Ways to create laser focus? The irony that it has taken me over a week to write this blog because I haven’t followed the basic rules outlined in this blog is not lost on me.
My goal? Write this blog and have it live by Wednesday. What I did? Pencil it in on my to-do list. Fail to block out time. Then block out some time at the wrong time of day for creative writing. Then block out not enough time in the morning. And FINALLY, block out time in my diary the night before to avoid distractions and emergencies to get it done!
If this sounds all too familiar, read our 8 top tips for accountants to create a clear focus within your business [yes, my example is about writing a blog, but this can be translated to a myriad of examples in business].
What’s the bottom line? You need to be ruthless and only work on the things that will help you achieve your goals and objectives. Avoiding distractions, focusing on what you want to achieve.
Eliminate, simplify, automate, delegate
8 Top Tips for Accountants
1. Have a plan
Everything starts with a plan. When you’re building a house, you have a plan and consider multiple aspects – such as material, timings, budget, builders, quotes, weather, etc. The list goes on!
When you book a holiday, you have a plan and consider multiple aspects – such as destination, costs, currency, annual leave, pets, children, holiday cover, insurance, weather, etc. And the list goes on!
In business, we all know it is crucial that you have a plan as well. And of course, your plan doesn’t have to be set in stone from the outset. Plans change [you might add a conservatory to your house for example (!)], but it’s important to have a plan to start from in the first place. In reality, too many accountants are focussed on their clients plans and sometimes leave theirs to the end. And so it never gets done.
Knowing what the end product roughly looks like, allows you to break your long term plan into smaller, bite size, achievable chunks. Three top tips for planning that you can implement today:
- Start big and work backwards. Annual plan > to monthly goals > to weekly aims > to daily targets
- Plan your day the night before so that you know what you’ve got to achieve
- Block out realistic time slots for tasks so that you don’t inundate or overwhelm your diary
Do you ever re-read pages of long meeting notes? And actions that were agreed upon have been forgotten or haven’t been done? All you need is a simple action plan that outlines who is going to be doing what, by when. Simple action plans create focus, responsibility and accountability. These shorter plans force you to prioritise and ultimately encourage the output. We are more likely to achieve things if we set ourselves goals.
Why set a who/what/when action plan?
- Small, achievable goals give you a sense of achievement
- An action plan focuses your time and energy on the steps that will help you achieve your goal
- You will learn and grow with it
3. Know your numbers
Numbers are the language of business. Your small business clients are not able to do their job as well if they don’t understand their numbers. Not paying attention to the key numbers that drive a businesses growth and success is one of the primary “business killers” causing businesses to underperform, or worse, fail altogether. Accountants have the inherent skills and knowledge to help small business owners really get to grips with the important numbers. You are best placed to support businesses through all stages of development, and you DO do this, day in and day out.
But do you do this on your own firm? Do you practice what you preach?! Don’t forget that you are ALSO a business!! We can be so focused on other people’s numbers that we forget about our own. Next time you are analysing the 7 key numbers for your latest client, stop and check if you’re just as familiar with your own.
4. 90 mins a day
Getting into a routine of focusing on the business and not in the business for at least 90 minutes per day will revolutionise the efficiency of your working day. Often we tend to put out fires and busy ourselves with smaller tasks, and before we’ve even started on our own to-do list, it’s already mid-day. Blocking out 90 minutes, with NO EXCEPTIONS unless the building is on fire, will give you time to focus on your goals and objectives for the business.
As a rule of thumb, your 90 minutes should be;
- Added to your diary and blocked out daily
- Scheduled at a time when you’re most productive
- Focused on activities that are not related to existing clients. For example, business development, chasing new leads, creating content, looking at systems, team training or business strategy
5. Time vampires and distractions
Here’s a no nonsense list of personality traits of people to avoid. These can be found with clients, team members, partners, suppliers…
- Time suckers
- Those who aren’t ever able to say something in one sentence
- People who are always asking for your help without helping themselves first
- Those who just want to shoot the breeze
- Negative Nigels/Nancys – people who only see negatives and always overemphasise the problems and never the solutions
Your time is so important. You are never going to get any more time in one day. We all often use the excuse “I don’t have enough time” but what that really means is, we haven’t been using our time effectively and efficiently enough. Getting into the habit of doing “Deep Work” can really help with your productivity. Deep Work = when you’re working on something (a project, a client, a set of accounts), then you are working on this task and this task only. This is not exclusive to your 90 minutes a day exercise. The habit of “deep working” should overflow into your daily working routine. Good practice would be to only deal with your emails at certain times of the day to avoid getting distracted and going off down a rabbit hole.
6. Learning to say no
Accountants are always trying to look after and do the best by their clients. Which is a wonderful trait. However, this has got us into the habit of always saying yes.
- Yes to clients dropping things in late
- Yes to it being okay for clients requesting things at last minute
- Yes it’s okay to push deadlines
By saying yes to everything, you’re setting yourself up to fail and not managing the expectations of your clients. In addition, this mentality has strayed into business as well. We can often be too quick to say yes to new opportunities without properly thinking the short and long term consequences through. Learning when to say no is really important, if it isn’t helping you achieve your goals, you need to learn to say no.
Ask yourself this: will it make the boat go faster?
7. You can’t do it all
So don’t try and do it all!
You could be the next Johnny Wilkinson (the only rugby player I really know anything about shockingly), but you would the match going up against a full team. It really is that simple. We’re not suggesting that you have to hire a full time, full on team to succeed and achieve your goals. However, you should consider the array of options at your disposal to ‘help your boat go faster’. For example, you can outsource and get the help you need from the specialists you need on an ad hoc basis (For example, through AdvanceTrack or TOA). Or, you could hire on a project based contract for stand alone tasks, for example on the freelance services marketplace for businesses; Fiverr. You also have the opportunity to access the board you can’t afford, with like-minded, goal driven accountants in mastermind groups and GreenLine BoardRooms hosted by accounting experts such as Clarity.
8. Good enough is good enough
It goes without saying that accountants are trained to be pinpoint accurate. You need to know the double entry treatment of every business transaction and you need to know how they’re dealt with from a tax perspective. You have to get it right!
However, in business, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes perfection can cost a lot of money, and striving for it is almost impossible to achieve. You will spend so much time and energy waiting for something to be just right before you go live, you’ll miss the boat! Our friends at Dent advocate the mentality of prolific beats perfect
If you too can get into that mindset, you’ll flourish knowing that actually sometimes good enough is good enough.
The Clarity platform is empowering all of your team to deliver business advisory to all of your clients through our out-of-the-box solution. We provide accountants with the tools to scale advisory, that is appropriate for both the client and the fee involved. So, by making business simple, Clarity offers a conversation starter that empowers all members of your team to introduce advisory to 100% of their client base.
Finally, if you would like to speak to a member of the team, contact us on [email protected] for more information.