By Ty Hendrickson
Tax Season is already here and in full swing in our house. I know what you are thinking, “She doesn’t have tax season anymore!” but that is not true. Some of you know that not only am I a CPA, but I’m also married to a CPA so I couldn’t manage to get away from tax season even with a career change. That means that this time of year is always a little stressful as everyone adjusts to new schedules and routines, but with a little planning and the correct mindset it does not have to be bad.
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Each year we look for new ways to better manage our time and become efficient so that we can make these three and a half months as stress-free and easy as possible on everyone involved. Today, I’m rounding up our top five time management tips to help make these crazy few months operate just slightly more smoothly for you as well.
Top 5 To-Do List
Everyone knows that you have to make a to-do list in order to keep up with everything being thrown at you during this busy time, but I hated my to-do list before I made this small change. It was always growing and for every one item I could check off, I would add two more. The best advice that I ever received to become more efficient was to create a “top 5.”
Daily, take your huge list and narrow that down to just five things that if you complete those five that day then you will feel accomplished. These don’t have to be big items and should be a mix of personal and professional. Most days, one of mine is to simply cook dinner! Pulling out these five items helps you to understand whether or not you are doing tasks throughout the day that will keep you on track to accomplishing your goals. Give this a try and you might be surprised how often you work on menial tasks and avoid your “top 5.”
Schedule Your Time
In order to master your time management goals, it’s important to schedule your time in blocks. Some people schedule time for each individual project, but I personally lean more toward larger time blocks to accomplish multiple tasks at once. Either way, if you don’t have a plan for your day, it is difficult to accomplish all of your goals during such a busy time.
This might be the hardest one to accomplish. Each day we are all faced with plenty of distractions that can prevent us from accomplishing our goals. This is definitely a more personal choice as to what you feel distracts you the most and what you can handle. I am not one who can handle having my email up when I’m deep in a complicated task, but there are plenty of people that does not faze. Additionally, phones and apps sitting right by you are a huge temptation. Many people recommend deleting social media apps from your phone so that it is more of an effort to use them, but I typically just leave my phone either on silent or out of reach if I need to focus on a task. The bottom line: determine what distracts you the most and eliminate those distractions.
Some people don’t procrastinate at all, but I am not one of them! Procrastination is something I have been working to overcome since my days in public practice. It’s easy to put off a project that is more complicated for one that seems easier or a phone call that you might be dreading for hours of work, but these are major stress inducers if they stay on your to-do list. The key to overcoming procrastination is to determine why you are procrastinating. Is it because you don’t know how to do the task? If so, ask for help. Is it because it is very time-consuming? If so, break it down into smaller goals. Is it because the activity takes you outside of your comfort zone and causes you stress? If so, preparing for the activity will help eliminate some of the stress. Ultimately, you need to think about why you procrastinate and find a solution. Once those tasks are completed, your stress level will decrease.
Lastly, taking breaks is so incredibly important. It is so easy to get in the zone and think, I can get one more task finished or I’ll work another hour and get ahead. The problem with this is that burnout will creep up on you so much faster and you will become less and less productive. So many studies show that breaks in your day increase productivity. Time blocking has been a game changer for me to also implement breaks. If I plan to work on X project for an hour and a half, when that time is up, I force myself to get up and take a walk or go get a drink of water. Even a lap around the office can refresh you enough to dive back in and knock out the next project even quicker. Plan multiple breaks throughout the day to stay refreshed and don’t forget to break away from your desk for meals!
Organization and a positive mindset are key to time management and maintaining productivity. While tax season may seem like a daunting few months while you are in the middle of it, the time will go by so fast. Put a plan in place now to make the most of your busiest months of the year and get ahead of your goals.
I would love to hear from you as well! Share your best time management tip so that we can all become more efficient and have a more pleasant busy season.