Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Accountants understand time management, but managing your time won’t help you be more productive. In fact, finding a faster way to get through your “to-do” list faster is a complete waste of time. Instead, what you really need to do is to look at everything you have on your list, pick the single, most important task, and work on it, uninterrupted, until it’s completed.
The uninterrupted part is the toughest, by far. In addition to working with clients, consultations with colleagues and internal meetings with various staff, it’s so easy and tempting to check your e-mail, answer the phone, respond to an instant message or click over to a website. Despite the slew of pending interruptions, if you can master the ability to focus on a single task, you will significantly boost your productivity. With more accomplished in a shorter period of time, you will even find yourself working the same, if not fewer, hours to get your work done.

The concept is simple. First, you’re working on the single most important task at hand – not the most urgent task or the easiest one – but the one that is the most important. Too often, we plow down our to-do lists with our heads down and without seriously questioning whether it makes a difference if we even accomplish most of the items on the list.

The truth is … it usually doesn’t matter. The 80/20 principle tells us that 80 percent of our results will come from 20 percent of our input. By picking the single most important task to work on, we’re making sure the task falls within the critical 20 percent.

By focusing 100 percent of our energies on this item, we’ll accomplish it much faster than we would have if we allowed ourselves to be distracted by interruptions, or worse, tried to multitask and complete two or three items at once.Interruptions are the real killer! It’s amazing how fast you can get something done, if that “something” is all you do.

Sounds great, but you need to know how much time something takes to do before realizing how to increase your productivity – and you can’t do this unless you accurately track your time. Time is a confusing thing; if you’re absorbed in your work as most accountants are, then time tends to pass very quickly. For example, a few hours may pass by without realizing how much time has actually passed.

Sadly, items tend to sit on a to-do list all week, with most of us getting them done on the weekend. With the benefit of no incoming interruptions, you can focus and get your work done. Of course the real goal is to try and avoid working on the weekend, unless it’s tax season or you’re quickly approaching a filling deadline.

So, try this exercise tomorrow: Pick one thing and work on it until it’s done. No distractions and no excuses! You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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