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Accountants

know the signs of burnout

Know The Signs Of Burnout

know the signs of burnout

Know The Signs Of Burnout

task virtual assistant
Burnout is often mistaken for being overworked, burning the candle at both ends, all work no play, you get the idea. And while yes, all those can and will lead to burnout, it's also important to know there are other factors such as hating your job, your situation, or not getting the support or appreciation you need from others. The thing is burnout can be prevented if you know what to watch for and what to avoid.

 

First, understand that burnout is essentially a state of chronic bad stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment and cynicism, feelings that you aren’t accomplishing anything, and that everything you do is ineffective and doesn’t matter. While, at the same time, feeling irreplaceable and unable to say no to anything. It’s like being stuck in a revolving door. Many new entrepreneurs experience this in the form of imposter syndrome, meaning they lack confidence in their skills and work twice as hard to prove they are "worthy". This can start a downward negative spiral about what they're doing, and soon, all the joy and anticipation felt when they first embarked disappears as they work harder and harder but never get anywhere. You’re tired, overworked, and not accomplishing your goals. In all the chaos, you may not even have goals to check.  So what can you do? The best way to protect yourself against burnout is to understand the signs to watch out for.

 

One or more of the following signs can signal either outright burnout or the potential to experience burnout if mitigation methods aren’t imposed.

 

Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia

It’s often one of the first signs. If you are always tired, or you can’t sleep, or both, primarily due to circular thoughts about the work you’re doing, it can be due to burnout or approaching burnout. Get checked out by your doctor to ensure you don't have any physical reason that keeps you up at night. Then try meditating, or deep breathing exercises, twice a day. 5 minutes in the morning, and 5-10 minutes at night before bedtime. Also, make sure you're getting some physical exertion during the day - a 30-minute walk will do wonders to help your brain turn off the daytime drama.

 

Forgetfulness, Lack of Productivity and Poor Performance

Directly related to fatigue and insomnia. When you can’t sleep well or concentrate, it is natural that you may forget things, not work fast as you did before, and do things poorly. If this continues unchecked, you will end up in that revolving door. Practice self-care now.

 

Inattentiveness and Detachment

It’s hard to focus and pay attention when you’re suffering from burnout, and it can look like detachment and even inattentiveness. If you have been accused of this by someone else, pay attention.

 

Isolation, Apathy, and Hopelessness

When burnout gets really bad, you might want to pull away from others due to not caring about anything. If you feel like your actions don’t matter, it can lead to hopelessness. If you find yourself self-isolating or feeling like it will never get better, talk to someone. A trusted friend, clergyman, family member. Oftentimes just reaching out will help turn things around.

 

Illness and Physical Symptoms

The thing about mental and emotional distress, they can lead to physical illness. You can become more susceptible to colds and infections because your defenses are down. If you're suddenly getting sick for no reason - ok the toddler's birthday party last week might have played a role - It could be a sign to look at your self-care routine. .

 

Lack of Appetite or Poor Diet

All the feelings you’re experiencing can cause you to either not eat at all or eat very poorly. It might not seem apparent immediately but eating a diet high in nutrition is one of the ways to avoid burnout and adverse health outcomes such as diabetes.

 

Anxiety and Depression

Mental illness can also rear it’s head as you are experiencing burnout. Sometimes it’s due to nutritional imbalances, or chemical imbalances, but sometimes it’s situational. Depression is not to be ignored.

Anger, Pessimism, and Loss of Enjoyment

When you are experiencing the brunt of burnout, you may act out with hostility due to being disillusioned about business and life. You may micromanage your employees, or show annoyance towards a client. If you aren’t enjoying it and feel like you never will, you will in all likeliness experience burnout.

 

If you aren’t enjoying your business or your life as you once did, and the feelings of discontentment are intruding on your ability to move forward, you may be experiencing burnout. If you think you are, it’s a good idea to start right now, today, creating a plan that will work better for you as an entrepreneur. After all, you deserve all the good things in life, including security, satisfaction, and joy.

 

If you feel depressed, or find yourself idealizing death, please seek professional medical care. You can call the US National Suicide hotline to get help at 1-800-273-8255.

Trying to do it all?  Imagine if you could get rid of all the time-wasting tasks that clog up your schedule, and just focus on what matters most to your business. Sounds good, right?

Contact me at Info@thetaskva.com for more information, or schedule a quick 15-minute chat.

