Advances in technology mean it’s never been easier to get organised; there’s gotta be an app for that, right? But what about when you’re running a business? We spoke to the most organised accountants for the inside scoop.
1. Get the right tools
Steph Rickaby, Managing Director of Sunflower Accounts, is a firm believer in using the top tools available.
“We try to use the best of the breed in software to ensure a smooth running of the practice for diary management and to do list management,” says Rickaby.
“It’s also about having a good system and process in place for the team to follow. This is always evolving as technology is improving, so these systems and processes need to be reviewed regularly.”
Key tip: “I recommend calendly as a scheduling tool, and Senta or Trello for to-do lists and to help keep track of how long you’re spending on tasks,” says Rickaby. “Calendly can send a link to your diary to clients and it also connects with MS Outlook, which prevents the endless games of diary tennis.”
2. Stop multitasking
Neil King, Director of Cedar + Co accountancy, says people should focus more on individual tasks rather than trying to do everything. “Everyone falls into the trap of multi-tasking and trying to do too much,” he notes, which tends to result in feeling overwhelmed and overworked.
Key tip: Try to break things down into individual tasks. Create a to do list each week and focus on getting each item ticked off the list before moving on to the next one.
3. Delegate and learn to say no
Learning to say no to things can be tricky at first but learning how to delegate and turn things down are important skills to master, says King. You need to become aware of your own limits so that you can do things to the best of your ability.
Key tip: “Just because you’re invited to something, it doesn’t mean you have to go, and not everything requires a meeting,” King says. “Sometimes it’s better to try and work out which things can be covered by a quick phone call or e-mail.”
4. Turn off email alerts
Donna Bulmer, Managing Partner of accountancy firm Haines Watts advises: “Turn off email notifications to help prevent getting distracted during the day.”
When you’re trying to focus on one task at a time, it won’t help with your efforts to have emails popping up continuously trying to drag you in different directions. But if turning the notifications off for a day sounds like insanity, just try it for an hour at a time to see how it goes.
Key tip: “Do what you plan to do and set aside times to check in and respond to emails afterwards,” says Bulmer.
5. Schedule in set days for meetings
Meetings can take up a considerable amount of the working day and prevent you from catching up with other work. So you have to ensure they’re worthwhile.
Consider only holding meetings on certain days and having a very clear agenda.
Key tip: “Have effective meetings,” says Bulmer of Haines Watts accountancy. “Set out a plan, stick to an agenda, and send details in advance so meetings are not being used to exchange information, which can be read in advance.”
6. Plug into a great CRM system
Investing in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system can help you run your business smoothly, advises Della Hudson FCA, author of ‘The Numbers Business: how to grow a successful cloud accountancy practice.’
You and your team would use this alongside your to-do list/task management system like Trello, mentioned earlier by Steph Rickaby of Sunflower Accounts, as they fulfil two very different functions.
“CRM systems can send reminder emails automatically or just prompt you to pick up the phone and make a call,” Hudson notes. “They also hold all your standing data and track email correspondence so that you don’t need to be CC’d on everything ‘just in case’.”
7. Use software that connects
“Share your diary and ditch the paper,” Hudson goes on to advise. “This way people can see what you are working on and when. Have your diary accessible on all your devices so that it’s always up to date.”
Keeping everything in one, easily accessible place, makes it smooth and efficient to keep on top of your schedule. It’s not ideal if you know you write a few things in a book, schedule some meetings in one system, and schedule a few other meetings in a different system. Reduce the risk of missing something by bringing it all together in one place.
Key tip: Use software which connects with other people and saves time inputting the same data. “If you don’t have integrated software then choose one (perhaps your CRM or tax software) as the main repository for your data and only duplicate essential information into other systems,” Hudson advises.
8. Make sure you manage your time effectively
Arriving punctually is courteous and ensures you make the most productive use of your time.
Della Hudson advocates managing your time as one of the key ways to stay organised. With a little forward-planning, there’s no need for rushing around and keeping people waiting; this is something within your control.
Key tip: “Be punctual and always make sure you allow enough time to travel,” Hudson advises. “Not only is it courteous but it means that you’re not wasting other people’s time.”
We’ve heard from some high-performing people on how to get organised. And it all boils down to getting some robust processes in place, along with the right tools, to control the things you can control.
Among the 8 tips from our experts, were recommendations to use a tasking tool, CRM, and a digital diary to digitise your office management. This might have you tensing up, but just remember that getting started with a new tool is often the hardest part; you’ll be glad you put the time in when it’s up and running.
Further reading on running your business as an accountant:
- Why accountants need project management skills
- Run your small business without letting it run you
- Why accountants are looking to integrate management systems
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.