For all of the attention that “hacks” have gotten in the last couple years, including tv shows, it shouldn’t be surprising that some people think hacks are a new phenomenon. As most professionals over the age of 25 know, however, hacks are simply the latest term for tips that can help businesses and individuals increase productivity.While many of the tips may seem simple, most hinge on the simplest truism of all, “Time Is Money.” By saving even a few minutes a day on frequently recurring tasks, individuals can see significant benefits to productivity. Many of the other “hacks” focus on taking care of yourself, since healthier and happier people perform more optimally.
1. Automate What You Can
Almost all data is digital now, so why manually enter tax data? Instead, you can scan and import it using tools like GruntWorx or SurePrep. Sales taxes can also be automated with tools like Avalara, with rates assigned and forms populated. Likewise, there are several accountant-focused workflow systems that help streamline processes, keep staff on-task, and improve efficiency.
2. Delegate Low-Value Tasks, Even If You're Good At Them
The staff at an accounting firm need to be working on tasks that are appropriate to their experience. While few firms use strict hourly billing these days, that paradigm did reinforce the staff value concept. Senior staff shouldn’t be routinely performing administrative work or compiling tax documents, and firm partners or owners need to be committed to the highest value work. If audit or tax work comes in, the firm partner should be out the door working on business development while a junior staff member does the work.
3. Email While Mobile
There were many productivity “rules of thumb” in the 2000s and even the 1990s that recommended checking email first and last thing during the morning and afternoon. Ditch that concept. Why? Because if you’re in the office, you likely have more productive things to do.
Instead, check your email while you’re mobile. Since you are probably going to be mobile at least a few times a day, it gives you more than enough time to manage your mail, especially since most email tasks are simple, requiring only a simple delete or short reply. Save, move, or mark as “unread” the emails that require serious thought or work, and then tackle those from your desk.
4. Rethink Personal Social Media Use (Are You Addicted?)
It’s easy to get a little too absorbed by social media, particularly if you’ve taken the responsibility for your firm’s social presence upon yourself (or if you’ve been assigned). If you must use social media for work, set aside a brief time each morning or afternoon for replies, and use a scheduling system such as HootSuite or TweetDeck (which work with multiple social networks, including Facebook and Twitter).
For those professionals who don’t have a pressing need to be on social media, but find themselves a little too addicted, there are tools like Get Cold Turkey that allow you to restrict social media use during certain timeframes. Yes, you can override your own restrictions, but the first step is admitting you have a problem.
5. Social While Mobile
Since social media is a low-level business activity for accounting firms—likely lower even than email—it may be productive to also tackle these tasks while mobile or after hours. There are some people in every office who love, love, love social media. Find this person and congratulate them by assigning them the title of social media manager. Then, let them find their best time and place for handling it.
6. Piggyback On Other Opportunities
Not too long ago, this was just called being business savvy. The point is, where other businesses created a great new industry (like Airbnb or Uber), there are opportunities to grow (quite well) by offering related services. Such as, oh, say accounting and tax services to people who don’t know they are going to get a big surprise come April 15 if they don’t start paying estimated taxes. Social media, like Twitter, also makes it easy to promote your piggybacked idea effectively.
7. Look At Kitten Pictures
Puppy and baby pictures work too, according to a study. Seriously, well, maybe. According to “The Power of Kawaii,” there is a definable productivity benefit from viewing cute images because they cause a person to narrow their attention focus and aid in “systematic processing.”
8. Exercise At Work
Several studies have found that exercising at work can boost productivity. Not just exercising before or after and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but even just taking a walk or other fitness activity. How does it help? Researchers suggest exercise leads to increased stamina and decreased absenteeism due to better health. Considering how easy it is to stay sedentary during office hours, this is a great excuse to get off your backside.
9. Find Your Zone
Are you a morning person, or do you hate morning people? We are all more productive at certain tasks during certain times of the day—sometimes we are more productive at some things than others. Whether you’re performing an audit, doing a client’s taxes, researching market opportunities, doing bookkeeping tasks, or calling sales leads, there are times when you are more adept at each of these functions. Take advantage of this mojo by scheduling times for each, so that you won’t be distracted.
10. Take A Nap
Just like toddlers at daycare, many professionals get a case of the nappies in the early or mid-afternoon. It’s human nature, so don’t fight it, especially since many medical studies show that a 15-20 minute nap can increase alertness, productivity, and improve mood. And the benefits can last for several hours. So, whether you’re groggy after being up with a baby all night, or your eyes are just sore from looking at spreadsheets, a nap may be just the pick-me-up you need. But be warned, too long a nap (generally 30 minutes or more) can lead to grogginess.
11. Add Multiple Computer Monitors
According to the Journal of Accountancy, “CPAs who use dual monitors are finding that the addition of a third or fourth monitor also pays dividends.” Enough said? Many additional studies have also shown productivity boosts from multiple monitors, for accountants and many other professionals.
12. Get Some Sun & A Green Thumb
Even if it’s cloudy outside, natural light is much better than those office fluorescent tubes. A study in Psychology Today shows that it’s better for your productivity, too. The research shows that workers in offices with windows get more sleep at night and have a better quality of life across several measurements, and that these contribute to lower absenteeism and rates of poor health. Studies also show that adding houseplants to your workspace can increase productivity and worker well-being.