Take our quiz and see if you need a helping hand

customer care

High-Touch Customer Care

customer care

High-Touch Customer Care

TASK Virtual Assistant

Gary Vaynerchuk, serial entrepreneur and one of the most sought-after public speakers today, has stated that the best marketing strategy ever is to simply care, and high-touch marketing shows that you care.

Now imagine if you took that same marketing strategy and used it in your customer care program.

High Touch, as defined by yourdictionary.com, is dealing with or interacting with a human being as opposed to transacting with computers or high-tech.

High-touch customer care focuses on human interaction, dealing with or interacting with your clients as human beings in a personal and empathetic way using low-tech methods.

High-touch involves ensuring that you increase the human factor in all your client-facing efforts. Even though most of your business may be conducted online today, your customers still value social interaction, and because of this fact, high-touch methods can be the differentiator for your accounting firm.

As an Accountant or CPA, there is one thing that can set your business apart from the giant multinational corporate firms - the individual care you can give a client. You can offer a better experience to your clients because you understand their journey and how it relates to what you can offer them at that point in terms of service and education.

High-touch consists of creating hyper-personalized experiences for your clients.

Clients value experiences today more than ever in the history of humans. The great thing is that you can do that more easily because, as a small Accounting firm, you are able to personalize the client experience, individually. The hard part is developing that experience, virtually.

Many Accountants and CPAs had to pivot to a virtual environment during the Covid-19 Pandemic, and, as a result, those online businesses and websites had a more attentive audience.  Now that restrictions have lifted and people are slowly returning to a life outside their home, and away from the computer, you want to be careful with how you nurture that audience; finding the correct balance to keeping their attention, without coming across as a used-car salesman.

Clients Want to Feel Special

The higher value client experience will translate into your customers feeling like VIPs.

When clients feel like very important people, they are more willing to pay more for that upgraded experience. People will pay for value and feeling special makes them feel important.

High-touch customer care creates excitement and passion because they are getting more of what they really want from you. That means your client is likely to stick with you long-term, thus increasing your lifetime earnings from each new client acquisition. And, as you develop more trust through your actions, your clients will transform into advocates for your brand.

The most important marketing skill you have is to listen to your clients.

Really get to know your client.  Read all correspondence between your firm and the client. Take notes about their problems, issues, and happiness. Fill in the information in your client file as you discover it.

Using your client files, create a full profile for each of your top clients that include their name, demographics, family information, services they receive from you and potential areas of growth, communication history, social media profiles, websites, and more. The more information you can find that is relevant to your offerings, the better.

Do make sure to set a schedule for learning about your top clients, as doing this can be remarkably interesting but quite time-consuming.

Create personalized interactive communities for your VIP customers to join and really bring the conversation with your best clients to a new level. Bring your clients closer to you so that you can help them more and they can learn more. The more open you are, and the more they learn from you, the more likely they are going to stick around when you announce your price increases.

Another way to get to know your clients is through their websites.  Find their websites if they have them based on the information you can find in your system. If they do not have websites, that’s okay. You can find out information by who they follow on social media, and the sites they like to visit.

Social Media is Not a One-Way Virtual Street...

Friend/Follow their social media. Ensure that you follow or friend them based on the information they have given to you. If you discover that you do not have that much information on them, see if you can find them following you on your social media platforms so you can follow them back. If not, invite them to follow you so you can follow them back.

High-touch customer care is using personalized marketing methods that provide a lot of human touchpoints and can easily be incorporated into your business model by:

More Segmentation – The more you can segment your audience, the better. Using the technology to break down your customers into smaller, more personalized groups will help you develop the right offers as well as content to market those offers.

Extreme Personalization – With extreme personalization, it can’t be automated. This is going to include doing things just for one client at a time. For example, sending a thank you note in the mail after they sign on.

Personal Phone Calls – Give your clients a call to thank them and offer your personal help. Most of the time, you’ll end up leaving a message, but they’ll still feel super special getting a call of thanks from you.

Relationship Building – Find out who your top ten clients are and focus on following them on social media and interacting with them more. You can also send surveys to incorporate technology in helping build the relationships closer.

Customized Packages and Offers – Develop a special offer that is just for your top ten. Talk to them and let them tell you what they want, then give it to them.

Ultimately, high-touch customer care is all about super personalized marketing that provides a way for you to include your unique human touch for your clients - all of them, not just the top ten.

Incorporating high-touch customer care into your business model is going to grow your business and your bottom line like nothing before! It is truly a win-win for you and your clients.

