TFYW#031 Don’t manage your time. Do this instead.

Apr 14, 2023

This week I hope to help you maximize your energy.

With so much emphasis on time, we feel that time is our only constraint.

It is easy to let time be our default constraint.

  • It is measurable.
  • Everyone has the same amount.
  • It’s been the accounting profession’s constraint for decades.

From 2010 to 2014, I worked at EY, accounting for close to 9,000 hours on timesheets. I spent 150 hours over that period thinking about, recording and fabricating explanations for hours worked.

From 2014 to 2017, I worked as a financial and operational controller. If the finance and operations teams were hitting their KPIs, my boss did not keep tabs on me. I never used timesheets and had unlimited vacation time. 

From 2017 to 2021, I ran my virtual CPA firm and never completed a timesheet and neither did my team. I only tracked hours for special projects.

During the last 12+ years, I’ve worked in different environments with varied expectations.

I know we need to stop stacking hours and maximize our energy to enjoy your firm + life, increase productivity and lead our firms to growth.

Enjoy Your Firm + Life

Last May, my dad finished his 46th tax season – a ridiculous number of tax seasons. His client list is quite small now.

He was telling me how good he felt despite it being May. During the peak of running his CPA firm, he would crash hard after tax season.

He shared that for most years, May to July was a write-off. He’d be depressed for three months and finally start feeling happy in August, only to start the corp tax work cycle in the fall.

I was shocked and saddened.

My dad would spend 3-4 months working like mad, only to spend the next three months in a depressive, unhappy state.

Over half of his working life was either stressful or depressing. And this was a normal occurrence for him.

It was a massive sacrifice that he made every year for our family.

I see many firms still operating the same way. They work like crazy and then have a few slower months in the summer.

The slower season doesn’t compensate for the time they spend crushing themselves and recovering.

After my first year as a junior accountant, I understood why drinking was the extracurricular activity of choice of my firm colleagues.

Productivity

Productivity is not measured by hours worked. This is where the confusion seeps in.

Productivity is how much we get from each hour.

If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:

 

When and how you work will determine your and your team’s productivity more than the hours you clock.

The Law of diminishing returns is very much alive in what we do.

The hours we spend working when we are fresh are 2x – 10x more productive than those we spend at the end of the day.

Protecting your energy lets you be more productive for longer. Knowledge workers need to break more to go successfully further during the day.

If you maximize your output without recharging during the day, you may put in more hours, but your output will be lower.

I am a big fan of working from home. Teams spend less time commuting. Parents are better able to balance work and life. Hobbies can be a reality.

But the biggest advantage of the WFH movement is maximizing energy. People have different energy cycles, and flexibility leverages their individual needs.

We have to let go of the idea that people will be at their home desks from 9 am to 5 pm.

Working from home lets team members match their schedules to their energy levels. Night owls may work until 2 am, hitting maximum output in the middle of the night.

As an early bird, I am more productive from 5:00 to 6:30 am than any other 3-hour book through during the day.

Simply offering schedule flexibility will increase your team’s output.

Growth In Your Firm

Growth in your firm is wholly dependent on your ability to lead.

Leading takes an incredible amount of energy.

If you’re busy, it is easy to retreat into doing billable work. It takes less energy to do client work.

However, this causes other growth-focused things to get postponed and neglected.

We delay leading changes in our firm because of a lack of energy.

Yes, time is a consideration, but the energy output needed to

    • learning something new,
    • commit to the new direction,
    • handle client hesitations about new processes, and
    • motivate and train team members

maybe enough to convince you to change nothing.

It doesn’t have to be a significant change we avoid because of the energy suck.

In my firm, I frequently found myself debating how to get things done:

First choice – Do: If I did it, it would take an hour – 60 mins – Minimal energy output.

Second choice – Lead: If I explained it to a team member, it will take 20 mins, another 15 mins for follow-up questions, and another 10 mins for review – 45 mins + my employee’s time.

I would use less of my time to instruct someone else, but my energy output is 3 – 5x more.

If you’re mismanaging your energy in other areas, you’ll hate every second of delegating and training, and your team will feel it.

What To Do

Maximizing your and your team’s energy can be addressed at the firm and personal levels.

Firm Structure and Priorities

Make working from home an option

Plain and simple.

I know there are people that love the office environment, but even those people need some flexibility at times.

Figure out what works for your team.

Take advantage of it personally as well. Sweatpants may appear lazy, but it preserves energy at times.

Get rid of draining clients

Bad clients are the number one energy suck in your firm.

I stand by the fact that regardless of how much they pay, they are always unprofitable.

Unfortunately, this #taxtwitter user’s tweets are overall pretty grumpy. I may know the cause:

Let your team carry some stress

Delegate. Let them figure it out.

I know they’re on the clock and will waste your time and money figuring it out, but it keeps you fresh.

Delivering a solution for each question will not make them faster or better long term.

Block off time for deep work – for you and your team

This means no meetings (internal or external), no internal emails or message checking. A client’s phone call can wait for two hours as well.

I provided a list of apps + tools to help increase the flow state for you and your team – check out: TFYW #023

Personal Priorities

Supplements, Nutrition, and Nature. 

Your fuel determines how your engine runs.

Up north, where I live, there is daylight for about 10.5 hours a day during the peak of winter. The nearby lakes also trigger many overcast days, producing very few sunny days from Jan to Mar.

Sun is fuel for the body. If you’re not getting enough sun, your mood and energy will be depleted.

Supplements can help stave off vitamin deficiencies and energy drains. Talk to your doctor or dietician to see what would help you.

Take breaks

There are some accountants that ‘break’ by doing trivial work.

I know busting through easy emails or sorting through trivial tasks is not taxing on your brain (because you’re on auto pilot) but the brain is still working.

Take break. Go for a walk.

The average person scrolls 300 feet per day on their phone. That’s probably about 1,200 thumb swipes up. Stop it. Go walk 300 feet outside first.

Turn off

Silence notifications on your email, SMS and Whatsapp after 8pm. Give your brain time to rest.

I love the enabling Screen Time controls for apps on my iPhone. This restricts the use of certain apps throughout the day and is a reminder of how much I don’t let my brain rest.

**

You maximize output by being intentional from the start – not by squeezing out the last drop at the end.

I am off to go camping with a bunch of Sixth graders this weekend. Wish me luck.

Build The Firm You Want.

Mark

P.S. Email Mark@FirmNexus.com with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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