It is rare for an accountant to tell me that they want to be more efficient. But it is often implied by other things they say.

Often their concerns are focused on time management issues, a need for more and better systems or for another person to whom they can delegate work.

Improving efficiency invariably leads to improved productivity. You are efficient if you are as productive as you could be given the resources you have available. So, if you reach the end of the day and realise you could have been more productive then you haven’t been as efficient as you could have been. Equally if you are paying people to do work for you and feel that they should have produced more in the time available, then either they have been inefficient or you have unreasonable expectations. It’s important to recognise that the latter could be true but you will only know for sure if you can have an open and honest conversation with the person concerned.

Here is a summary list of ways you could become more efficient:

  1. Plan your day and work your plan – Stop being a slave to your email inbox.
  2. Set clear goals – Keep them to hand and take steps towards achieving them each day.
  3. Measure the metrics that matter – Simply tracking the time you spend on client matters, to guide your billing process, is less important that minimising the time you spend distracted by videos, social media and emails that could have waited.
  4. Find someone (else) to do the work that you are overqualified to do yourself – delegate, outsource or recruit.
  5. Stop reinventing the wheel – Make notes of the processes you follow each day so that you can refer back to your notes next time rather than struggle to recall every step you need to follow and how to complete the task.
  6. Encourage team members to share their knowledge and experiences – This will enable them to help you to be more efficient and will enable them to cover for each other (and thus reduce the time you need to spend doing this).
  7. Think in terms of tasks to be completed rather than hours to be spent – Keeping an eye on the clock will help you to avoid spending too long on each task, but more will get completed.
  8. Keep in mind the proverb: ‘Measure twice, cut once’ – For example: Check the advice your client needs before you give it – to avoid having to waste time rectifying things later.
  9. Organise your desk and the desktop on your computer – This should reduce the time you waste looking for things. (This is probably the one I struggle with the most)
  10. Use an online diary booking system – So that clients can book meetings with you more efficiently. I use but there many options.
  11. Use a simple note making app (eg: Evernote or Onenote) to keep track of trusted advisers to whom you can refer when the need arises (eg: The Tax Advice Network)
  12. Take regular breaks  – During each day, week, month and year so that your brain has a chance to recover and to operate closer to peak efficiency
  13. Turn off ‘notifications’ of messages, updates and emails – This reduces the number of distractions that limit your ambition to be more efficient.
  14. Make good use of your commuting time – You can read professional journals on the train and can listen to podcasts while in the car or walking
  15. Regularly take time out to work ‘on’ your practice – Whether alone, with the help of a mentor or through a mastermind group (like The Inner Circle for sole practitioner accountants in London)
  16. Decide to take some action and to do something differently after reading this list. Otherwise nothing will change!