Wondering if you need a virtual assistant? Imagine if you could get rid of all the time-wasting tasks that clog up your schedule, and just focus on what matters most to your business. Sounds good, right?

Contact me at Info@thetaskva.com for more information, or schedule a quick 15-minute chat.

Take our quiz and see if you need a helping hand

customer care

5 Reasons How Client Communications Can Go Wrong

customer care

5 Reasons How Client Communications Can Go Wrong

TASK Virtual Assistant

Your clients are willing to put their trust and faith in your ability to deliver the tax and accounting services they need. But this is a type of trust that can be easily broken.

One reason clients quickly lose confidence in you is the lure of the competition. Maybe they've heard good things about the company down the road, and they're wondering if the grass is greener with those guys.

Maybe they're worried about money and subconsciously looking for any reason to break up with you in a professional sense so they can rationalize not investing.

Here are some common reasons why your client communication can go wrong and how that ultimately breaks their trust in you.

Becoming too personal with clients

There is a fine line between showing your humanity to people with whom you do business and over-disclosing.

Over disclosure means sharing personal details that are irrelevant to the client's reason for coming to you.

For example, maybe the client needs your guidance on managing finances more effectively. A revealing conversation about your recent divorce would not be relevant to the topic in question. It might even have the client thinking less of you for being unprofessional.

These talks may ultimately lead you to a broken client agreement or an order that never materializes. Therefore, it's best to avoid getting too personal when dealing with people professionally.

Overwhelming clients with too much information

Your clients come to you wanting help, guidance, or solutions. For example, they may need an expert to prepare their taxes, provide payroll services, or other accounting needs.

Overwhelming clients with too much information means getting too deep into your offer's finer points. It's more than likely that they only need an overview to help them understand your competence and capabilities. And they require time to digest the information piece by piece mentally.

If you throw it all at them, they might even think of you as less of an expert when all is said and done.

A professional presentation typically contains clear, concise, well-ordered points that support the main idea and provide enough supporting detail to facilitate meaning.

Going off on side tangents in your client communication does not lend credibility in their estimation.

Not providing enough information

On the other hand, one sure-fire way to break trust with your clients is not to provide enough detail.

We talked about over-delivering, but probably a more common predicament is the company whose clients come to them with unmet communication expectations.

There is a delicate balance between over and underwhelming your clients. So naturally, you want to walk this fine line if you hope to gain their admiration, respect, and trust in your ability.

If you have trouble knowing how much is too much versus not enough info to provide clients, try crafting it in advance and use it as a guide during your conversation.

Providing irrelevant details

The problem of providing details that the client may not need likely stems from an accountant's need to prove their expertise.

The client may initially be impressed by your accumulated knowledge, sure. But ultimately, if the topic gets off track with their problems and how to solve them, the client will leave the conversation scratching their head. In addition, irrelevant information will leave them wondering if they should have gone with someone else who's work is more relevant to them.

If you have trouble sticking to the main issue when talking with clients, you might try preparing a script for each type of problem that people will likely come to you with needing your expertise to solve.

Don't read off the script like you're in the school play. Instead, use it to cement the thoughts in your mind. Then, practice a bit with the script in hand so you can convey your thoughts in an organized fashion when the time comes.

Not personalizing your message

Your clients know when you are reading off a script.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of sitting on a client service call and hearing phony, scripted questions like "How can I make your day great," your clients are not likely to fall for a dialogue between you and them that takes place with you reciting lines off a cue card.

If you are not in a profession where talking comes naturally, you can give yourself a cheat sheet by writing out a few bulleted points on note cards to help you keep client calls flowing productively.

However, in time you should become more comfortable with speaking to clients. If you organize the points you want to make and continue to practice saying them naturally and conversationally, eventually, you'll find that the cards are no longer necessary.

Do you control your day, or do your tasks control you? Take our short quiz and find out. The results may surprise you (or maybe not).

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client communication

How To Communicate With Your Client

client communication

How To Communicate With Your Client

TASK Virtual Assistant

As a small accounting firm, your main goal is to deliver an exceptional client experience to everyone who solicits you for business.

However, building trust and confidence in your clients isn't just about offering a great product or delivering world-class service. Well, it is, but it's also more than that.

Communication plays a huge role in whether people decide to become repeat clients of yours.

After all, even if we're doing our very best job for people, sometimes things go wrong that are outside the realm of our control. Let's face it, most accounting clients dread hearing from their accountant. Very rarely is it good news.

