Whether it’s tax season or any other time during the year, preserving your productivity and efficiency is important to get more done in less time. I asked my team how they make the most of their workday. Together, we came up with some great ideas that I hope will help you make the most of your valuable time and energy.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
We’ve all had it happen to us. You’re in the middle of reviewing a client’s tax documents when you notice that your inbox has two new emails with client questions you have to answer right away. Or, your phone keeps ringing with calls from clients or coworkers. In either case, you’re distracted from your original tasks, and before you know it, your day is half over.
While we often think multitasking equals higher productivity, this isn’t accurate. Make a point of focusing on one task at a time, and you’ll be able to do it better and quicker. Here are three tips:
- Close out your email and social media during complex, deeply involved work.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique to break large tasks into smaller tasks.
- Make sure the rest of your team knows your scheduled deep work times.
Prioritize Client Work by Level of Complexity
One of the biggest ways to save time is to prioritize client work by the level of complexity and actions required. At the beginning of each week, break down your weekly goals into daily goals that accurately reflect your firm’s needs and priorities. This helps you allocate time each day for involved projects during the times you feel most energetic and refreshed. Here are some common tools to help you prioritize your to-do list:
- Try using the Eisenhower Matrix to divide work by importance and urgency.
- Each night, use the Ivy Lee method to list your top six tasks for the next day.
- Use the Eat That Frog method to get your biggest to-dos in front of you.
Plan a Midday Break From Your Desk
One great habit my team adopted is to take walks during or after lunch. Taking time to walk and clear your head can increase your mental clarity and help you get more done when you’re back at your desk. My team usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to walk and talk about anything but work. By going together, they’ve helped each other stay accountable and built a firm-wide habit that boosted our overall productivity.
Cut Down on the Communication Layers
In a famous email published on Inc.com, Elon Musk tells his staff to take the shortest possible route in communicating with someone. While there is certainly something to be said for having a great review and approval process, a good look at your last three email chains might uncover some shortcut opportunities. Just like the old game of telephone, messages get garbled and misconstrued with every inbox they pass through. Review your last three email chains and phone calls, and see if you can find a better way to communicate the same information.
Pick up the Phone
For complex or sensitive topics, a phone call can quickly clear up any confusion and prevent an inbox filled with time-sucking email chains. This is also good for times when you’ve taken too long to respond to an email. A quick phone call with the sender will help them understand better than any typed, three-paragraph apology.
Decrease the Number of Meetings or Eliminate Them Completely
Although they’re a long-time staple of the everyday workplace environment, meetings can often be unnecessarily long or even a waste of time. Before scheduling your next meeting, ask yourself what your goals are in holding it. If you decide that web meeting or phone call can accomplish the same thing, let the other person know. Trust me; they’ll thank you for it.
On the other hand, if you decide that a meeting is the best option for accomplishing your objectives, establishing the meeting’s purpose beforehand will help you develop an agenda that’s concise and leaves little room for wayward rants.
Customize Your Solutions
Being busy isn’t the same as being productive, so prioritizing your time will help you work on the most impactful and meaningful items on your to-do list and avoid time sinks. Every firm is unique, so come up with a list that fits your needs. Hopefully, these ideas will help you and your team become more productive and efficient during tax season … and throughout the year!