“It’s August and I am doing May books for my clients. Gosh! I am behind!”
Stress. Deadlines. Pressure. Frustration. Long working hours. Weekend working. It all happens when you are “behind” in work no matter how hard you work. And you know it, you really know it that you didn’t have to be behind. But history repeats itself. You catch up and then again it happens in a few weeks. You are behind. Almost always. And there seems to be no real solution.
Why You Can’t Control The Situations That Put You Behind in Work?
Newton’s first law states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. It seems to apply to work too!
Once we start working on something, do we let some “external force” to stop us or slow us down? Distractions can be one such external force. Many a times, distractions actually arise from our processes and the consequences of those processes. For example, a client who does not send source information in time will make your work accumulate and instead of doing things over a week or two, you will need to scurry to get things done in two days. And it keeps repeating because you haven’t let the client experience the consequence of delays. And you haven’t changed your processes of getting information from clients. The major cause of such recurring experience is a Dogma. The “behind in work” Dogma.
DOGMA 3: THE BEHIND-IN-WORK DOGMA
Neuroscience has proven that our “old brain” focuses on survival. It constantly looks for changes that can threaten survival and acts when it senses a change from patterns. In other words, as long as the patterns are the same, we don’t usually act. And hence, when we get used to being behind in work, we allow a pattern to form – of being behind.
And when that happens, we don’t act, unless an external force (most likely a deadline, a penalty for delay, not being able to bill the clients at the end of the month unless work is completed, etc.) makes us act – which is nothing but our old brain telling us a threat to our survival (not in literal sense but a threat of cash-flow problem or penalty if work is not completed, etc.). Unknowingly, we create a Dogma of staying behind in work and start believing that it will always be like this!
What’s The Solution?
Stay in motion.
1. Proverbial “Sharpen the Axe” Technique:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln
To stay in motion – from an accounting and tax practice perspective – you need most of, if not all, the information to complete your work. Like a restaurant chef, who prepares all the ingredients and lines up all the utensils and other resources before “doing” the work of cooking awesome food, you need to make sure your pre-work processes are effective.
Automatic reminders, cloud-based softwares that fetch information from clients, technology that makes it easy for client to send you information; technology that organizes information for you to keep your work flowing; there are multiple ways in which you can reduce the causes that put you behind in work. There are softwares that send automatic reminder emails if your previous email is not replied by your client/staff. Automating your “information collection” routines can be half the battle won.
2. Surfing is great fun, but not at work!
Like waves, Accounting workload can flow through “crests and troughs”. It is important to identify your “crest” i.e. peak load days or periods during a given time period, say a week or a month, and provide resources for handling such crests or to even out the workload as reasonably as possible. In other words, identify the root causes of situations that cause you to be behind in work and remedy those causes.
Being behind in work is not an uncontrollable part of the business environment. It is a Dogma that makes it feel like an uncontrollable factor.
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The author is the Chief Operating Officer of Pransform, a firm laser-focussed on providing life-liberating work choices for accountants. Pransform could be your first step towards the solution that helps you overcome the behind in work Dogma using top 10 benefits of accounting and bookkeeping outsourcing to successfully transform your processes and help you focus on practice growth, doing only the work that really matters.
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This is part 3 of the 12 parts series of articles (Read Part 1 of 12, “I-Don’t-Have-The-Time” Dogma, Read Part 2 of 12, “The Damaging Distractions Dogma”) that will be published to explain the 12 most common practice growth challenges accounting firms face and suggestions on how to overcome them. Watch out this space for the 4th part coming soon.