Welcome to Another Work Productivity Article
Welcome. How are we? Still procrastinating? Well, glad you’re here. Because either way—whether or not you struggle with tackling work as it comes in—all of us could benefit from a productivity tip or two.
Especially right now, as we enter the throws of accounting season, accounting professionals at small businesses and firms alike are being hit with more to-dos than ever.
Don’t fret—for the rest of us non-accounting professionals, this article has tidbits for you, too. Check out what we have in store for you in the bulleted list below, and simply click to the spot of the article that interests you most. Or—read the whole thing. (But only if you’re not avoiding work by doing so.)
- A recap of “The Procrastinator’s Guide (Part 1)”: What worked and what didn’t?
- Work efficiency: What do productive schedules all have in common?
- Productivity applications: For me, you and accounting professionals
According to Merriam-Webster, to procrastinate means “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.”
We know it’s not that simple. The act of procrastination doesn’t just look like “watching television instead of working on a term paper,” as one psychology article suggests.
Procrastination is about avoiding goal attainment. The reasons for avoiding that goal may vary, but work procrastination—at least for me—isn’t procrastinating at work with non-work-related items. In fact, 99.99% of the time, it’s helping out with other tasks that could wait. It’s researching “how to create a word document template” because I know it will help my team with future editing, instead of just editing the actual article I’ve been assigned.
So in part one, I researched ways to help others like me combat these doing-other-work-related-but-not-priority-task impulses.
Here are a few of those tips again, with honest feedback about how they worked for me.
In the last article, I noted how easily distractible I am. Whether it’s my husband (who also works from home) walking into my office to tell me some funny story, my phone lighting up with a new video of my nieces or nephews, or receiving a Teams notification—it didn’t matter. I always seemed to turn away from the task at hand and give full attention to my family, friends and colleagues.
This was—and is—a hard habit to break. On the one hand—what else is there besides family and friends? On the other hand—I am at work. And the sooner I finish the thing I’ve set out to work on, the sooner I can hear that funny story or witness that cute video.
I continue to limit those distractions, though, using the tips provided in part one. If you’re easily distracted like I am, I’d suggest giving that section, in particular, a read.
Establishing daily routines, defining your schedule
I’m giving myself some grace with this one—because we all know that sticking to a daily routine during days off and holidays is near impossible. Add to that, I was sick off-and-on for three weeks. Suffice it to say: I did not stick to any daily routine from part one’s publish date to today.
But once I was back to work for longer than two consecutive days, I established a great routine worth sharing. I also asked a few of my colleagues to share what their productive schedules looked like; see if you can pick up on any similarities.
My productive schedule:
- 8:00 a.m.: Drink coffee, breakfast, check in with my family
- 8:45 – 10:00 a.m.: Catch up on email and Asana tasks; create my schedule for the day and define my “list of three ”
- 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Writing tasks (plus a small snack break)
- 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.: Workout and lunch
- 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.: Review email and Asana, revise my schedule if necessary and tackle another task
- 2:30 – 3:00 p.m.: Cheese and cracker break (it MUST be cheese and crackers.)
- 3:00 – 5:30 p.m.: Check in with teammates, tackle the easiest task and one more check on Asana and email before signing out
Derek, Senior Director of Support and Success, Software Products, and author of “The ‘Great American Office’ in a post-pandemic world,” is one of the most productive people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. A few months back, after seeing his thought-provoking posts on LinkedIn, I reached out to Derek and asked if he would contribute to the blog. He is the subject matter expert of keeping our customers happy, after all.
Despite his stacked schedule, Derek wholeheartedly agreed. When I reached out about this post, Derek sent his schedule immediately, plus some other great productivity tips that I’ll be sharing later on in the article.