You must be able to communicate effectively and quickly with your clients. How you handle the difficult moments and how you choose to communicate with clients during a high-pressure situation is the real test that determines whether or not they'll return again despite the difficulties that cropped up.

Remember, how you communicate to your clients is the key to helping them grow confidence in your ability to deliver. Therefore, it's crucial that you:

🗝  Remain calm and reassuring throughout your ongoing dialogue with clients.

🗝  Convey a certain sense of empathy so the client will get the impression that you genuinely care.

🗝  When circumstances call for it, apologize or offer to make good on a situation if necessary.

🗝  Help clients stay on track with shared goals rather than dwelling on what may not have happened.

It also helps to remind them why they chose you. It would be best if you always infused the following in any communication with clients:

✔️The value you provide to them.

✔️ How it can help them.

✔️ Let them know they have options and tell them why they are.

✔️ This is also an excellent time to review what you need from them to keep the job moving forward.

And always let them know who to contact if they need support.

Do you control your day, or do your tasks control you? Take our short quiz and find out. The results may surprise you (or maybe not).

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client communication

When Do Clients Need To Hear From Us?

client communication

When Do Clients Need To Hear From Us?

TASK Virtual Assistant

During a business transaction, there are critical times that communication is vital to keep clients feeling like you are in touch and engaged with their unique situation.

Remember that your goal with a recap message is to build a relationship with the client and not just sell to them.

The best recap emails summarize the discovery into two or four key points. First, they reinforce the decision to move forward. A recap email can confirm the next call's date, purpose, and plan. Third, it builds accountability and keeps the lines of communication open.

Your clients will appreciate the communication you are providing. And, they'll be more likely to hire you if you send them an excellent recap email.

So, what are the key points in a project that need a recap or communication?

  1. In the beginning, the introductory phase of your association.
  2. At the start of your project - the kickoff.
  3. At any time they feel confused.
  4. Through each new step of the process.
  5. Whenever there is a delay or problem.
  6. At the project's close, the end of the order or the wrap-up of your business with them.

1. In the beginning

A potential client will make a series of decisions before settling on you as their chosen Accountant.

One might consider the introductory phase to be the most important. Remember, you never get a second chance at a first impression. Therefore, it would help if you communicated clearly and confidently what the client could expect from you during the entire transaction.

Help the client visualize doing business with you by laying out the process with simple, easy-to-understand steps.

Create a simple project map, bulleting each phase with necessary details such as what the client will need to provide and anticipated turnaround times. This will go a long way toward helping them understand what will happen and who will be responsible for what along the way.

Finally, you'll want to exchange contact details and any other pertinent information such as account numbers, personal identification, and any relevant matters that pertain to the service or products you'll be providing to them.

2. The Kickoff

Once the introductory phase is complete, you will want to help clients stay on track with the timing and details of any work you do for them. You can fill them in on exactly what will happen, so they know what to expect going forward.

One helpful piece of communication that you can hand out as you onboard new clients is the Welcome Email or Welcome Letter.

The welcome message gives a client the confidence you are committing to them and that the two of you (or a group if that's relevant) are partnering or teaming up for success.

You should customize the content of your welcome message according to the client, the specific project, and an estimated timeline of how long it will take. Streamline this process with a general timeline for your template, but insert details before printing and handing it to the client.

3. When They Feel Confused

New clients tend to ask specific questions. You may even notice that most of the new clients you deal with have the same questions as other clients did when they first began working with you.

You may feel like a broken record giving the same answers repeatedly all day long, which results in a lot of unnecessary email typing and talking on the phone.

Of course, the accounting and tax preparation business you have lends itself to talking on the phone or in person with clients, and you may not have the option of getting out of this.

However, the simple addition of an FAQ area of your website, or FAQ handout you provide to clients, can drastically cut down on the amount of time you spend explaining things to the people who solicit your services.

Your Frequently Asked Questions handout should include all aspects of your business that tend to confuse people the most.

What do people always ask you? Write that down. Then think of other things they ask you. Brainstorm "through your client's mind," list out, and answer.

You can continue to build on your FAQ, modifying it from time to time. Any time a client comes to you wanting clarification on something, write down their question. Then take some time to answer it in detail, and add it to your FAQ file.

4. Every Step of the Way

A quick email message signals forward momentum in your step-by-step process with clients. Of course, it only takes a short, written wrap-up to let them know a phase is complete, but this brief message will add to the confidence and trust your client holds in you.

