In Chapter 22 of Darren Root’s, The E-Myth Accountant: Why Most Accounting Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About It entitled “Managing Choices, Not Time,” Darren explores the idea of how precious your time really is and the fact that how you choose to spend it will determine whether or not you can lead your firm to success andmanage to enjoy your life at the same the time.
Achieving the elusive “work-life balance” is a challenge in any profession, but even more so in the accounting world. As Darren points out, this is a profession where many people experience a single demanding and chaotic season and then decide that accounting is not their ideal career choice. As a result, many talented people leave the profession in pursuit of something that won’t make them feel like they’re working their lives away.
Are you tired of feeling like you’re working your life away? Are you interested in implementing strategies and ideas that will help you and your team achieve the balance you desire that includes a rewarding and challenging career and the ability to pursue other life goals, too? While there are some real deadlines and timelines to manage in the accounting profession, there are several strategies we can explore to help you reclaim your time and find more balance in your life!
- Put First Things First – This is a concept introduced by Stephen R. Covey in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is a simple yet very powerful principle. Ask yourself, “What are the things that I say are most important to me?” Then ask yourself, “Do my actions in my everyday life prove that I am putting these things above all else?” If there is no proof, then you are not putting first things first. Do you say that family is most important, but find your family taking a back seat to long hours and pressing projects? Do you say that your health and well-being are important, yet keep pushing your exercise schedule off until you “get caught up” or finish “this one last project”? Putting first things first is crucial to your happiness and your success, but it does not allow for excuses. Start identifying your reasons for not putting first things first as what they are – excuses. By simply raising your awareness of what you are doing, you will focus on those things that you say matter most to you.
- Operate At Your Highest and Best Use – There are things that you do on a daily basis that do not require your level of talent and skills so it may make more sense for you to stop doing them and delegate them to someone else. Make a list of things that you could delegate immediately to another team member, an administrative support person, personal assistant, virtual assistant, or professional service provider. Then make a list of things that you could delegate if you spent time training and coaching someone else to take over the responsibility. Finally, identify those tasks that you would like to begin working towards delegating. Ask for input to your lists from your team – they will often identify responsibilities that you could delegate and that they’d be willing to take on. This will allow you to operate at your highest potential and free up some of your time. You can even go through this exercise at home. Perhaps it makes sense to hire someone to clean your house or pick up and deliver your dry cleaning or groceries?
- Block Your Time – Invest time in planning how you will use the time that you have in your day – and then stick to the plan. You probably already have time allotted for client appointments, team meetings, etc. Use the same approach in scheduling time to complete things like visioning, planning, goal-setting, continuing education, business development, client relationship management, training and mentoring, organizing and filing, and checking and replying to e-mails. Darren writes, “You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to keep up with e-mail, voicemail, and other digital messages when you allot just 15 to 30 minutes a day to the task.”
- Empower Your People – Your people are more competent and talented than you and they realize. Make it known that you trust their abilities and judgment, give them “bite size” assignments to help them take on bigger responsibilities, and provide guidance and support as necessary to complete the tasks. By doing so, you will find extra time for your top priorities or as Stephen R. Covey likes to call them, your “big rocks.” If you don’t already have this kind of confidence in your people, it may require that you first invest some time in coaching and training them or even re-evaluating having them as a part of your team. The best leaders surround themselves with exceptional people. It’s the only way for you to maintain a strong practice and achieve your goals – personally and professionally!
Take a moment to reflect on the fact that you have a limited amount of time on this earth; a limited amount of time to spend with your loved ones; and, a limited amount of time to spend in pursuit of your passion. I’ll end this post in the same way that Darren begins his 22nd chapter, “Managing Choices, Not Time,” with this quote by Steve Jobs:
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”