Successful finance professionals are expert at managing their time. In this extract from his new course, Time Management, Alan Nelson looks at some of the things that prevent us getting the job done.
No matter how organised we are, there are still external, unpredictable factors that can influence our tasks on a daily basis. There are a host of possibilities that can mess up a perfectly organised day. Whether it's our boss, other members of the team in which we're working, or an individual we are directly managing, we need to try to minimise the negative effect that our colleagues have on our workload.
If you are being unnecessarily disturbed or distracted by your colleagues, it's important that you address this. Talk to the people in question – they're unlikely to know that they are causing a problem, and they probably wouldn't bother you if they did.
So, the first step is finding out from your colleagues what their expectations of you are, and how often they really feel they need you to be available to them. It could be that you schedule times to talk, rather than allowing for constant communication. A reasonable conversation should mean you are able to reach a compromise that will free up more of your time.
Whenever there is a proposed introduction of new technology, people, or processes, consider whether and how it might create new demands on your time. It's a bad idea to accept changes completely without question, and suffering in silence certainly won't help anyone.
Even if the change is inevitable, it's still good to register the fact that it has affected you, since it could be useful to your cause if any further changes are made, and it's good to let people know that this change may have had an effect on any plans you'd already made.
Challenge anything you habitually do that could be wasting time and effort. This could be any things like routine meetings or reports. If it's not worth the time or effort, then question it! Don't feel committed to a daft process or system.
Similarly, always take some time to think through an unexpected request before agreeing to it. Most people will have a tendency to just say "yes" to help a colleague out, but it's more sensible to start by finding out why the task needs to be done, and what exactly the task will involve for you.
Demand clear deadlines
Always question and clarify deadlines to establish the true situation. People who ask you to do things will often say "immediately" to give a sense of urgency when "before the end of the day" would be perfectly acceptable.
Try to appeal to the other person's sense of time management – they know that it's impossible for anyone to do a properly good job without the opportunity to plan and prioritise.
The key thing to remember is not to simply accept changes that affect you. If things have an impact on your workload, let someone know. At the very least, it demonstrates how organised you were before the problem arose. Of course, it's important to be flexible too, but it's also unlikely that other people will pay attention to your changing workload if you don't.
Workflow is a series of steps used to process a piece of work. One way of thinking about this is in terms of an "assembly line". Each person in the line does one simple task and, at the end of the assembly line, you have the finished product.
However, in most modern workplaces, workflow will be much more complicated than this. Improving workflow should be about maximising efficiency and minimising the waste of time and resources. We can follow these steps to help us:
- Identify and eliminate any waste of time or resources
- Make sure each step is being completed efficiently
- Automate any steps that can be automated
- Consider the use of software to help you improve workflow
Alan Nelson is an author for accountingcpd. To see his courses, click here.
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