Here’s Derek’s productive schedule:
- 6:00 – 8:00 am: Most Important Thing and coffee
- 8:00 – 9:00 am: Routine tasks (Daily reports, recurring emails, etc.) and water
- 9:00 – 10:00 am: Workout and breakfast
- 10:00 am – 12:00 pm: Meetings, other To Dos and water
- 12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch
- 1:00 – 3:00 pm: meetings, other To Dos and water
- 3:00 – 3:30 pm: Break (Walk dog, clean up outside. I try to be outside for this as much as possible.)
- 3:30 – 4:30 pm: Finish To Dos
- 4:30 pm: “Hanging Chads” reminder
Anna is one of our über talented graphic designers. (She’s the one who designed the incredible graphics in my all-time favorite cybersecurity post, “Scary cybersecurity facts (and how to thwart attacks)”.
In any given day, Anna is hit with request after request, and must prioritize on the fly. Her work is always flawless, produced efficiently, and she seems to have an endless supply of grace and positivity. So in preparation for this article—I asked Anna, “how do you do it?”
Here’s Anna’s productive schedule:
- 8:30 – 9:00 a.m.: Wake up brain with water and coffee, listen to a.m. news podcasts, wake up computer
- 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.: Catch up on emails and messages, begin project work
- 11:00 – 11:45 p.m.: Meetings, project work, organize incoming tasks
- 11:45 – 12:00 p.m.: Movement break (I like to dance around the house!)
- 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.: Project work
- 1:00 – 1:30 p.m.: Lunch and movement break
- 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.: Project work, organize incoming tasks, meetings
- 3:00 – 3:15 p.m.: Break time (walk dog, snack, watch YouTube video)
- 3:15 – 4:30 p.m.: Project work, prep documents for next day
- 4:30 – 5:00 p.m.: Create task list for next day, EOD focus time
- 5:00 – 5:30 p.m.: Shut down work computer, all notifications turn off
1. Productive schedules make time for movement
Without comparing productivity notes, Derek, Anna and I all happened to have at least one movement break scheduled into our days.
Here’s Derek’s take on why movement is integral to his productive schedule:
“Make time for exercise. Whether it’s 60 minutes lifting weights, a run, or just a 20-minute walk and stretch through my neighborhood, I do this every morning once my “Most Important Thing” is done (or has reached a point where I am comfortable pausing).
I unplug during this time, choosing not to think about work. I generally listen to a podcast when running or walking, or jam to a rock mashup while working out. I find that coming back from the workout I am re-energized and re-invigorated and have a second wind of extremely productive time when I can continue tackling tasks.”
2. Productive schedules are task-oriented
I’ve been using the “list of three” to determine which tasks I tackle each day, Derek uses the “Most Important Thing” plus his “To Done” list, and Anna creates her task list the day before while also blocking time in her schedule to organize incoming tasks.
The important thing to note here is that we’re not tackling all of our tasks:
- As they come in
- Without prioritizing ourselves and what we need to get done to feel accomplished
Here’s more from Derek about defining his own schedule and the importance of his “To Done” list:
“First, I had to learn when I am most productive. I usually do my best work early in the morning. I am unbothered with the little things that always come up as the day progresses. Therefore, I plan my day so the most important things are the first on my list and the first on my calendar.
If there are tasks that are rote or routine, I plan those to be the second set of tasks on my list. If nothing else, once I’ve taken care of the “Most Important Thing” and the regular daily tasks, I could spend the rest of the day putting out fires or being interrupted and still feel accomplished. Put together, I call this my “To Done” list. These are the things that absolutely must be done before I can feel the day has been productive.
By putting the most important things first, I also leave time throughout the day in case there are interruptions early. I can adjust and ensure these things get done by rescheduling less important things to tomorrow. Sometimes those reschedules become tomorrow’s To Done list. But if I can get those things done, it won’t matter what else was on the list…the Most Important Things were done, and the routine things that keep the day flowing were also completed.”
3. Productive schedules aren’t “one size fits all”
The last similarity worth noting? All of us work differently. The similarity may seem at first like a stretch—but you must define your own schedule, not copy anyone else’s, in order for you to find great success and get more done every day.