At each step, you can sum up:

  1. What was accomplished during this step.
  2. Any deliverables you provided (so they can be reminded of the ongoing value you deliver to them).
  3. Any problems that came up during this step.
  4. Any outstanding items that will need to be addressed.
  5. What to expect in the next step.
  6. How long you expect the next step to take.

5. Another Delay!?

Delays of any kind will cause your clients to doubt you and begin to worry. They may fear that you will not be able to deliver the end product the way they prefer or in the allotted time frame. In addition, they may worry that you cannot be trusted - after all, they likely don't even know you.

A brief and reassuring message that lets them know you are handling their issue or attending to their details quickly and thoroughly will ease their discomfort.

As you work on similar projects for various clients, you will notice a pattern of issues that may come up repeatedly. For example, a recurring problem with Accounting firms is that the client does not promptly provide the necessary information.

You can work through this challenge by creating a short template of common problems. For example, your template can explain the delay, or it might make a request for the client to fulfill, which applies to each type of delay.

Keep the messages you create in your file of templates. Print or email and use as necessary when future clients voice complaints about things outside your control realm.

If problems occur that you know you can handle but must be worked through in a routine fashion, your proactive message will go a long way to dispel their fears, increasing their trust in you as their chosen provider.

6. That's a Wrap!

When your work for the client concludes, send them a brief wrap-up bulleting the work completed.

Thank them for their business and remind them that if they have any questions or would like to leave a positive review, please reach out to you via email, phone, or whatever your preferred method of communication may be.

One last thing:

Keep invoicing separate from the "final wrap-up" message - these should be two separate areas, as you do not want your clients thinking about payment in the same context as what was delivered.

 

connect, clients, customer care

The Importance of Connecting With Clients

connect, clients, customer care

The Importance of Connecting With Clients

TASK Virtual Assistant

It is vital to connect with your accounting clients and be there to answer all of their questions. The people who come to you for professional help do so because you deliver something that they cannot or do not want to handle on their own. They're hoping that you can fulfill their needs somehow, and they look to you as an expert guide. Naturally, therefore, they require your help in solving their problems.

Perhaps they seek support around an overwhelming, confusing task that falls outside their realm of understanding or capability. You can either do the task or guide your client through the details, allowing them to master and manage the steps on their own with ease.

Think about this from the perspective of your clients. They need help, and they're seeking it from you. Selecting a person, group of people or entire organization to help handle essential details of your business is no small matter.

So when your potential clients decide that it's time to fork over their hard-earned cash to solicit your support that brings them closer to their goals, they're always going to search for that one intangible thing.

Do you know what it is?

The thing that your clients and potential clients want from you is trust. They want to walk into a business relationship with a sense of trust from the start. So, what sort of trust are clients hoping to find in you?

✨They want to trust your expertise and your ability to solve their challenge.

✨They want to trust that you're keeping their needs on the highest priority.

✨They want to trust that you will provide high value with your services.

✨They want to trust that you won't rip them off

✨They want to trust that you won't do something unethical in your business dealings with them.

How do you arrive at a place of trust with people, so they feel ready to take the next step and do business with you?

How do you cultivate trust with a new client so they'll return again and again for repeat business?

The way to get people to trust you is to establish a rapport with them.

1️⃣ Kick-off with a getting-to-know-you dialog. Keep the conversation about the client and their wants and needs.

2️⃣  Keep your client engaged at all times. The dialogue doesn't end after the introductions and proverbial or literal handshake.

3️⃣  After the intro conversation, guide your clients through the phases of the business you are handling for them or the transaction you are carrying out on their behalf.

Your clients want to get the sense that you are "with them" every step of the way, and the best way to deliver this is through effective communication that reaches them at key points in the project or process that you're taking them through, at the times when they need it most.

distractions

Dealing With Distractions

distractions

Dealing With Distractions

task virtual assistant

In a perfect world, you would be so focused on your work that nothing could distract you. But our world is not perfect, and it rarely works that way. So why does something so minor as an interruption mess up our entire day?

Distractions can be either external or internal. Some distractions are entirely beyond your control, while others are entirely up to you. What they all have in common, though, is the impact on your day. Let’s look at some of these in detail:

Distraction: Overwhelm
Many accountants feel there’s just too much coming at them all at once, most of it needing to be done yesterday. Add in the constant phone calls and never-ending emails, especially during Income Tax season, that seems to need urgent replies, it’s normal to seek escape. Think of it as reacting in a fight or flight way to a scary stimulus. Running to a distraction in this situation is a flight response to stress.

