take care of grunt labor. Software programs like Xero offer automated data entry programs which reduce mistakes, help clients stay on top of their own finances, and set up automated calculators which can track paperwork and taxes. The result is a system which is faster and less-mistake prone than putting everything on Microsoft Excel or paper.

Some accountants are worried about automation and how it may drive them out of a job, but they should remember that there is far more to accounting than mere data entry and calculations. By getting the rote grunt work out of the way, accountants are free to focus on giving advice and other creative tasks. And if you do not embrace technology, other accountants will and leave you in the dust.

Change your Work Environment

A proper, consistent work environment is needed to do proper, consistent work. Everyone has their different preferences in how they work. Some people like working next to others and feel a burst of energy, while I find it incredibly distracting.

Note that a work environment is not just about your office or cubicle or the small things you put in it. It is about the entire routine of work and what you do when you come into the office. Rituals and routines can sometimes be silly, but humans have used them for thousands of years precisely because we know they work at calming yourself and focusing your mind. Even small things such as drinking a cup of coffee from the exact same cup every day can help settle you into a work mood.

Create your own personalized, yet controlled environment where you do the same things everyday upon arriving at work to settle into a routine. The less your mind is preoccupied with little things, the more it can concentrate on the task ahead of you.

Do not do everything listed above

You may wish to be a different, more productive person, but you are you and you cannot just change your personality and work habits in the blink of an eye. Think about the classic New Year’s resolution which is promptly forgotten, precisely because we vow to do something radically different from how we do things.

People can change over time, but it is a slow and gradual process. Instead of trying to do everything listed above, pick the one or two things which appeal to you the most and do only those things. After you get used to not checking your email in the office or using newer technology, then try the other tips.

The road to being a great, productive accountants can be a long and difficult one, but is eventually rewarding. Instead of trying to traverse the path in a single bound, focus on taking one step at a time.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.