What does 2018 have in store for you?
A few months ago I met Sarah Reynolds of Organise Chaos. We spent time discussing the effect a clean work space can have on productivity.
Last week, Sarah posted her 7 tips for a more productive 2018 and today I’ll share my shorter list of 5 items that help me stay productive, motivated and I think helps keep clients happy as a by-product. No doubt through 2018 I’ll learn a few more tricks.
These have been learned working in an office environment for almost 20 years. Seeing what works and what hasn’t worked or where things can go wrong for clients and / or staff. I’ve read a lot of books on productivity and time management over the years, from a range of authors. If I get one tip from each book, then I find it a worthwhile read. This learning game is definitely an accumulation over a long period of time.
The biggest change for me during 2017 was reading the 12 Week Year by Brian P Moran and Michael Lennington. I’ve always had written work goals but having a shorter term view has been brilliant in terms of getting a lot more done in a short period of time. I’m only sorry I didn’t read it earlier in the year!
1 Written goals with shorter deadlines
Have you figured out your strategy for 2018 and beyond? Having some time out over Christmas might help clear your mind and work on your strategy for 2018.
To say the book mentioned above was motivational, is an understatement. For anyone who already has written goals and feels they have this in hand, my only comment would be, give this book a try. The scoring system and the short term nature of the process has changed how I work on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic book if you are looking at getting a little more out of 2018. I’m a huge believer in the phrase that a goal not written down is a wish.
I’d encourage everyone to give written goals a chance. If your business strategy isn’t on paper, are you sure everyone knows the plan? Having it written and a list to refer to, reviewing it and perhaps making changes throughout the year keeps you on track when things get busy, as they usually do.
2 A tidy desk is a tidy mind
If my desk is untidy, I find it seriously hard to concentrate. Looking at paperwork piling up definitely takes my focus away from the task at hand. Clearing my desk each day but making sure everything is dealt with, is a priority.
While in the past we heard many talk about multi-tasking, it’s become clear there are serious advantages to productivity of single-tasking. Too many studies and reference points to note here but I’m sure you’ve read of the benefit of single-tasking in the recent past.
This tidy desk policy is something drummed into me from the beginning of my career almost (and I’m glad it was).
3 Scan what you can
Rather than keeping paperwork around the office or on my desk, I scan in a lot of documents. I then file them, set reminders and tasks through Microsoft Outlook that help me keep a handle on following up on paperwork that isn’t on my normal list of ‘to-do’ work. Without paperwork some people feel less in control or feel something will go missing, my tip for overcoming that is in number 5 below (lists!).
4 Tidy out all office space
Without even noticing at times, our office can accumulate files and boxes of records that are no longer needed to be held by us. While these are usually out of my direct sight, I have a reminder to do a clear out regularly to keep on top of this.
I’ve learned from new clients over the years, one of the biggest bugbears people can have with accountants is the slow response time in working on their files. I’ve heard stories of accountants not knowing they had books and records of clients as they hadn’t a system for recording these. Missing deadlines can have expensive consequences and lead to unhappy clients, or worse, losing clients. By keeping a close eye on what’s in the office on a very frequent basis, nothing sits too long without being action-ed. Lock-up work-in-progress time dramatically reduces. Definitely a winner for us and clients.
5 Planning your day, week, month and year
I have a list in front of me right now. It’s my ‘to-do’ list for today. Behind that is my weekly list. On a computerised record, I have the monthly schedule. My yearly plan ties in with point one above, working on goals and strategy for the year.
I often talk about planning. You might think planning for a week or even having a daily plan is for accountants and not you. We have deadlines every month (various ones) and while it is key for staying on top of deadlines, having a plan for your day allows you to take control of your time.
If you find you get distracted and work late to catch up on what you should have done during the work day, if you get distracted by emails that arrive that require action but aren’t urgent, if you just don’t feel you are working as productively as possible, then give this a go.
Set out your tasks for the week either the Friday before or on the Monday morning. I like to do mine on the Friday. Each day before I log off, I have a plan for the next day. I appreciate things change and you can end up with an email the next morning (or 5) that changes your plan, but allow enough time each day on your plan for things that will come up. You can still block book your time and still have a focused, productive day. Having an item or two that can be pushed back on the list and leaving some spare time one day a week leaves you enough wiggle room.
On my daily list I scribble notes when things are busy. I clear down my emails daily but block book between 7am and 2pm for not reacting to emails unless they are actually urgent and need immediate action. I stick to the daily plan as much as humanly possible. While it’s not perfect, it definitely helps keep me motivated and productive.
Have you tips or tricks to share? I’d love to hear if you use any of the above or if you’ve other tips you find useful. Anything new you’ve tried in 2017 you now couldn’t live without?
On a personal note, I am looking forward to the Christmas break. I won’t mind seeing some more snow. It’s the only time I enjoy seeing the white stuff as I get to spend a few days in front of the fire without wondering what driving conditions are like! Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.
Wendy Merrigan, Chartered Accountant, Williams Merrigan.