Distraction Buster
Establish your priorities for the day. With most accounting businesses it’s impossible to avoid phone calls and emails that need to be returned, but you don’t have to answer every phone call or immediately respond to every email. Set aside a specific time of day that you’ll handle those replies.

Then, keep distractions down by sending calls to voicemail and shutting down your email window. If this isn't a viable option for your firm, have your virtual assistant monitor the voicemails and emails, and then flag those that need your immediate attention. All others can wait until your designated time.

Distraction: Doing Everything at Once
Multitasking is a huge distraction, simply because it feels productive when you do it. When you multitask, you get less done than you think. Studies have proven people drop up to 20 IQ points while multitasking. This is because the mind is constantly being distracted by every other task you’re trying to do.

You listen to an eBook while exercising but are mentally making a checklist of what you need to do next. You’re on the phone with one person while checking your calendar to reschedule an appointment with another. You’re answering emails while talking to a team member.

It’s everywhere. In the end? How much of that eBook do you remember? What about that phone conversation? Have you really accomplished anything, or do you now need to go back and double-check your work, or worse, re-do it entirely?

Distraction Buster
When you have no guided focus in your day, it’s hard to keep your attention where you need it most. Schedules set out small goals that let you know when you expect to have those goals completed. Without those guidelines, it’s easy for your day to fall apart as minor distractions sneak in to take up blocks of time not meant for anything.

Create your daily task list the night before, don't wait until that morning when you're running late for an early meeting, or already looking at a full inbox of emails. Then, use your list. Complete a task before starting the next. If new projects come up during the day, add them to the bottom of the list. If they need to be moved up, do it at the end of the day, when you're preparing the next day's task list.

Distraction: Out of Resources
There’s only so much attention you can give to a problem before you run out of gas. How are you supposed to keep plugging away when you're tired, exhausted, and worn out? It’s no wonder you welcome distraction just for the relief it gives from having to think or do another thing.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes we just get tired. Consider this, do you find yourself saying "I forgot to eat", or looking at the clock at night and thinking, "if I fall asleep now, I'll still get a couple of hours of sleep", and if so, how often? If we’re not eating or sleeping properly, our bodies start to show signs of fatigue. It’s impossible to tune out distractions when you’re so worn out you can’t think straight.

Distraction Buster
When you don’t want your day to get away from you, grab your calendar, and put things where you can see them. Look at your task list and schedule your tasks (allowing enough time for each), so nothing gets left out or ignored. When you set out a schedule, you leave less room for distraction. Remember to block out time for things unrelated to your goals, such as sleep or time to eat. You’ll be less likely to skip meals or stay up too late if you have these things already in place on your calendar.

Distraction: Too Much Time Staring at a Screen
Wow, it’s easy to get focused on electronics. When you constantly check your phone, it quickly becomes addictive. Literally! Studies have shown time spent staring at screens releases dopamine into your brain, making a little screen time every bit as effective at giving you a quick ‘buzz’ as a hit on a cigarette.

Before you disagree, think about the last time you left your phone at home. How far did you get before you felt a little twitchy about not having it? If you’re like most people, it’s not just your smartphone grabbing your attention. Between laptops, tablets, and every other iteration of device connecting to the internet, it’s no wonder it’s hard to put the screen down and get something done.

Let’s face it, they’re interesting. Filled with apps, connection to friends and family through social media, the ability to check email…there’s just too much to do, and it’s all right there in your hands. It’s no wonder you’re distracted!

Distraction Buster
Again, schedule your screen time, instead of letting it become a distraction. For example, you can plan your lunch break to be a time to relax and do things that take your mind off work. Most smartphones today have a "Do Not Disturb" setting. I have mine set for nighttime, as well as during the day when I need to be completely focused.

Distraction: You’re on a Treasure Hunt
When it turns out you lack the knowledge to continue, falling into the trap of research distraction is very common. What starts as hunting for an answer to a single question breeds diversion and sends you down rabbit trails that keep you from ever returning to the project if you’re not careful.

How many times did you go to one source, but end up looking at something that wasn't even in your original search? With all the information including social media that you can turn to; you can easily waste hours without even realizing it.

Distraction Buster
First, you need to realize you're getting distracted. The minute you notice that your short foray into something has turned into a distraction, stop right there! If you didn't get the answer within a short time - about 5-10 minutes - then this needs to be added to your schedule for further research. Schedule the time for it and make the conscious choice to focus on something else now.

