Organization Hacks for Overworked Accountants

Busy season has passed, but we remain busy all year. Far too many are overwhelmed by long hours and the stress of ever-changing to-do lists. If this sounds familiar, here are a few ways to reset and reorganize. 

Track Your Time

Being more efficient with your time starts with being acutely aware of how you spend it. When are you most productive? When are you most likely to get distracted? How much time do you spend sorting emails? How much time do you spend on deliverables? You may have a good idea, but probably aren’t exactly sure. With the help of a time-tracking app, or even old-fashioned paper and pencil, you can find out. 

Consider spending a week keeping a time-spent journal. Each day, record what you do and when. A digital time-tracking system, such as TSheets, allows you to tap in and out to mark your start and stop of time of various tasks. This app even syncs with your calendar and GPS to shorten your input time, and then produces a time-spent report at the end of the day.

If you're using pen and paper, just make a note of how much time you spent on each item of your to-do list. Be sure to add items that weren’t originally on your list if you spent time working on them during the day.

No matter how you track, the real game changer will be when you identify distractions, time wasters and any areas of improvement that you can capitalize on. 

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

After a week of tracking your time, you’ll begin to see patterns in how you spend your workday. You already knew you were working long hours, but to see that most of them are spent sitting in meetings or handling hundreds of emails can be shocking. So, make a change. If your inbox is overwhelming, organize it. Start by cutting the sheer volume of emails you receive by unsubscribing from anything that you don’t regularly read – even if you wish you could, or intended to. To help you with that, the free service Unroll.Me will generate a master list of all your email subscriptions and then allow you to unsubscribe from any of them with a single click. For subscriptions you choose to maintain, you’re given the option to continue receiving emails from each sender directly in your inbox, or to bundle those emails into a daily roll up. 

If email isn’t your only digital distraction, consider an app like Silent Time. It automatically silences your phone based on your weekly schedule, allowing you to periodically work without any interruption. Don’t worry about missing an important call – the app allows users to set exceptions and then have the option to silence them with an easy-to-access Quick Quiet widget.

Prioritize

If you feel overwhelmingly busy all day and go home wondering why you got nothing done, you’ve got a problem: You think everything on your to-do list is equally important. It’s not. Try not to confuse activity for accomplishment. Even if everything on your to-do list eventually needs to get done, to actually achieve your end goals you have to do more than put out fires (aka focus on busy work) throughout the day. So, prioritize your time. Start by using the 1-3-5 model. 

The 1-3-5 model works like this: Assume you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things and five small things in any given workday. Now, look at your long to-do list and choose nine corresponding items. In the beginning, you may want to leave one or two items blank in preparation for unexpected tasks. Then, get to work. If something unexpected pops up, determine its level of priority and then add it to the list (but only if it fills in a blank or bumps out another task that can be pushed to the following day. By forcing yourself to abide by this prioritization guide, you’ll finish the day feeling satisfied, instead of just tired out on being busy.