Derek had to learn when he was most productive (early in the morning.) I had to learn, as I mentioned in my last article, ruthless prioritization and to limit distractions by muting my phone and shutting down distracting computer apps.
And while I may not be my brightest in the early AM like Derek, and Derek may not need to hide his phone from himself in order to not be distracted by it (like I do), we’ve found common ground in that we achieve great things, while still feeling balanced and personally fulfilled, every day.
Lastly, let’s look at the apps and tools we can use to help make us more productive.
Which applications help us stay productive? Many software suites and individual applications tout their abilities to cut down on time spent doing a certain task, or manage projects for you.
Just like when we are defining our schedules, there is no “one size fits all” for the suite of productivity applications. (Believe me, I Googled it.) However, there are tools that most of us already use that can be “hacked” to help establish a more productive routine. One of those? Outlook.
Microsoft Outlook Calendar
Here’s Derek Distin coming in hot with some more great advice about using Outlook to establish his daily schedule:
“I have come to rely on Outlook religiously. If I know I have a big task or project or Most Important Thing, I will literally book time on my calendar and mark myself as busy. When that reminder pops up, I know I have time to complete it. Furthermore, this helps me ensure I don’t need to keep a list going in my head … I can schedule my day. I have become my own executive assistant.”
Pro tip: Right Networks QuickBooks Application Cloud customers have access to Outlook, as well as the entire suite of Microsoft Office, available in the cloud. This benefits our customers by making it faster, and more secure, to move in and out of QuickBooks software and email in one system. And using Derek’s advice, you can also schedule your day using Outlook’s built-in calendaring tool, then get notified in-cloud when it’s a) time for a meeting or b) time to move on to another task.
Time is your greatest asset. There are many benefits to using time-tracking applications—
- Time-tracking apps show when and where employees are working
- Time-tracking apps measure employee productivity
- Time-tracking apps help estimate costs and pricing for clients
Read their many benefits in 5 Time Tracking Apps to Use with QuickBooks Accounting Software.
The five mentioned in the article all integrate with QuickBooks, but we also offer many other time-tracking applications for Application Cloud and Cloud Premier customers. Get our list of hosted time-tracking apps here.
Workflow and project management applications
When it comes to choosing your workflow and project management applications, specifically for accounting and tax teams, you must start with, and standardize, the main firm software you have before signing up for any other workflow or project management tools.
Roman Kepczyk, our Director of Firm Technology Strategy, explains why this is important in his eBook, Accounting Tech Stack: How to Build and Benefit from Firm Apps, Software and Tools.
Heed Roman’s advice—and don’t buy a program without consulting with firm leadership and ensuring integrations with your current software and technology stack are possible—but here are a few workflow and collaboration tools that he suggests, depending on the size of your firm:
For medium and larger firms: Tools such as CCH XCM, CCH Workstream, Thomson FirmFlow, and Doc.It Workflow provide comprehensive firmwide project tracking capabilities that firms should prioritize within their own tech stack.
For smaller firms: Workflow solutions such as OfficeTools Professional, Karbon, Canopy and JetPack are comprehensive project management and tracking tools to be considered as a key component of those firm’s internal tech stack.
In Conclusion: Derek Distin
I hope this productivity, anti-procrastination post inspired you to get more done today. Thanks to Anna, and Derek, for their contributions.
Before we set out to tackle another task—I’d like to leave you with one more piece of advice from Derek on how else he keeps his productive schedule, who, if he every chooses to write a book on productivity—I’ll be first in line to purchase:
“I also had to learn that to be productive, I have had to learn to say NO. Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit and founder of Box of Crayons, says that an unmeant or half-assed “yes” is actually a terrible thing for both you and the requester. A well-informed “no” will not only help other people grow but will free you up to be full-attention and fully-intentioned with your yesses, creating more productivity and value.”