Distraction: What If or How About?
Are you full of ideas? While this is a good thing on many levels, thoughts can also lead to distractions, especially when you start coupling ideas with action.

Moving from one idea to the next, from one project to the next, can feel efficient…at first. In truth, you’re getting less done than you think. Imagine a job involving the remodeling of a house. Say you need to update the kitchen, want to renovate the bathroom, are building a front porch, and painting the dining room. You might think you’re being efficient if you’re doing all projects at the same time. After all, that means you’ll be done at once and have a great house to live in…right? Now imagine finding other home repair jobs as you go and adding to the chaos until the whole place is a mess.

Having too many ideas is very similar. You’re throwing time at first this, and then the next without ever completing anything. You’re adding new things in. In the end, you’re so distracted by so many things to do, that you’ve lost the ability to prioritize, and nothing gets done at all.

Distraction Buster
Keep a notepad nearby so that you can write down ideas that hit you throughout the day and give yourself permission to come back to them later.

Distraction: You’re Trying to Save the World
If a team member is having difficulty working through a return and comes to you for help, do you end up doing their work as well as your own?

If you continuously involve yourself in other people’s problems, it’s hard to get your own projects completed. This ‘save the world’ mentality means distraction comes in the form of altruism, which looks pretty on the outside. Nobel, even. On the inside, though, is the stark truth that you’re distracting yourself under the guise of doing a favor for someone else.

Distraction Buster
While it’s great to want to help and lend a hand now and again, you need to ask yourself if this opportunity is just another distraction? If so, is it one you can afford? Next time, ask the team member to offer you possible solutions to their problem rather than just handing it off to you.

Distraction: You’re Getting Organized
Simply put, you’re not getting anything accomplished, and now you're caught up in the spiral of trying to throw yourself into a new system to fix everything. Organization is another one of those distractions that looks helpful initially. After all, every self-help course is going to recommend cleaning your workspace to make it ‘work better for you.’

The truth of the matter is this kind of organizing can take on a life of its own very quickly. What might start as a quick tidying up suddenly devolves into color-coded notepads, a series of highlighters, and a complex system of calendars. Because it feels like progress, you don’t see it as a distraction. It becomes one when you’re losing out on serious work time as you keep poking at the ‘system’ to make it work.

Distraction Buster
Ask yourself, are you spending more time working on your projects or talking about working on your projects? Handoff the organization to your virtual assistant. Work together to come up with the best tools for your firm, then let your VA set it up and put it into motion.

As you can see, distractions are honestly everywhere, surfacing for a variety of reasons, with a lot of baggage behind them needing to be dealt with if you’re ever going to move forward. You are the master of your fate. It’s up to you to tune out the world and put your focus where it matters most. You really do have the ability to control the situation, whether it’s stamping out the distractions before they gain a foothold, or knowing how to put yourself back on track when the distractions find you.

No matter what, don’t expect easy answers. Nothing here is going to happen overnight. It takes time to build new habits and a new way of thinking. If you fail, simply try again. Give the process time. It will happen.

productive people

How Productive People Think

productive people

How Productive People Think

task virtual assistant

Productivity is not just about working hard or being busy. It's about being effective with your time and resources. Productive people are able to focus on what's important and make sure that they are using their time wisely.

A productive person is someone who has the ability to make their own decisions and take action on them. They are able to prioritize tasks, manage time, and set goals for themselves.

So how do productive people think?

Priorities matter

People who are the most productive are clear about their priorities.  They know that some things are more important than others and they’re able to attack the most important things first.

Start each day by making a list of tasks and placing them in order of priority.  This will help you to get the most important things done first and even help you to eliminate tasks that really aren’t necessary.

Understanding priorities also makes it easy to delegate tasks and avoid things that might take away from reaching goals.

Plan for success

Productive people make a plan.  They schedule their next day at the end of the current workday.  This makes it easy to jump right into work the next day without having to take time to decide what’s next on the list.

Eliminate time wasters

There are many things throughout the day that could threaten to take away from productivity.  Productive people know how to put those time-wasters on the back burner and stick to the important work.

It could be social media, chatty coworkers, emails, text messages, phone calls, or reading online news that prevents you from getting business done.  Set those things aside and schedule a specific time when you will allow yourself to participate in those things.

Take responsibility

Productive people are happy to take responsibility for both their successes and their failures.  Rather than looking to point the finger at someone else, they stay accountable for their work.

