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optimize workflow

5 Tips to Optimize Your Workflow

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Whenever I speak to an Accountant about their business, one of the recurring struggles I hear is the workflow, or rather, the lack thereof. Whether it's a small staff under ten, or over fifty, the common denominator is a clog somewhere in the workflow. This usually means the work is bottlenecking somewhere, and it's at that point optimization needs to happen.

I don't have to tell you that to run a successful accounting firm, you have to be able to manage the workflow of your team and make sure that everyone is on top of their game. The tips below can be adapted for one person or the entire office staff.

There are five basic essentials for optimizing your workflows:

1) Start with the end in mind - Break it Down

The most important thing you can do to optimize your workflow is to know what your goals are. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish by the end of the day, then it’s going to be very tough to figure out how best to use your time.

Think about what you want to accomplish, how much time you'll spend working on it, and when you'll do it. This will allow you to plan your days accordingly and make sure that you're focused on what's most important. Then break down your tasks into similar groups or batches. This creates a workflow that will allow you to get your work done quickly as you no longer go back and forth between different tasks.

2) Work with what you’ve got - know your workflow

To effectively optimize your workflow, you have to know your working style. Knowing your working style is important for two reasons. The first is that it helps you to know how to manage your time more efficiently. Secondly, it helps you to know what type of environment you work best in.

There are many different working styles. Some people like to work alone, others like a more collaborative environment. Some find that they do their best work early in the morning while others need a good night’s sleep before they can be productive.

The importance of knowing your working style is that it helps you to know how to manage your time more efficiently and what type of environment you work best in.

3) Find a way or make one - Project management

Whether you work alone, or have a fully staffed accounting firm, creating a project management plan is imperative if you want to be successful. There are many ways to manage projects, from cloud-based systems like TeamWork to using a series of spreadsheets, documents, and files that are shared with everyone. The bonus is that by setting up a project management plan, you will see a time management plan emerge, which will keep you from wasting valuable time.

4) Use what you know - the Calendar

Believe it or not, you already know how to make this work, you just need to figure out how to implement the process. Many of you reading this are CPAs and spent four long years of learning and studying to get that recognition. Think back about how you did that. You had a system of note-taking, reviewing, and studying. You had time set aside to write papers. Your business is not much different. Use a calendar for yourself and your staff. Color code Urgent and Normal. Color code client work, admin work, and continuing education work. Add drop-dead due dates, and set multiple notifications prior to that date. Have you ever met someone and wondered how in the world she does it all? It’s probably a very thought-out and coordinated schedule that allows her to accomplish so much.

5) Do it now

Probably the most important step is to stop putting it off. The bottleneck is not going to go away on its own, obviously. The workflow is not going to magically happen. You have to put things in motion, and the sooner the better. Stop waiting for that "perfect day" when you don't have tax returns to worry about, payroll to get out, or general ledgers to reconcile; it's never going to happen. But you already know this.

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