I’ve regularly observed within accounting and other professional firms that some people just seem to have the knack for getting more things done. Each person has the same number of hours in the day and yet some are clearly kicking more goals and seen as high achievers. I believe a core reason for that is the choices being made about how time is used. The high achievers are making wise choices driven by an understanding of their goals and the goals of the business they work in.
When was the last time you paused and asked yourself “is this good use of my time?” In my experience we are not asking ourselves this enough. When I do detailed reviews of accounting firms a question I will ask of each person I meet is “what percentage of the tasks you do today could be done by someone less experienced within your firm?” The answers range from pretty much zero (denial or unbelievably great delegators) to almost 100% (terrible delegators or maybe in a capacity constrained firm). My rule of thumb is that senior people inside accounting firms often spend 50% of their time on tasks that others could and should be doing. These tasks are not the best and highest value use of that person’s time.
My advice on this is simple. Each time you look at doing a task, ask yourself “am I the best person to be doing this?” and if the answer is “no” then don’t do it and delegate it to the person who is the best person. It sounds simple but I know in reality it is not always so. What I find is there are all manner of reasons why that delegation does not occur. Some are valid but frankly most are excuses! Going back a step an even better first question to ask is “does this task need to be done?”. Because if not doing it would have no impact anyone or anything then dump it and move onto to something else.
A classic example of this might be where a person has been preparing a report that he or she religiously distributes each week. It turns out that none of the recipients ever look at it because it was superseded some time ago by an automated report that is delivered days earlier. Pity no one told the person producing the report! Sound far-fetched? Maybe, but in my experience it can happen that people are doing things that really don’t need to be done.
When it comes to using your time wisely ask:
- Does this task need to be done at all?
- Am I the best person to do it?
- If yes, do it or schedule to do it
- If no, delegate
Managing yourself and your priorities and delegation skills are the foundation of using your time wisely. The good news is that these are learnable skills and skills that you can benefit from periodically refreshing. Even better, I’ve got an easy way for you to do that. Prompted by the pandemic I was asked to create a few online self-paced workshops and these are now available. They represent hundreds of hours of research and preparation distilled into some great stuff – even if I do so say myself!
- Managing yourself and your priorities – 3 hours
- The Art of Delegation – 2.5 hours
You can access these here
If you have supervisors or managers who will benefit from this and other skill development then my Manager Development Program might be the way to go. This is being offered as an online facilitated program starting in October and you can see details here