Learn from mistakes

Productive people have a healthy attitude toward failure and are able to use it as an opportunity for growth. They are not afraid of making mistakes and they learn from them.

The key is to take the time and think about why you failed so that you can learn from your mistakes instead of letting mistakes throw you off course or cause you to quit.

Efficient tools

Productive people also know it’s important to have the right tools to do the job.  That means having a high-quality computer, the proper software, and even the right desk setup.  When you have what you need in your workspace, it helps you to get more done.

If you want to become more productive, it helps to understand how productive people think.  Think about your own productivity levels.  Where can you make changes in your mindset to become more productive?  Small changes can lead to big results.

time management

5 Tips To Stay Ahead Of The Curve

time management

5 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Curve

task virtual assistant

Running an accounting firm is not easy, and oftentimes, not the most exciting. There are so many mundane, everyday tasks necessary to keep the business running. Tasks such as filing, billing, and data entry bog down a daily task list; they have to be done, but not by you! Hiring a virtual assistant can be a simple solution. But how do you know when to outsource? These five tips will keep you ahead of the curve by helping you sort through your tasks and decide what you can do and what you could be letting someone else do.

1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Have you looked at where your firm is, and where you want it to be? Do you have a clear road map to get there? Many times, we fail to reach our goals because we haven’t defined them clearly. It’s simply not enough to say, “I want to make more money this year,” or “I’d like to spend more time with my family.” Your goals need to be very specific. They should provide direction, and motivation, and clarify the importance of what you’re aiming for. Setting up SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely is a recipe for success! So, instead of "I want to make more money this year", say, "I will increase sales 17% by end of Q4".

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2. Know Your Why

Once you settle on a goal and a specific target, you need to clarify the purpose of the goal, or ‘your why’ If your goal, for example, is to increase earnings over last year, determine WHY you need more money. Do you want to take on more clients, or maybe you want to staff the office?

 

The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’.  Your ‘why’ is the foundation, the passion driving you. If you lose sight of why you have settled on your goal, it will be much more difficult to stay motivated.

3. Work Smarter Not Harder!

Building a successful accounting firm isn’t easy. Many accountants burn out within the first 5 years. They lose the passion and the drive that is necessary to stay competitive, especially if they are too busy working 70+ hours a week. Believe it or not, there is proven research behind the 40-hour workweek. It wasn’t designed to help workers, but to boost productivity, which has been shown to drop dramatically after working more than 40 hours per week for a month. Being busy is not the same as being productive.

 

time management

Let me say that again - Being busy is not the same as being productive.  Top performers focus on the activities that support their goals. They leverage technology and other services to help them be more productive.

4. Create A Daily Task CheckList

If I were asked which one of the five tips I'm providing is the most important, it would be this one. A task checklist is a visual tool of accountability.  Start the first 10 minutes of your day by writing down all the things you need to accomplish. Ask yourself: which activities generate the most income? Begin prioritizing your most income-producing tasks first using the Eisenhower matrix:

time management

1. Do First

Tasks in the green box should be the core tasks that directly earn you money such as responding to new leads and current clients.

2. Schedule

Important, but not urgent tasks belong in the blue box.  Schedule tasks like continuing education, reading the latest IRS updates and researching virtual assistants.

3. Delegate

The yellow box should be reserved for less important tasks, but need to be done rather quickly. These are tasks that do not necessarily have to be done by you. These tasks can and should be, delegated to someone else. Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a great way to delegate tasks.

4. Don’t do

The red box is for STOP. These are the tasks that aren’t helping you at all. For most people, these will be time-wasters such as spending time on social media related. For example, have you been spending an hour a day on Facebook with nothing to show for it? Probably time for a new strategy. These tasks should definitely be turned over to a Virtual Assistant.

Prioritizing your daily tasks will make you that much more productive and mindful of how you spend your time. By using a Task Checklist daily, you’ll start to recognize patterns in your routine and find solutions to improve your results.

5. Hire a Virtual Assistant

 

No one person can do it all. Delegate or outsource everything except the stuff you’re good at because it allows you to focus on the tasks that you’re amazing at, like analyzing the numbers!

Virtual AssistantLook back on your daily task checklist, how many of the tasks are not high priority or goal-oriented, but need to get done? How many of those tasks can you delegate to your VA - social media accounts, your monthly mailings, engagement letters, administrative tasks.

A virtual assistant is your customizable asset!

optimize workflow

5 Tips To Optimize Your Workflow

optimize workflow

5 Tips to Optimize Your Workflow

task virtual assistant

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.