We all know that during tax season it is common for CPAs to work six or seven 9- to 10-hour days a week. However, it doesn’t have to be chaos and misery. Even during tax-season, having a well-managed firm enables the owner to conduct business and live life at an enjoyable and healthy pace.
Try introducing the following 4 productivity hacks into your life and practice to have a better tax time experience:
1. “Chunk” Your Time
Look at your calendar. Are your appointments scattered throughout the day? Are you wasting 10-15 minutes to mentally and physically prepare for your meeting? All of the small distractions and interruptions over the course of a day can add up to prevent you from concentrating and working on the growth-oriented activities and the higher billable work.
You need to start “chunking” your time. Schedule similar tasks such as team meetings or client meetings into blocks of one, two or three hours to ensure that you are being most efficient with your time. You can begin by setting aside 30-minute timeframes each day for answering clients’ questions, via phone or email. Next, you can block off time to work on bigger tasks such as client projects. Letting your staff know you will be unavailable and to not disturb you during this reserved time is vital.
You should always be looking to unload some of the work on your plate, knowing that you cannot do it all on your own. More importantly, as the practice owner, you should never be doing work that can be efficiently completed by another team member, including administrative tasks, assembling tax returns, e-filing tax returns, collecting fees, and so on. Typically, this work can be completed by paying an individual between $12 and $25 per hour, or roughly $24k-$50k per year.
If you are satisfied earning $50k a year as the firm owner, then don’t let me stop you from continuing to pull files, collating, stapling, processing credit cards, and similar tasks.
However, it is imperative that you delegate these tasks to other team members if you want to elevate your practice and earn a six-figure income (or more). It’s not just the CPA with a full-time staff who needs to delegate work — even smaller firms, or a 1-person show, can bring on part-time, temporary, or seasonal workers to complete these tasks. There are many solutions.
As the practice owner, your time should be dedicated to the most important and highest-yielding work. This work lies within 3 key areas:
- Performing high-end technical work paying upwards of $500/hour;
- Client nurturing and client attraction; and
- Team development.
3. Plan Your Day
Each day, when you plan ahead for the day, you significantly increase your efficiency. You can either plan your day in the morning, like I do, or plan your day the night prior, but either way it is NOT time wasted. Once you develop your list of tasks for the day, prioritize.
One method of prioritizing that I’ve seen accountants use successfully is to assign a number to each task, for example 1, 2 or 3. Items with a #1 designation are deemed most important, and should be completed first. Then you can move on to items with a number 2, and so on. By doing this, you allow yourself to take care of top priority items first, and not get “stuck” in the office working on them late in the day.
Have you ever traveled without a destination? Sounds funny doesn’t it, but that’s what I think of when practitioners don’t plan their days — and their lives. Of course, there are occasions when you can afford to allow yourself to wander mindlessly, but when creating your practice don’t throw caution to the wind. Planning ahead is the current that keeps you moving upstream, and is a habit that can keep even your busiest tax season under control.
4. Right of Refusal
It’s in most people’s general nature to want to make others happy, whether it’s our clients, team members, colleagues, family or friends. However, we can’t be all things to all people all of the time. It’s simply impossible. The epitome of poor time management is knowing this, but chasing the impossible despite the facts anyway.
Knowing our limits and understanding that the volume of requests simply cannot be processed is the key to a healthy work-life balance. The time needed to build your practice can be most easily found by not saying “Yes” to everyone who comes into your office. Especially during the busy seasons, this approach will provide a sense of calmness within your firm and restrain you from running around like a headless chicken.
Implement these tax season productivity hacks now to avoid the status quo of a hectic tax season, and grow your practice all year with this toolbox of techniques.